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The History of The Police and Sting

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Formed in London, England in 1977, The Police helped to bring new wave music to the mainstream. Their quick international success, especially thanks to their charismatic frontman, Sting, turned them into pop culture icons. They developed a style of music that incorporated punk, reggae and rock and churned out hits such as "Roxanne," "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" and "Every Breath You Take". Ultimately, tensions and solo projects broke up the band but The Police's music had already left its mark. In this video, we take a look at the history of The Police.

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Rock band The Police formed in London, England in 1977. Though they worked with a few other musicians early on, The Police became a trio consisting of singer-bassist Gordon Sumner, known as Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland by the end of that summer.


They released their punk-influenced debut Outlandos D’Amour in 1978 and this was the same year that they signed with A&M Records. The album featured new wave and reggae rock sounds and helped them achieve success in the UK thanks to the success of the single “Roxanne.”

Successful Second and Third Albums

The Police released their sophomore effort Reggatta de Blanc the next year. It was commercially successful in Europe and generated two UK number ones. Next came a world tour, and this was followed by the album Zenyatta Mondatta in 1980. The reggae and punk-inspired record topped the UK chart, and reached the fifth position on the U.S. Billboard Pop Albums chart. It also became their North American breakthrough with two top ten hits.

Continued Success and Outside Projects

Up next was 1981’s Ghost in the Machine. The chart-topping UK album reached the second spot on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and yielded several hit singles. Following another tour, the band went on a brief hiatus. Due to the band’s success, its members were then able to pursue other interests; their activities outside the group included acting in films, composing musical scores and releasing solo material.

Tensions and "Every Breath You Take"

As frontman, Sting began to enjoy even greater success than the other members, and this partially contributed to the tensions that arose between him and the band’s founder, Copeland. Despite this, The Police dropped Synchronicity in 1983. This was a synthesizer-heavy effort that was influenced by world music. The album topped charts in the UK and the U.S. mainly on the strength of the massively successful single “Every Breath You Take.”


After a tour in support of the record, The Police went on another break. In 1985, Sting released his first solo album The Dream of the Blue Turtles, and the other members worked on their own musical projects. The Police attempted to write a new album in 1986. However, increasing tensions and Copeland’s collarbone injury thwarted these efforts. A compilation called Every Breath You Take: The Singles was released instead.

Break Up

After the band’s breakup, the members of The Police concentrated on individual ventures. Summers worked as a solo artist and with other musicians while Copeland composed several musical soundtracks and performed with other bands.


However, it was Sting who had the most successful post-Police career; he won a number of Grammy awards for his solo work, teamed up with numerous artists and contributed to several movie soundtracks.


Following decades of solo work, the band reunited briefly to celebrate their thirtieth anniversary. After a highly-anticipated performance at the 2007 Grammy Awards, they embarked on a world tour. The Police Reunion Tour ended in 2008, and was one of the highest grossing tours of all-time.

Live Release

That same year, they came out with the live release Certifiable: Live in Buenos Aires. The members then returned to working on their own projects for the rest of the decade.

Musical Legacy

By incorporating punk, reggae and jazz into their sound, The Police emerged as one of the earliest new wave groups to gain international success in the 1970s. Thanks to their unique style of rock, they have since become an influential part of musical pop culture.

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