Sumner was born in Newcastle, England to Audrey and Eric, a milkman. From an early age, he knew that he wanted to be a musician. He attended the University of Warwick in Coventry, but did not graduate. From 1971 to 1974, he attended Northern Counties Teacher Training College.
Before playing music professionally, Sumner worked as a ditch digger and a teacher of English. His first music gigs were where ever he could get a job. He played with local jazz bands such as the Phoenix Jazzmen and Last Exit. It is most likely that he gained his nickname while with the Jazzmen. He once performed wearing a black and yellow striped jersey that fellow band member Gordon Solomon had noted made him look like a bee, thus he became Sting. He uses Sting almost exclusively, except on official documents.
In 1977, Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Andy Summers, formed the rock/pop band The Police in London. The group had several chart topping albums and won six Grammy Awards in the early 1980s, including their arguably best well-known song, Every Breath You Take. Their last album, Synchronicity was released in 1983. The Police attempted a reunion in 1986 with re-recording of their song "Don't Stand So Close to Me", but did not stay together.
Sting has occasionally ventured into acting. He made his film debut in 1979's Quadrophenia. Apart from playing a devil-like character in Brimstone and Treacle (1982), one of his more famous roles was that of Feyd-Rautha in the 1984 film adaptation of Dune. He has also made appearances on television (including guest spots on The Simpsons and Ally McBeal) and stage. Most of his later credits in films and TV are for his music.
1985's The Dream of the Blue Turtles was Sting's first solo album. It included the hit single "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free". Within a year, it reached Triple Platinum. Sting released Nothing Like the Sun (1987), including the hit songs "We'll Be Together" and "Be Still My Beating Heart", dedicated to his recently deceased mother. It eventually went Double Platinum and was recognized as one of the most important rock & roll albums of the 1980s.
In the late 1980s, Sting strongly supported environmentalism and humanitarian movements, including Amnesty International. With long-time girlfriend Trudie Styler and a Kayapó Indian leader in Brazil, he founded the Rainforest Foundation to help save the rainforests. His support for these causes continues to this day.
His 1991 album The Soul Cages was dedicated to his recently deceased father and included the top 10 song "All this Time" and the Grammy winning "Soul Cages". The album eventually went Platinum. The following year, he married Trudie Styler and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in music from Northumbria University. In 1993, he released the album Ten Summoner's Tales, which went Triple Platinum in just over a year. In May, he released a remix of the title song "Demolition Man" from the Demolition Man film.
Sting reached a pinnacle of success in 1994. Together with Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart, they performed the chart-topping song "All For Love" from the film The Three Musketeers. The song stayed at the top for five weeks and went Platinum. In February, he won two more Grammy Awards and was nominated for three more. The Berklee College of Music gave him his second honorary doctorate of music degree in May. Finally in November, he released a greatest hits compilation called Fields of Gold: The Best of Sting, which was eventually certified Double Platinum.
Sting's 1996 album, Mercury Falling debuted strongly, but dropped quickly on the charts. Yet, he reached the Top 40 with two singles the same year with "You Still Touch Me" (June) and "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying" (December). In 1998, he appeared in the film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Sting made a (partial) comeback with the September 1999 album Brand New Day, including the Top 40 hits "Brand New Day" and "Desert Rose" (Top 10). The album went Triple Platinum by January 2001. In 2000, he won Grammy Awards for Brand New Day and the song of the same name. At the awards ceremony, he performed "Desert Rose" with Cheb Mami. For his performance, the Arab-American Institute Foundation gave him the Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award.
Sting kicked off 2001 with a performance during the Super Bowl's half time show. He added another Grammy to his collection in February. In April, while landing in Italy, his plane skidded off the runway, but he was not injured. His song "After the Rain has Fallen" made it into the Top 40. On September 11, he recorded a new live album in Italy, but the Internet simulcast was canceled after the terrorist attack on New York. Later, Sting performed "Fragile" for the fundraiser America: A Tribute to Heroes. His live album, All This Time, recorded on a moonlit night in Tuscany, was released in November but did not gather healthy sales figures. All This Time featured jazzy reworkings of Sting favorites like "Roxanne" and "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free".
2002 was a year of awards for Sting. He won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for his second Academy Award for his song "Until..." from the film Kate & Leopold. In June, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Late in the year, it was announced that The Police would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2003.
2003 also saw the release of Sacred Love, an original studio album with racier beats and experiments collaborating with hip-hop artist Mary J. Blige and sitar maestro Anoushka Ravishankar. Some songs like "Inside" and "Dead Man's Rope" were well received, but overall the sounds suffer from a repetitiveness that lead many to believe that Sting is past his best.
Sting married actress Frances Tomelty in 1976. The couple had two children before their divorce in 1982. Soon after, he began living with actress (and later film producer) Trudie Styler but did not marry until 1992. Sting and Trudie have had four children. His son with Frances, Joseph, is following in his father's footsteps as a musician. Though Sting reportedly owns several properties in the United Kingdom and the United States, he currently calls Tuscany his home.
It is unclear whether he was serious when he referred to himself as "manic-depressive". He has however, written a song entitled "Lithium Sunset", which appears to refer to lithium carbonate, a treatment for the disorder.
In the summer of 2003, Sumner was made a Commander in the Order of the British Empire. Later that year, he published his autobiography, Broken Music.
Also in 2003, Sumner was placed 81st on the 100 Worst Britons list by polls conducted by Britain's Channel Four.