Sending Out an S.O.S. for Sting's Birthday

Happy birthday, Sting! We didn't get you a saxophone, because we knew you had one.
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Every breath we take, every move we make has been leading to this moment: Oct. 2 is Sting's birthday! Here are some can't miss favorites from Gordon Sumner's work in the '80s.

"Don't Stand So Close to Me" (1980)

The first song by The Police to reach the Top 10 in America, the lead track from the group's third album Zenyatta Mondatta is easily the coolest song about an illicit student-teacher affair (Sting was a schoolteacher before breaking out as a musician) and definitely the only one where Vladimir Nabokov's name is mispronounced to fit a rhyme.

"Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" (1981)

On The Police's next record, Ghost in the Machine, Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland traveled to Montserrat to soak up the sun while adding some New Wave vibes - more synthesizers, saxophone riffs - to their reggae-accented rock. The unabashedly romantic "Every Little Thing..." became the trio's fourth U.K. No. 1 and reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"Demolition Man" (1982)

1982 was the only year The Police took off from recording in their time together, but they did go out on tour - this time with a full horn section! "Demolition Man" is one of their best deep cuts - did you know it was first recorded by Grace Jones?

"Every Breath You Take" (1983)

No shame if you played it at your wedding, but this international chart-topper and Grammy Award winner for Song of the Year is not a happy tune. "It sounds like a comforting love song," Sting told The Independent in 1993. "I didn't realize at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control. These were the Reagan, Star Wars years."

Read More: May 1983: The Police Release "Every Breath You Take"

"King of Pain" (1983)

With 1983's Synchronicity, The Police became the biggest band in the world, selling out arenas, moving millions of records and becoming bona fide stars on the then-new MTV. But all was far from well. "This whole album was recorded in an unbelievably bad atmosphere," Copeland confessed to Revolver in 2000. "We hated each others' guts, and we had no respect for each other." But really, who needs respect when you've got a jam like this?

Read More: June 1983: The Police Release Last Studio Album "Synchronicity"

"If You Love Somebody Set Them Free" (1985)

With hindsight, Sting's solo career will always be punctuated by doing whatever he feels like doing. But in 1985, nobody could predict he'd abandon the sound of The Police for sophisti-pop backed by a team of black jazz musicians, including saxophonist Branford Marsalis, drummer Omar Hakim (who played on David Bowie's "Let's Dance") and future Rolling Stones bassist Darryl Jones.

Read More: July 1985: Sting Goes Solo with "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free"

"Fortress Around Your Heart" (1985)

Strange but true: only half of the singles from Sting's solo debut The Dream of the Blue Turtles reached the Top 40 in his native England. In America, though, Sting got four Top 20 hits, with "Set Them Free" and the driving "Fortress Around Your Heart" (the closest thing on the album to The Police, perhaps) reaching the Top 10. Don't underestimate the power of Branford Marsalis, perhaps!

"Money for Nothing" (1985)

Sting contributed his signature backing vocals to Dire Straits' MTV megahit, and actually shares songwriting credits, as he sings "I want my MTV" to the tune of "Don't Stand So Close to Me." Knopfler later said he wrote it with Sting in mind, and was lucky to run into him while the group recorded the album in Montserrat. "I remember quite clearly Sting coming into the studio and saying 'What's wrong?'" Knopfler recalled. "I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'Nobody's fighting!'"

Read More: June 1985: Dire Straits Release "Money for Nothing"

I remember quite clearly Sting coming into the studio and saying, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Nobody’s fighting!’”

Read More: When Mark Knopfler and Sting Connected for ‘Money for Nothing’ |

"We'll Be Together" (1987)

Arguably Sting's quirkiest solo single, this #7 hit has unusual origins: Sting initially wrote it for a Japanese beer commercial, the only stipulation being the song include the word "together." The heavily-produced tune, as heard on the single, was the third version he cut in the studio; the second featured uncredited guitar from Eric Clapton!

"Fragile" (1987)

His tastes and cultural references can be esoteric - even a bit serious - but "Fragile," a standout track from 1987's ...Nothing Like the Sun, proves that Sting is a master at writing reflective, powerful pop. Written in honor of Ben Linder, an American electrical engineer killed by U.S.-backed Contras in Nicaragua, "Fragile" has become synonymous with honoring the impermanence of human life. No greater example may have been a live concert Sting was set to livestream at his villa in Italy on September 11, 2001. When word spread of the day's terrorist attack, Sting let the stream go dark after just one performance: a meditative version of "Fragile."

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Udo Salters/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
The shows were planned to be his last.
Bernard Sumner of New Order performs on stage at Alexandra Palace on November 9, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns)
The clip comes from a new concert film coming in April 2021.
Gie Knaeps/Getty Images
It was the band's fourth No. 1 hit.

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