Hive Five: Things Sting Saves

Sting performs at the TIME 100 Gala, New York City, April 2011. Photo: Getty Images

In the realm of single-name, stadium-rocking demigods, Sting is perhaps second only to Bono in terms of quixotic commitment to saving the world. On Monday evening, the former Police chief and renowned lute enthusiast canceled a concert in Astana, Kazakhstan, to protest the government’s mistreatment of striking oil workers. The plight of picketing Kazakhs is the latest in a long line of issues that have spurred Sting into action, and in honor of his defiant no-show, we present a brief five-point history of the causes he’s championed over the years.

1. Human Rights

Sting’s side career in political activism began in 1981, when he performed at Amnesty International’s Secret Policeman’s Other Ball gala. The concert marked the start of Sting’s long, fruitful affiliation with the human-rights organization, and five years later, he reunited the Police to play three shows in the Conspiracy for Hope benefit concert series. In 1988, Sting joined Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman, Peter Gabriel and several other musicians on the Human Rights Now! tour, which commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [Watch here.]

2. The Disappeared

After seizing power in a 1973 coup, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet waged a brutal war against dissenters, torturing, exiling, and murdering thousands. In response, widows of Pinochet’s victims — the so-called “disappeared” — began staging nonviolent protests, dancing silently to draw attention to the crimes. Their actions inspired Sting to pen the 1988 single “They Dance Alone,” and when he performed the song in Chile and Argentina, he invited some of the victims’ families onstage. [Watch here.]

3. The Rainforests

When Sting and wife Trudie Styler aren’t busy engaging in tantric sex or roaming the grounds of their vast country estate, they devote their time to saving the rainforest. In 1989 the couple founded the Rainforest Foundation, an organization committed to protecting forests and the people and animals that call them home. To date, the foundation has helped protect some 28 million acres of land, and each year Sting stages a benefit show at Carnegie Hall, enlisting friends such as Elton John and Billy Joel to perform. [Watch here.]

4. Montserrat

What do Sting, Paul McCartney, Phil Collins and Elton John have in common? Aside from accounting for roughly half of your mom’s iTunes library, they all made albums at AIR Studios, a recording facility Beatles producer George Martin once operated on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. When two-thirds of the island’s population was forced to flee following a 1995 volcanic eruption, Sting and company came together to play a benefit at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The concert raised $1.5 million, which Martin used to build roads and housing. He went on to raise additional funds for a state-of-the-art community center, which opened in 2007. [Watch here.]

5. Haiti

Not content to throw his celebrity behind saving one Caribbean island, Sting recently got in with the Haiti recovery efforts and performed alongside old Amnesty pal Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Jay-Z, and just about every big name in music on the telethon Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief, a benefit said to have raised more than $61 million for the earthquake-ravaged country. Backed by the Roots, Sting played the Police tune “Driven to Tears,” which poses the questions, “What’s to become of our world? / Who knows what to do?” The answer: Ask Sting. [Watch here.]

 

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