Gordon Matthew Sumner was born in Newcastle, England, to Audrey and Ernest Sumner. From an early age, he knew that he wanted to be a musician. He attended the University of Warwick in Coventry, but did not graduate. From 1971 to 1974, he attended Northern Counties Teacher Training College. He is the oldest of four children and has a brother, Philip, and two sisters, Angela and Anita.
Before playing music professionally, Sumner worked as a ditch digger and a primary school teacher. His first music gigs were wherever he could get a job. He played with local jazz bands, such as The Phoenix Jazzmen and Last Exit. It is most likely that he gained his nickname while with The Jazzmen. He once performed wearing a black and yellow striped jersey that fellow band member Gordon Solomon had noted made him look like a bumblebee, thus he became Sting. He uses Sting almost exclusively, except on official documents.
In 1977, Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Andy Summers formed the rock/pop band The Police in London. The group had several chart topping albums and won six Grammy Awards in the early 1980s, including their arguably best well-known song, Every Breath You Take. Their last album, Synchronicity was released in 1983. The Police attempted a reunion in 1986 with a re-recording of their song “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”, but did not stay together.
Sting has occasionally ventured into acting. He made his film debut in 1979’s Quadrophenia. Apart from playing a devil-like character in Brimstone and Treacle (1982), one of his more famous roles was that of Feyd-Rautha in the 1984 film adaptation of Dune. More recently, he appeared in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. He has also made appearances on television (including guest spots on The Simpsons and Ally McBeal) and stage. Most of his later credits in films and TV are for his music.
The Dream of the Blue Turtles (1985), featuring a star-studded cast of jazz musicians, was Sting’s first solo album. It included the hit single “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free”. Within a year, it reached Triple Platinum. He also sang the introduction and chorus to “Money for Nothing”, a groundbreaking song by Dire Straits. Sting released Nothing Like the Sun (1987), including the hit songs “We’ll Be Together” and “Be Still My Beating Heart”, dedicated to his recently deceased mother. It eventually went Double Platinum and was recognized as one of the most important rock and roll albums of the 1980s. Soon thereafter, in February of 1988, he released Nada Como el Sol — a selection of five songs from Nothing Like The Sun sung (by Sting himself) in Spanish and Portuguese.
In the late 1980s, Sting strongly supported environmentalism and humanitarian movements, including Amnesty International. With long-time girlfriend Trudie Styler and a Kayapó Indian leader in Brazil, he founded the Rainforest Foundation to help save the rainforests. His support for these causes continues to this day.
His 1991 album The Soul Cages was dedicated to his recently deceased father and included the top ten song “All This Time” and the Grammy-winning “Soul Cages”. The album eventually went Platinum. The following year, he married Trudie Styler and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in music from Northumbria University. In 1993, he released the album Ten Summoner's Tales, which went Triple Platinum in just over a year. In May, he released a remix of The Police’s song, “Demolition Man” for the Demolition Man film.
Sting reached a pinnacle of success in 1994. Together with Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart, they performed the chart-topping song “All For Love” from the film The Three Musketeers. The song stayed at the top of the U.S. charts for five weeks and went Platinum; it is to date Sting's only song from his post-Police career to top the U.S. charts. In February, he won two more Grammy Awards and was nominated for three more. The Berklee College of Music gave him his second honorary doctorate of music degree in May. Finally in November, he released a greatest hits compilation called Fields of Gold: The Best of Sting, which was eventually certified Double Platinum.
Sting's 1996 album, Mercury Falling debuted strongly, but dropped quickly on the charts. Yet, he reached the Top 40 with two singles the same year with “You Still Touch Me” (June) and “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” (December). (Sting was also featured on Toby Keith’s country cover-version of “I'm So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying”, on Keith’s 1997 Dream Walkin' album.) In 1998, he appeared in the film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Sting made a (partial) comeback with the September 1999 album Brand New Day, including the Top 40 hits “Brand New Day” and “Desert Rose” (Top 10). The album went Triple Platinum by January 2001. In 2000, he won Grammy Awards for Brand New Day and the song of the same name. At the awards ceremony, he performed “Desert Rose” with Cheb Mami. For his performance, the Arab-American Institute Foundation gave him the Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award.
Sting kicked off 2001 with a performance during the Super Bowl’s half time show. He added another Grammy to his collection in February. His song, “After the Rain has Fallen” made it into the Top 40. On September 11, he recorded a new live album in Italy, but the Internet simulcast was canceled after the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. Later, Sting performed “Fragile” for the fundraiser America: A Tribute to Heroes. His live album, All This Time, recorded on a moonlit night in Tuscany, was released in November but did not gather healthy sales figures. All This Time featured jazzy reworkings of Sting favorites like “Roxanne” and “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free”.
Sting won a Golden Globe Award in 2002 and was nominated for his second Academy Award for his song “Until . . . ” from the film Kate and Leopold. In June, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Late in the year, it was announced that the Police would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2003. In the summer, Sumner was made a Commander in the Order of the British Empire.
In 2003 Sting released Sacred Love, an original studio album with racier beats and experiments collaborating with hip-hop artist Mary J. Blige and sitar maestro Anoushka Shankar. His autobiography, Broken Music, was published in October. Sting embarked on a Sacred Love tour in 2004 with performances by Annie Lennox. Also in 2004, his song “You Will Be My Ain True Love” for the Cold Mountain soundtrack was an Oscar nominee, and was performed at the awards by Alison Krauss, with Sting accompanying on a hurdy-gurdy.
The hit single, “Fields of Gold”, has become a “standard” and very well known via versions by Eva Cassidy and Verity Keays.
Sting married actress Frances Tomelty on May 1, 1976. The couple had two children, Joseph (born 1976), and Catherine (born 1982), before they divorced in 1984. Soon after, Sting began living with actress (and later film producer) Trudie Styler but the two did not marry until 1992. Sting and Trudie have four children (Bridget Michael ["Mickey"], James, Eliot Pauline ["Coco"], and Giacomo Luke). Sting’s look-a-like son Joe is following in dad’s musical footsteps and is a member of the band Fiction Plane. Though Sting reportedly owns several properties in the United Kingdom and the United States, he currently calls Tuscany his home.