The Untold Truth Of Sting

Lots of rock stars make it, but few of them make it quite as spectacularly and permanently as Sting. More than 40 years after he became singer and bass guitarist for the kind of punk, kind of jazz, kind of reggae band known as the Police, Sting is the ninth-richest musician in the U.K. and Ireland, right behind such legends as Paul McCartney and Elton John. Now at the age where most people are thinking about retiring, Sting is still performing, starring in musicals, championing humanitarian causes, and being handsome.

But where did this mysterious, mono-named person come from, originally? Who in the heck gives their kid only one name? Why is "Every Breath you Take" so dang creepy? And how come all the members of the Police had matching hair? Keep reading to find out all these answers and more, except for the one about "Every Breath you Take" because we really have no idea what the deal is with that super-creepy song.

Surprise, his real name is not Sting

So when Sting was born, doctors were all, "Seriously? Only one name?" Just kidding. Sting was not born with the name "Sting"; in fact, he has a very not-very-rock-star name on his birth certificate: Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner.

It's a humble name for a guy with really humble beginnings. Sting's parents were not privileged — his mom was a hairdresser and his dad owned a dairy shop. The family lived in a shipbuilding town not far from the shipyards, in fact, Sting once told David Letterman that his earliest memory was "the sky being blotted out by a massive ship, towering above the house."

According to Oregon Live, Sting called his childhood "miserable," but said if he could go back he wouldn't change anything about it. "Childhood made me who I am, and I'm quite happy with who I am. Without my childhood, something else would've happened."

Sting first discovered music when he picked up an old guitar with missing strings that someone in his family's circle had left lying around. "As soon as I saw that guitar," he said, "I realized I'd found my route out, my best friend. I didn't speak for four years. I just played the guitar. I saved up for the other strings."

Also surprise, he worked a lot of normal jobs before he became a star

Millions of other kids have also picked up guitars and have also retreated into their stinky teenage bedrooms, never to speak to an adult human being unless it's to utter the words "Hey Mom, when's dinner?" Most of them did not become rock stars, though. Somehow Sting did.

But before he was a rock star, he worked a bunch of normal-person jobs. One profile says he was a bus conductor for a while, and then he worked as a tax officer, where he presumably stung people with bad tax news. Har har. After he got done with those enormously sucky professions, he got a college degree, which is yet another a boringly conventional way to escape the circumstances of your birth. His alma mater, which is now called Northumbria University, evidently brags about their famous alumni although they probably had very little to do with his becoming a rock star.

After graduation, Sting landed a job at St. Paul's First School in Cramlington, England, where he taught English and coached soccer. Fortunately for everyone who's ever enjoyed an album by the Police, he wasn't satisfied with a career merely shaping and guiding young minds, because rock and roll was calling. So farewell, kids, you can get your teaching and guidance from somewhere else because Mr. Sumner is gonna be a rock god.

He got his name from a stupid-looking sweater

"Sting" is an unquestionably cool name. If you had to guess how a person might get a cool name like Sting, you could probably come up with a lot of awesome theories. Maybe he was an undercover agent working sting operations in dangerous countries. Maybe he once destroyed an enemy with nothing but his sharp wit. Or maybe, he occasionally engaged in hand to hand combat with hives of honey bees.

All of those awesome theories are wrong, though. Here's how Sting really got his name: "I would wear a sweater that my girlfriend had knit for me," he said in an interview. "It was black and yellow hoops. Looked ridiculous. And the band thought I looked like a bee, and of course called me 'Sting.'"

So let's get this straight ... there were no honey bees involved in the legendary christening of this legendary rock star. There were no sting operations and there was no enemy-slaying wit. It was just an ugly black and yellow sweater. Well, it is better than "Mr. Sumner," anyway. And Sting says it makes signing autographs dead simple, so there's that.

He moonlighted as a musician while he was still working as a schoolteacher

So how exactly does one graduate from teaching to rock star? Moonlighting, of course. Sting was Mr. Sumner by day, and guitar mogul by night. "I always had the idea that I could make a living as a musician," he told North East Life in 2008. "That was my only ambition and is still my only ambition — to make a living out of playing music."

So Sting lived his weird little double life for a while, and he got his big break when he auditioned for a jazz band called the Newcastle Big Band, only it wasn't the first audition that got him the job but the second audition, which they were nice enough to give him after he bungled the first one. Then in 1974, Sting and three other musicians formed a jazz fusion band called "Last Exit," but two years later, punk arrived in town, and with it came a drummer named Stewart Copeland. Copeland saw Last Exit perform and asked Sting if he was interested in maybe doing something other than jazz fusion.

Sting moved to London, where the pair met guitarist Andy Summers and wrote their breakout hit "Roxanne," and that's how the Police were born.

Matching hair, though? Seriously?

So what was the deal with the matching hair? Was it just a really odd coincidence that all three members of the Police had the exact same hair color?

Nope, not a coincidence. The matching hair was actually deliberate, and what's more, it had strange and sort of unfortunate origins. In the early days of the Police, the band decided to audition for the part of a punk rock band in — what else — a chewing gum commercial. Because punk rock and chewing gum go together like moonshine and milkshakes, which is to say not at all.

Anyway, it gets weirder. According to a 1983 article in Teen magazine, which evidently was truthful enough to earn a permanent place on Sting's official website, the band needed to have matching blonde hair in order to be in this commercial, which wait ... why was that necessary again? Because punk rock musicians are all blonde? It's all so very confusing.

Okay, so they all bleached their hair and then afterward they were all, "Cool, loving the bleached hair thing" and they decided to just keep it that way. So, yeah. You can now sleep peacefully knowing that another of the Earth's great mysteries has finally been solved.

When his wife was in labor he had her filmed and put in a movie

Someone forgot to tell Sting that women in labor don't usually want to be in movies. Well, they may want to be in movies before labor or after labor, but not usually during labor. So in 1985, he allowed a film crew to come in and film his wife Trudie Styler while she gave birth to their son, and then the footage ended up in the 1985 movie "Bring on the Night," which was basically a documentary about the awesomeness of Sting with the whole childbirth thing as a sort of footnote.

The New York Times thought the scene was "very tactfully filmed," and to be fair we really have no idea how Trudie felt about having cameras around during those very private moments. Anyway, these days people livestream their home births on Facebook, so hey, maybe she was just very, very ahead of her time.

Every Breath You Take is super creepy and also a huge moneymaker

If you really pay attention to the lyrics of "Every Breath You Take," you'll come to realize that it's a super-creepy song, and no, you should not play it at your wedding because your significant other might figure out that you are actually a crazy weird stalker who thinks that "every single day, every word you say ... I'll be watching you" is romantic rather than the words of someone who needs a restraining order. Still, people totally play that song at weddings. And check this out, the song is also widely believed to be among the most requested radio songs of all time, though we're really not sure where that information comes from because it's not like radio DJs are noted for their meticulous recordkeeping skills.

Still, Sting — even today — makes $2,000 a day in royalties from "Every Breath You Take." Yes, a song about being a crazy weird stalker is worth around a $750,000 salary to the guy who wrote it, and he doesn't have to do anything except open up the royalty checks and take them down to the bank. Maybe he sometimes gets a paper cut while tearing open the envelopes. Wouldn't that be poetic.

Police brutality

It will probably not surprise you to hear that Sting didn't really get along that well with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers because no band in the history of everywhere has ever really gotten along, except maybe for Phil Collins' band on the album "Both Sides" because he was literally the only person in it.

But most bands can get past the bickering and forget their differences long enough to create music. The Police, though, never really mastered the art. They made great music, sure, but they could not get past the bickering. That's one of the reasons why they disbanded less than 10 years after they began, and why Sting always swore that Police reunions would never happen.

In 2007, a brief reunion tour seemed to pinpoint why — Rolling Stone says the band's rehearsals were mostly just Sting complaining about off tempos and "fluffy chords," whatever that means. And afterward, Andy Summers admitted that he avoids thinking about his former bandmates to the point that he doesn't even know what projects either of them are working on. Copeland, though, claimed that during the reunion tour they were all "very nice to each other," which frankly sounds like the sort of congratulations you'd give to a toddler for doing a fine job of not pulling the dog's tail, but anyway, it at least beats "we were punching each other all the time." You have to start somewhere.

He's kind of as close as it comes to British royalty without actually being the queen

Just to prove that he's still in touch with the common folk, in the early 1990s Sting and his wife bought a modest country home in Wiltshire, England.

Just kidding. They bought a home in Wiltshire, England, for sure, and it was indeed in the country, but it was not modest by any stretch of the imagination. Lake House is a 16th-century manor house with 14 bedrooms and eight bathrooms, located on 300 acres, which is a ton of space in a small nation like England. According to Architectural Digest (because of course Architectural Digest), the estate does triple duty as a home, a creative retreat, and a recording studio — every song on Sting's album "Ten Summoner's Tales" was written and recorded there.

So that's cool, but Lake House is not the only home Sting owns. There are several others in England and one in Malibu, which you can rent for one month the next time you're in town and have $200,000 in your back pocket.

His son has a developmental coordination disorder

Okay, so the guy owns a 16th-century English manor house, for goodness sake. It really doesn't get much more privileged than that. Still, money doesn't just magically erase all obstacles from your life and the lives of your children.

Sting's son Jake has a developmental coordination disorder called dyspraxia, which affects motor coordination and speech. Kids with dyspraxia may have trouble writing or typing, and can even have difficulty learning to do ordinary kid things like riding a bike and playing with other children. "He had a lot of learning difficulties," Sting told the Advocate in 1996. "He is very bright but found schoolwork to be totally impossible. ... Every day was a humiliation for him. And he went from being an incredibly boisterous and self-confident kid to being a little mouse overnight."

Sting and his wife got help for Jake — something that might not be available to other kids with the disorder. However, Sting's vocal advocacy has almost certainly helped spread awareness, and has hopefully also helped parents seek diagnosis and treatment for other kids with dyspraxia.

He doesn't just blow smoke about his favorite humanitarian causes

You have almost certainly heard of the Rainforest Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works with indigenous communities in vulnerable rain forest ecosystems. It's a big-name charity that has claimed responsibility for protecting some 28 million acres of rain forest over the last several decades. And it was founded by Sting and his wife Trudie Styler.

According to a blog post she wrote, Styler was in South America when she got a firsthand aerial view of large swaths of burned and devastated rain forest. When Styler and Sting spoke to the indigenous people, they learned that the forests were being destroyed mostly by outside interests: "ruthless multinationals" who were burning down the forests so they could graze cattle, or build mining and drilling operations. Styler and Sting set up the Rainforest Foundation with the intent to protect the indigenous people's rights to their own land.

Today the Rainforest Foundation invests in indigenous communities, "connect[ing] people who are deeply motivated to conserve their ancestral lands with the tools, training, and resources necessary to protect their rainforests." Who says rock stars can't change the world?

Overpopulation is evidently not one of his favorite humanitarian causes

Sting is also a prolific breeder. Okay, he can afford to be because he's a rock star. Anyway he has not one but six adult children, and they're all as talented and good-looking as their dad, so hey maybe there is something to that whole "100 percent charmed life" theory.

According to Closer, the eldest, Joe, is a singer, songwriter, and bass player, just like his famous father. Sting's eldest daughter, Fuchsia, is an actor, writer, and producer. Brigitte is also an actress, and so is Giacomo, who is the youngest. Jake is a model and a director, and daughter Eliot is a musician who wrote her first song at the age of 13.

Sting is also a godfather. Not in the horse's head in your bed sense of the word, but in the traditional sense — and his godchild is none other than Rocco Ritchie, who is Madonna's older son.

Oh and incidentally, yes, his kids call him "Sting," too. So that's really weird but still, it's so very rock star.

Sorry, kids, you get nothing

So it sounds like Sting's kids are all pretty talented, and they all seem to be going places, and we're sure that their dad's fame has nothing to do with that at all. Still, even if they're successful because of Sting's fame, they're not going to be successful because of his fortune, because according to the Guardian he plans to leave hardly any of it to them.

Sting has easily cleared hundreds of millions of dollars in his life, but he said he wasn't planning on leaving much of it to his children because he fears that the money would just be "albatrosses round their necks."

"I told them there won't be much money left because we are spending it. ... They have to work," he said. "All my kids know that and they rarely ask me for anything, which I really respect and appreciate."

That is pretty respectable — it's impossible to teach kids to be responsible, productive members of society while simultaneously giving them everything they ever wanted for free. It seems unlikely that the kids will end up being totally self-sufficient, though. After all, there's still that 16th-century manor house and the $2,000 a day in royalties from "Every Breath You Take" that have to go to someone, even after Sting himself has told this planet to buzz off.