Sting's Journey Through History

Sting, British rock singer, 1-23-04
AP
John Dowland was born in 1563. He was known to be England's finest lutenist, which was the instrument of the time. He wrote beautiful, timeless, melancholy songs that touched rock-star Sting.

His new album, "Songs From The Labyrinth," is a collection of those incredible songs written by John Dowland more than 500 years ago. The album is a musical journey back in time and a loving tribute from one rock star to another:

"I always considered my songwriting thing as being part of a longer legacy than rock 'n' roll. It goes way back," Sting told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith in an interview at the Cloisters in Manhattan. "And Dowland was the first singer-songwriter that we know of. Traveled Europe just like we do, singing about love and lost love and melancholy and self-reflection. It's the same thing."

Sting, 55, said that people have been telling him to do an album of Dowland songs for years, but he brushed their requests aside.

"I say, 'Yeah, I'm busy. I've got my career to think of.' But they were so persistent, so consistent, I just one day agreed, when I met this man," he said referring to Edin Karamazov who accompanied Sting on the interview.

Karamazov is a renowned lute player from Sarajevo. They met 12 years ago at a circus.

"He had a trio and they played Mozart and Rimsky Korsakov on guitars and milk bottles. I thought this was so crazy and wacky. I sent a message backstage asking if they'd come and play for my wife's birthday in England. And we got the answer back, 'No, we're serious musicians.' That put me in my place. So I forgot about this," Sting said.

"I was serious at the time, yeah," Karamazov said.

"And then a couple of years ago he played for me. And I said, 'Let's do some John Dowland songs,'" Sting said. "So he came to England after a couple of days he said, 'We've met before.' and I said, 'When?' And he showed me this photograph and I said, 'You're the guy from the circus.'"

Karamazov said that Sting's voice melds very well with the lute.

"When he sings and I hold my lute close to my heart it just fits so nice together," he said.

With songs like "Can She Excuse My Wrongs" Sting said some of his past resonates in Dowland's music.

"Some of this music is very chromatically, harmonically sophisticated. It sounds like jazz, some of it," Sting said. "And it swings. It really does swing. It was dance music, it's totally illogical. But I've made a career out of taking those strange paths."

Sting was born Gordon Sumner, the son of a milkman, and grew up in the poor industrial town of Newcastle, England. Music was all he ever wanted to do.

"I fantasized about being a musician," he said. "I really, I don't know why, I fantasized about this future I would have where I'd be playing to thousands of people and traveling the world."