5 Songs You Didn’t Know Sting Wrote for Other Artists

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

“I love to put myself in new situations,” said Sting. “I’m not afraid to be a beginner.”

Throughout the past 40 years, Sting’s compositions have crisscrossed jazz, reggae, hip-hop, pop, rock, R&B, classical, Celtic, world music, and whatever he’s managed to write, resulting in collaborations with everyone from Mary J. Blige on “Whenever I Say Your Name” in 2003, his numerous works with Jamaican rapper Shaggy, including the pair’s 2018 album 44/876, along with other works with Stevie Wonder, Branford Marsalis, and James Taylor, among others.

Also working as an actor from his 1979 debut in The Who movie, Quadrophenia, to roles in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and dozens of other films over the past 40 years, Sting, credited by his real name Gordon Sumner, has worked on the other side of the camera composing numerous scores for film, including an Academy Award nom for a Disney animated film along with the Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated ballad “Until” from the 2001 romantic comedy Kate & Leopold and  The Emperors New Groove.

In between his work with The Police and his extensive solo catalog over a career spanning five decades, Sting has also written songs for other artists.

Here’s a look at five of the songs Sting shared over the past four decades—including a few he and The Police later recorded.

1. “Demolition Man,” Grace Jones (1981)
Written by Sting

Though a version of “Demolition Man” appears on The Police’s fourth album, Ghost in the Machine, released in 1981, it was Grace Jones who first recorded the track, written by Sting. Off Jones’ fifth album, Nightclubbing—the title track pulled from the 1977 Iggy Pop and David Bowie-penned song off Pop’s 1977 debut, The Idiot—”Demolition Man” was released as the lead single and was written by Sting while he was living in actor Peter O’Toole’s home in Connemara, Ireland during the summer of 1980. Initially, the song was composed for The Police’s third album, Zenyatta Mondatta, but the band never got around to recording it. When Jones performed the song on her A One Man Show Tour she was backed by marching “Joneses,” all wearing Grace Jones masks.

Tied to the tracks and the train’s just coming
Strapped to the wing with the engine running
You say that this wasn’t in your plan
Don’t mess around with the demolition man

Tied to the chair and the bomb is ticking
This situation was not of your picking
You say that this wasn’t in your plan
Don’t mess around with the demolition man

I’m a walking nightmare, an arsenal of doom
I kill conversation as I walk into a room
I’m a three line whip
I’m the sort of thing they ban
I’m a walking disaster
I’m a demolition man

2. “I Burn For You,” Hot Gossip (1981)
Written by Sting

The British dance troupe Hot Gossip, directed by West End and Broadway choreographer Dame Arlene Phillips, was a fixture on U.K. television in the late ’70s. For their 1981 album, Geisha Boys and Temple Girls—produced by B.E.F. (British Electric Foundation), the production company founded by former Human League members Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware—Sting wrote “I Burn For You,” a song The Police would later record for the 1982 soundtrack to the film adaptation of the play Brimstone and Treacle, also starring Joan Plowright and Sting.

Now that I have found you
In the coolth of your evening smile
The shade of your parasol
And your love flows through me
Though I drink at your pool
I burn for you
I burn for you

You and I are lovers
And nighttime falls around our bed
In peace we sleep entwined
And your love flows through me
Though an ocean soothes me head
I burn for you
I burn for you

3. “Money for Nothing,” Dire Straits (1985)
Written by Sting and Mark Knopfler

Dire Straits won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1986 for “Money for Nothing.” Off the band’s penultimate album, Brothers in Arms, the song addresses the working man’s woes and some of the excesses of being a rock star.

Now look at them yo-yos, that’s the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain’t workin’, that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free
Now that ain’t workin’, that’s the way you do it
Lemme tell ya, them guys ain’t dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb
We got to install microwave ovens, custom kitchen deliveries
We got to move these refrigerators, we got to move these color TVs

Dire Straits singer Mark Knopfler initially wrote the song while he sat at a kitchen display in a New York City department store, listening to delivery men complain about their jobs while watching the screens set in the store to MTV. The music video for “Money for Nothing,” animated by Ian Pearson and Gavin Blair,  is primarily set in a hardware store while Dire Straits are seen on what is presumed to be music television. Though Sting’s lyrical contribution to “Money for Nothing” was literally one line, it was the memorable refrain I want my MTV, which Sting also sang along with other backing vocals.

“The lead character in ‘Money for Nothing’ is a guy who works in the hardware department in a television/​custom kitchen/​refrigerator/​microwave appliance store,” said Knopfler in a 1984 interview.”He’s singing the song. I wrote the song when I was actually in the store. I borrowed a bit of paper and started to write the song down in the store. I wanted to use a lot of the language that the real guy actually used when I heard him because it was more real.”

“Money For Nothing” stayed at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Top Rock Tracks charts for three weeks. 

4. Perfect World,” Tom Jones (2000)
Written by Sting and David Michael Hartley

Sting composed several songs for the 2000 Disney animated film The Emperor’s New Groove and even picked up an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song for his performance of “My Funny Friend and Me,” also featured on the soundtrack. In the opening sequence, Tom Jones can be heard crooning “Perfect World” as the Theme Song Guy. The song was co-written with David Hartley, who would also work with Sting on the 2003 drama Cold Mountain by arranging “You Will Be My Ain True Love” (see below), performed by Alison Krauss.

There are despots and dictators
Political manipulators
There are blue bloods with intellects of fleas
There are kings and petty tyrants
Who are so lacking in refinements
They’d be better suited swinging from the trees

5. “You Will Be My Ain True Love,” Alison Krauss (2003)
Written by Sting

Off the soundtrack to the 2003 war drama Cold Mountain, based on the 1997 novel by Charles Frazier and starring Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, Renée Zellweger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, and Jack White, “You Will Be My Ain True Love” was written and composed entirely by Sting and performed by Alison Krauss for the film. Also featuring Sting on backing vocals, the song was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song with an accompanying video featuring Krauss and Sting singing the song live. Krauss featured the track on her 2007 compilation A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection, while Sting re-recorded it on his tenth solo album, Symphonicities, released in 2010.

Asleep inside the cannon’s mouth
The captain cries, ‘here comes the rout!’
They’ll seek to find me north and south
I’ve gone to find my ain true love

The field is cut and bleeds to red
The cannon balls fly ’round my head
The infirmary man may count me dead
When I’ve gone to find my ain true love
I’ve gone to find my ain true love

Sting (Photo: Mayumi Nashida) / Sting.com/PR

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