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Broken Music: A Memoir Hardcover – October 27, 2003
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“Sting’s gift for prose and reverence for language, nearly the equal of his musical gifts, shine on every page. Even when Broken Music addresses the quixotic life of an aspiring rock & roller, it reads like literature from a more rarified time when adults didn’t condescend to the vulgarities of pop culture.” —Rolling Stone
“You can’t fault his scrupulous candor.…A natural storyteller.” —London Sunday Times
“Sting mixes tenderness, sadness and humor in his narration, indulging readers with the same style of descriptive, pensive words that characterize his songs….Even readers unfamiliar with Sting’s music will find the book compelling.” —Associated Press “A beautifully styled, elegantly crafted and intelligent portrayal of Sting’s own life…[it] ranks on the highest shelf of literary debuts.” —Toronto Globe and Mail
“A first-rate memoir…Engrossing…With writing that is both witty and refreshingly self-deprecating, this book has pleasures that extend well beyond interest in the man’s music alone.” —People
“An engaging, lucidly written reminiscence…intellectually vigorous…elegant and thoughtful.” —Entertainment Weekly
From the Paperback edition.
From the Inside Flap
Having been a songwriter most of my life, condensing my ideas and emotions into short rhyming couplets and setting them to music, I had never really considered writing a book. But upon arriving at the reflective age of fifty, I found myself drawn, for the first time, to write long passages that were as stimulating and intriguing to me as any songwriting I had ever done.
And so Broken Music began to take shape. It is a book about the early part of my life, from childhood through adolescence, right up to the eve of my success with the Police. It is a story very few people know.
I had no interest in writing a traditional autobiographical recitation of everything that?s ever happened to me. Instead I found myself drawn to exploring specific moments, certain people and relationships, and particular events which still resonate powerfully for me as I try to understand the child I was, and the man I became.
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Top Customer Reviews
Except that Sting is a self confessed risk taker.
So perhaps we should not be too surprised that his memoir, 'Broken Music', is a product of that risk taking. Instead of opting for the easy route and focusing on the years of fame and success that would have guaranteed wide publicity and huge sales, Sting decided to tell us a much more interesting story. 'Broken Music' is the story of a boy growing to adulthood in an industrial city in northern England; of his relationship with his parents; of first love, lost love, his love of music and where these experiences eventually took him.
As with most individuals, certain events from his childhood are not happy memories for Sting. The separation from his friends as a result of passing the "11-plus" exam that sent him to grammar school and the regular canings at school for trivial offences for example are still resented to this day. Like many families at that time, open displays of affection were uncommon in the Sumner household, and Sting is very open and honest in describing both the relationship between his parents and his relationships with each of them.
Sting had discovered music at an early age through the family's piano and his parent's record collection and later with a battered old guitar donated by an emigrating uncle. His mid-teens saw him learning guitar licks from records, playing music with his friends at the local YMCA and attending Newcastle's Club a Go-Go, where he witnessed influential appearances by the likes of the Graham Bond Organisation, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and Jimi Hendrix.
'Broken Music' tells a fascinating tale about Sting's involvement with his early bands, Earthrise, The Phoenix Jazzmen, The Newcastle Big Band and Last Exit and of his time on a cruise ship with the Ronnie Pearson Trio. Relatively little has been known about this period, and to read it in Sting's own words is a real pleasure. The trials and tribulations of Last Exit - including their Spinal Tap propensity for losing guitar players in bizarre circumstances (to local pantomimes) - make fascinating reading, and fans of The Police will love the unique insight into the chance meetings that led to the formation of the band, and of the pivotal moments in the band's early days.
'Broken Music' (the title actually comes from a phrase his grandmother used to describe his early attempts at playing the piano) is a wonderful written memoir. In turns it is sad, wry, often very funny and always interesting. In retrospect it is no great surprise to find that someone with the ability to write lyrics as beautifully as Sting should be able to write so eloquently and descriptively in a longer form such as this. We found our attention gripped throughout its 300 plus pages and are firmly of the view that the risk of telling the story of Sting 'the man' rather than Sting 'the celebrity' was certainly one that paid off. It is a book that provides a genuinely insightful look at the events that shaped the person we hear on the radio and see performing for us on stage. If this is what Sting intended then 'Broken Music' is a complete success.
The narrative begins with Sting's controversial experience in South America, where he ingested an ancient medicine, used predominately by a Christian syncretic group, known as Ayahuasca. He describes this experience in atmospheric detail and the various visions he witnessed during the religious ceremony. Sting's prose is quite accomplished throughout the book. For example, the actual scene from his religious experience:
"The entire room seems to be gripped in this visceral struggle. Some writhe in their seats, others have clearly capitulated, open-mouthed and corpselike, while others seem calm and transfixed as if by beatific visions. Then, as a bizarre counterpoint to the call of the thunder, the retching begins." (P.9)
This incredible experience irrevocably changed the man, and by his own account, he really hasn't viewed the world in the same way since. From this religious experience in the jungles of Brazil, he invites us to take part in a reflective journey about his childhood and his discovery of music. There is an irrefutable honesty in this book. His feelings about his friends, colleagues, lovers, parents and his response to the various deaths of loved ones, was at once moving and acutely sensitive without a hint of sentimentality.
This is a book that all Sting and Police fans should read, as it reveals insights into the man and the artist in an honest, elegant and entertaining manner. A first-rate memoir.