Interview: THE LOS ANGELES TIMES (1987)

October 02, 1987

The following article by William Long appeared in an October 1987 issue of The Los Angeles Times newspaper...

Sting rejoins Amnesty for its 1988 drive.

With a little help from Sting, Amnesty International Wednesday announced its 1988 human rights campaign, a series of concerts to be staged by California music promoter Bill Graham around the world that will feature international stars as well as local talent in each country on the schedule.

Sting, who had a song banned last week by Chile's military government, decidedly was the star of a massive press conference in Sao Paulo's Hilton Hotel. Amnesty International's top officials were there, and so were Graham; rock singer Peter Gabriel, Senegalese musician Youssou N'Dour; Brazilian pop singers Milton Nasciemento and Beth Carvalho; Trudie Styler, Sting's girlfriend, and Miles Copeland, Sting's manager.

But most cameras were focused on Sting, who looked solemn and wore a loose brown jacket, yellow T-shirt and a Brazilian Indian neck band. While others spoke, Sting fidgeted with his fingers and sipped from a glass of mineral water. When it was his turn, he said he had recently been asked how musicians and other performers can hope to change the practices of governments that violate human rights, such as the Chilean government of President Augusto Pinochet.

"We can't, but Gen. Pinochet and his friends are not our target," Sting said. "Our targets are his children and his children's friends, and his grandchildren and their friends."

The press conference was held on the eve of International Human Rights Day. The Brazilian site was convenient because Amnesty International recently held an international meeting here and Sting has just finished a Brazilian concert tour promoting his new album 'Nothing Like the Sun'.

Officers of Amnesty International said that next year's campaign, to be called "Human Rights Now!", will be the London-based organization's biggest undertaking ever. The concert tour is to begin in August, 1988, and will coincide with Amnesty International's drive to publicize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to collect public endorsements for the cause.

The endorsements will be presented to the United Nations and to national governments around the world on Dec. 10, 1988, the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Gabriel said international stars such as Sting and he will form a "core" of performers on the tour, joined by national stars in countries where concerts are given. Details of the concert schedule will not be announced until next year, but Amnesty officials said the emphasis will be in Asia, Africa and Latin America. There also will be some shows in North America, said one official.

The tour will be much more ambitious than "Conspiracy of Hope," the human rights rock tour Graham organized for Amnesty in May and June of 1986. Sting, whose real name is Gordon Sumner, and Gabriel - both members of Amnesty International - participated in that campaign, which helped attract more than 40,000 new members to the organization.

According to Amnesty spokesman Richard Reoch, Sting and Gabriel then asked what else they could do for the human rights cause. The two decided to join the 1988 campaign and to take it to parts of the world where such stars rarely perform.

"They are saying, 'We will use our presence to to reach an audience that Amnesty would never reach,'" Reoch said. Gabriel said Wednesday that working with the organization and human rights victims has increased his commitment to the cause.

"When you look into their eyes and shake the hand of someone who has been through incredible torture, it is very hard to walk away," Gabriel said.

Sting was asked in the press conference to outline his political background and beliefs.

"My political history is my business and I would look to Amnesty International to protect my right to privacy about that," he said. "And I think in this arena, the discussion of ideology is irrelevant." But Sting made no secret of his feelings about Pinochet, Chile's right-wing military ruler since 1973. Asked in the press conference to gauge the impact of a song about Chile - 'They Dance Alone' - on his latest album, he said: "I know that my song last week was banned in Chile, which means that to a certain extent it has been successful. I did send an album to General Pinochet for his birthday, and I'm very upset that he sent it back."

© The Los Angeles Times



Oct 1, 1987

"I see music in a very holistic way. I don't just listen to jazz. I don't just listen to classical music. I listen to everything. I think part of the thing that is wrong with music today is that it is very xenophobic. It just looks in on itself. Rock musicians rarely look outside of the genre. Jazz musicians, too, rarely look outside. There's this mistrust that goes on between the music forms, and I see the whole thing..."

Oct 1, 1987

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