The 58-year-old musician and former Police frontman, whose new album
Interviewed by Cal Fussman in Esquire
t's my job to sing a song I wrote thirty years ago as if I'd written it in the afternoon.
I find New York a very easy place to be famous because there's a lot of self-esteem, probably more than in any other city. Whether they're taxi drivers or cops or firemen or driving a refuse truck, the people all have their own TV series and they are the star of it. "Oh, Sting is on my show this week!"
Gratitude is the fundamental emotion that one should feel in a state of grace.
I tend to write the music first. If it's good music, it has a story.
You don't have to be the greatest singer in the world. What you need to be is unique. Whenever you open your mouth, people should know: "Oh, that's Van Morrison." Or "That's Bob Dylan." Or "That's Bono." You want to get to that point where you have a unique vocal fingerprint. Then it's about refining that sound and making it more and more you.
Your parents name you, but they haven't a clue who you are. Your friends nickname you because they know exactly who you are.
You can be born Elvis Presley. But Reg Dwight is not going to make it unless he has this ritual where he becomes Elton John.
I had a pretty miserable childhood, but would I want to change it? No. Childhood made me who I am, and I'm quite happy with who I am. Without my childhood, something else would've happened.
The truth is mutable and plural.
I used to go to confession. You're asked to ask for forgiveness at the age of seven. But people don't commit sins at that age. So they give you this whole list of sins so you can walk in and say, "Oh, I've got this confession." This allows you to make some shit up, which is a lie in itself.
Assume you're going to make different mistakes than the ones your parents made with you, because you will.
Trudie and I have been together thirty years and married eighteen. You can multiply that by seven because show business is like dog years.
There's no secret to a successful marriage. I love my wife. More important than that, I really like her.
I'm pretty confessional in my creative life. I'm pretty candid and open about my preoccupations. I'm not going to reveal everything -- that's pornography.
What it's like to sing with Tony Bennett? Just being in the same room with a master rubs off on you. Something happens, you know? You've bot to get the ball over the net. So you raise your game.
Sometimes mediocre poetry becomes incredible song material.
People send me song lyrics all the time. It's difficult. I'm not sure what they want me to do with them. Looking at lyrics without the music is like looking at a one-legged man.
Yes, yes, cough and Nabokov is a silly rhyme. I got such grief for that. But I did it deliberately. It was hilarious to me to put Nabakov in a song.
I thought when my kids got to twenty-one, that would be it, you know? They'd be out the door. We'd never have to worry about them again. But I have a thirty-two-year-old, and I still worry about him like he's a little boy.
It's stress that kills you in the end.
I felt sorry for Michael Jackson for a long time. Of course, he's sold nine million records since he died. I told the record company, "Forget it, I'm not ready."
All these kids who say they want to be famous, they don't know what they're talking about. You can become famous by showing your dick in Macy's window.
As a celebrity, you're told how people feel about you, whether they are informed, intelligent, or not. It's something quite rare. Most people go through life without anybody telling them what they think.
I've got the same rank as James Bond. Commander of the British Empire. It used to span the whole world, from Britain to India and including America. But now it's the size of a postage stamp. Frankly, there is not much to command. At the same time, I'm kind of sentimental about my country.
A friend is someone who will tell you when you're bullshitting when you've overstepped a mark, or when you're being an idiot.
I was twenty-seven before I had any success. That probably saved my life. I'd had a job with a pension. I'd paid a mortgage. I'd had a kid. All those things gave me an appreciation for reality, and I think that allowed me to still have a career now at fifty-eight.
The 'Jackson 4' struggle to stay in the
The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty
by Ken Tucker in Entertainment Weekly
es, yes, it's probably true that on one would be watching a reality show about Jermaine, Jackie, Tito, and Marlon Jackson planning a reunion tour were it not for the death of their brother Michael in June 2009. But that doesn't mean The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty, a six-part series, doesn't exert its odd pull.
This is reality TV at its most stage-managed and controlled. Watching it, you know that the brothers (all listed among the executive producers) are not letting you see one second of their lives they don't want you to see.
Which makes some moments -- such as Jermaine blowing off a publicity-photo shoot with his brothers (he claims he had pinkeye) or jetting off to Vienna to announce a solo tribute concert when he's supposed to be rehearsing for a Jacksons tour -- all the more intriguing. Just what good did Jermaine think he was doing letting this stuff be shown?
The men try to fit into TV-friendly roles: Marlon, he's the joker! Tito, he means business! But when they come together, these middle-aged guys all squabble and complain. They're filmed in the recording studio trying to cut a new track. After Jermaine leaves, Jackie instructs the engineer to erase Jermaine's lead vocals. "It didn't have that Jackson 5 magic," he says. Later, Jermaine professes to be hurt, but not unduly so, given the nature of this insult. Maybe it's because this Jackson 4 realizes that without Michael, it will never attain "that Jackson 5 magic" again.
The theme music for A Family Dynasty is "Can You Feel It," a hit for the Jacksons in 1980. Tellingly, the song was co-written by Randy, who doesn't appear as a regular on this show, and Michael. It only serves to remind you what an uphill battle the other brothers face in trying to stay in the public eye. C+
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