Quoting from The Police: A Visual Documentary by Miles (Omnibus Press, 1984): "Stewart Armstrong Copeland was born in Virginia on 16 July 1952. His mother was an archaeologist. His father, Miles Copeland Jr. was a highly rated jazz trumpeter of his day. Before the war he was in a band with Woody Herman and later played in an army band doing Glen Miller numbers. Miles called his eldest son Miles Copeland III and there has been confusion ever since because most people assume that Miles Copeland Jr. refers to his son.
"When the war came, Miles Copeland was out in the boondocks in Louisiana and called a friend of his, Senator Sparkman of Louisiana, to offer his services. Sparkman used his connections to get him into Army Intelligence and he moved to Washington, DC, and worked from the old CIA offices near the Lincoln Memorial. It was during this period that Stewart was born.
"Miles worked for John Foster Dulles in the State Department and when Stewart was six months old, his father was posted to Cairo to help Nasser organize a secret service. His office was right next door to Nasser's for several years and they became very close friends.
brothers Ian, Stewart, and Miles Copeland
|"After Cairo the Copelands returned to America and Miles decided, as a lot of people did at that time, that he was never going to make his fortune in the government and so in 1956 he left the CIA to start his own agency, providing an information service to large American corporations such as Gulf Oil, Mobil Oil, National Cash and Pan Am. He operated through a number of companies, among them Roosevelt Copeland. Miles: 'Those two [Roosevelt & Miles Jr] were very involved in the Middle East: my father particularly got on with dictators and Roosevelt got on with the royalty. They were like a private State Department. So by the time my father went to Beirut he was out of the CIA. His connection had always been organizational--except for a short period of time when he was in Syria where he actually did get involved in overthrowing the Syrian government...there was no evil intent, it was all done in the name of democracy.'|
"So this was the background of Stewart and Miles. They grew up in Beirut and Lebanon and eventually spoke fluent Arabic. Miles Copeland remained a high flyer in the corridors of power and is even now a close friend of George Bush, then director of the CIA. Stewart, like many Americans who have spent little time in their own country, shares his father's belief in the American system and sees nothing wrong with his father's career: 'I'm very American and loud and believe you get what you deserve and work for, which is the basic American dream.'
"He began playing the drums when he was thirteen in various groups formed by the children of the American Beirut community. While still in his early teens his father moved to London...Stewart was sent to Milifield, an expensive private school in the South of England.
"Stewart has a sister called Leonora and two brothers: Ian, who lived in the States and headed a music agency called FBI, and Miles Axe Copeland III, who managed The Police and a variety of small record labels. After Milifield Stewart went to Cal-Western in San Diego, California, where he took first a general course and then studied music. Next he moved north to the University of California at Berkeley to study media and communications."
|Stewart would never quite finish his degree. In 1975 Miles would invite Stewart to manage Joan Armatrading's tour in America. Miles would then involve Stewart in Curved Air, a prog-rock band which was in need of a new drummer -- they were facing severe financial woes and had to regroup to record and tour to get out of debt. Stewart would record two albums with the band, but it would mostly be beneficial to him as it was through Curved Air that he meet his future wife, Sonja Kristina, their lead singer.|
Stewart was not happy with Curved Air, particularly with the necessity for their work to be highly commercial in order to recuperate the high production costs of their recordings. It seemed to be a lose-lose situation as the bills kept piling up and the excesses of the industry dragged the music down. The punk rock revolution was coming, and both Stewart and Miles were drawn to the simplistic approach of the punk ideology. Miles: 'When I started reading about these punks and how they didn't want all this fancy equipment, all this sort of stuff, it was like reading...God had descended and answered my prayers, you know. So when I went and got involved in it I had even more conviction and even more reason to believe what the punks were saying than they did themselves because I'd been through it and lost. Stewart meanwhile went through the same transformation, and at that point decided on a three-piece group.' (Visual Documentary)
Stewart would meet Sting in early 1977, and was convinced he'd found the ideal voice for his new band.
Sting: "Musically, I thought Stewart's ideas were shit. But the energy, the dynamism of the guy really affected me. I thought straight away -- this is the bloke for me. Yes, I suppose I did see something of myself in Stewart. He's very ego-centric. Very, very energetic. Very determined. Very intelligent. He realised what was happening at places like The Roxy. He's an opportunist. Like me." (Visual Documentary)
So The Police were formed, with Henry Padovani on guitar and a single quickly released: "Fall Out/Nothing Achieving". Keeping Sting with the band in those first difficult months would not be easy, for the singer/bassist was not nearly as enthusiastic about the punk scene as Stewart was and the band never quite fit the scene, either. Sting was also struggling with a wife and a new baby, and the money they were earning playing as openers and backup players for singer Cherry Vanilla just weren't paying the bills.
Stewart: "There was only one real crisis. Sting was offered a job with Billy Ocean for ninety notes a week. We were starving at the time. We were playing with Cherry Vanilla for a fiver a gig and sometimes she couldn't even pay us that. But I really put her over a barrel. I forced the money out of her. Just to keep Sting. He would have gone, I know, 'cause he's a real breadhead. And he goes for the money. If it had looked to him like The Police was about to fold, he would have taken that job. I'm glad that happened because whenever he now says 'Shit--I wrote Outlandos, I'm The Police.' -- I can say, 'Oh yeah? If it wasn't for me, mate, you'd have joined fucking Billy Ocean." The guy who turned him on to the gig actually joined Billy Ocean. The gig lasted four months. So, four months later Sting could've been back in some pub in Newcastle in a jazz group." (Visual Documentary)
Henry's limited skills as a guitar seemed at that point to be one of their primary holdbacks. Good fortune intervened when Andy Summers met Sting and Stewart, when the three of them were recruited to play with Mike Howlett at a Gong Reunion concert. Andy hit it off well with the two and seemed to have the musical chemistry needed to finally gel as a band. The Police briefly continued as a four piece but it soon became clear that Henry was no longer needed and he departed.
The rest, as they generally say, is history.
The Police recorded five studio albums together and toured the world, but it seemed the stresses of success and increasing personality conflicts very quickly became too much to bear. Though there was never an official "break-up", a failed attempt to reunite in the studio in 1986 made it clear that The Police as a band were over.
By then Stewart had already completed his first motion picture soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola's "Rumble Fish", which received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score. His work on the film would lead to a commission to write a ballet, "King Lear", for the San Francisco ballet company. In a press conference following the ballet's premiere, Stewart was asked when he would write his next ballet and he quipped, "after I finish my opera". Not long after, the Cleaveland Opera Company came calling, having taken the remark seriously. In 1989, Stewart's "Holy Blood and Crescent Moon", a full-length opera about the Crusades, would premiere in Cleaveland.
|In the years that have followed, Stewart would continue his soundtrack work, what he often refers to as his "day job", and become quite successful and sought after in the field. In 1998 he won the Hollywood Discovery "Music in Film Visionary" Award. He has also found the time to compose two more operas, record and tour with two more bands, and complete numerous other projects including appearing as a "Featured Guest Percussionist" with The Seattle Symphony Orchestra. In late 2002, it was announced that he would be joining the remaining members of The Doors for a concert tour and new album in 2003. This year will also see The Police added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, twenty-five years after their first album was released.|