Why did the Police Break up?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Technically, the late 1970s-1980s rock band, The Police, has never formally disbanded. Despite never actually breaking up, the 2007 Grammy Awards played host to a “reunion” of the band. The next day, fans were even more thrilled to hear the band members intended to undertake a world reunion tour.

Tensions between lead singer Sting and percussionist Stewart Copeland are sometimes blamed for the end of The Police.
Tensions between lead singer Sting and percussionist Stewart Copeland are sometimes blamed for the end of The Police.

Questions still remain regarding why The Police chose to take such an extended break from pursuing work together. The members, including the enigmatic lead singer Sting, Stewart Copeland who originally formed the band, and Andy Summers, all took time from 1984 onward to pursue separate careers. Of these careers, Sting’s was clearly the most noticed, just as his presence in the group somewhat overshadowed the gifts of Copeland and Summers.

Fame, such as that which followed the release of the album "Ghost in the Machine," brought infighting to The Police.
Fame, such as that which followed the release of the album "Ghost in the Machine," brought infighting to The Police.

Many of the problems that emerged as the members became world famous, in particular with their fourth album Ghost in the Machine, are attributed to the fame attracted by Sting. As is the case with many rock bands, lead singers tend to get more notice and are often credited with a band’s success. Sting had also proven he was a gifted lyricist and composer, and had provided the band with most of their hits.

Tension about artistic direction between Sting and Copeland began to mount, which was made apparent with several public brawls. For Copeland, arguably one of the most talented rock percussionists of his age, Sting’s increasing control proved challenging. Constant infighting, despite great commercial success, and little compromise by any of the band members emerged and became almost as famously noted as were the band’s songs.

After producing Synchronicity in 1983 and completing their world tour, The Police announced plans for a badly needed sabbatical. They did reunite briefly in 1986 to participate in three Amnesty International benefit concerts but did not subsequently announce any plans to make another album or go on tour.

Instead, Sting continued a successful solo career, experimenting, as he had wished to do with The Police, with different musical forms, particularly jazz. Andy Summers, whose ability as a jazz guitarist was barely showcased by the group's songs, delighted many jazz guitarists with several albums. Copeland began a successful career scoring films, and later scoring music for several video games, including Spyro The Dragon.

The Police did play a song or two together on a few occasions. In 1992, they played a set at Sting’s wedding. When inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, they performed three songs together. Intimates noted that even these short performances showed signs of stress, however, and clearly, the time was not yet ripe for a reunion.

Fans, music critics, and friends of The Police note that such stress was not evident at their 2007 Grammy performance, but some signs of conflict did appear during the reunion tour that followed it. A recording of a live performance in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was released in late 2008, but Sting stated quite bluntly that no new album or tour should be expected.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I think a lot of bands consider breaking up when they reach the level of success that the Police did in the 80s. They never really wanted to be a commercial band and play their greatest hits for twenty years. They all wanted to do solo projects, like movie soundtracks and experimental albums. Sting knew he could still make commercial albums, but he wouldn't have to be concerned about making them sound like Police albums.


One of the stories I heard about the Police's performance at the 2007 Grammys was that the producers had to include three separate entrances, one for each band member. They were still feuding, so they didn't want to be seen walking onto the stage as a cohesive band. When the performance was over, they all walked out through those same doors.

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