by Brad Dison
Gordon was born in Northumberland, England in October of 1951. Gordon lived with his parents and three younger siblings in a poor neighborhood near a row of shipyards. His mother, Audrey, was a hairdresser and his father, Ernest, was a milkman. Gordon was content in his surroundings, but only for a while.
Gordon’s life changed with the passing of a single car, what most people would refer to as a non-important non-event. One day, young Gordon saw a posh car which was different than the cars he normally saw in his impoverished neighborhood. It was a shiny Rolls-Royce. He instantly wanted to ride in a shiny Rolls-Royce. More than that, he wanted to own one. His gaze could not be diverted. As the car neared, he looked to see who was inside the car. He wondered, “Who could own a car such as this?” In the front seat sat a blank-faced chauffeur in a black suit. This only intrigued him more. He looked in the back seat just in time to see the car’s passenger smile at him. She raised her hand and gave Gordon the “apple polishing” wave most commonly associated with the royal family. Young Gordon, pauper from the Wallsend’s shipyards, had just received a smile and a wave from the Queen Mum, mother of England’s reigning Queen, Elizabeth II. He watched the Rolls-Royce in sheer amazement until it was out of sight. He craned his neck but was unable to keep the luxury car in view.
From that moment on, Gordon wanted more. He wanted a more glamorous life than the Wallsend’s shipyards could give. Even as a young boy, he realized that owning such a vehicle was beyond the means of anyone from his neighborhood. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Gordon helped his father on his milk delivery route. The pay was low, but Gordon was earning money. In reality, Ernest paid Gordon from his own wages.
Gordon lacked direction. Following high school, he went to the University of Warwick for one term and then decided not to return. Gordon held several jobs before settling on a career. He worked as a bus conductor for a while. Then, he worked as a construction worker and as a tax officer. Unhappy in his work, Gordon returned to college. This time, he earned a teaching certificate. He taught school for two years, but this was still far from his dreams of a glamorous life and a Rolls-Royce. Things began to turn around when he began working with the Police, a job he held for nearly ten years.
Gordon has received numerous awards for his musicianship and acting, including 17 Grammy Awards. One of his recordings has been awarded the most-played song in radio history. Royalties from that song alone have consistently earned Gordon in excess of $2,000 per day. Gordon got his Rolls-Royce.
During an interview, a journalist once referred to him by his given name, Gordon, to which he quickly explained that no one, not even his mother, nor his kids, called him Gordon. “Who is this Gordon character?” he asked.
While in college, Gordon frequently wore a black and yellow striped sweater. A friend jokingly compared him to a wasp or a bee, depending on who tells the story. Either way, Gordon’s sweater produced a nickname which stuck. Gordon’s mother and children, and the rest of the world, know Gordon Matthew Sumner as Sting.
- Barbara Sobel, “Sting’s “every Breath You Take” Is the Most Played Song On Radio,” Guardian, May 15, 2019, https://guardianlv.com/2019/05/stings-every-breath-you-take-is-the-most-played-song-on-radio-video/.
- Sting. Broken Music: A Memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.
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