By Erin Thibeau
At the Friday night ceremony, Sting donated his 1978 Fender Stratocaster, while Ralph gave his sheet music, lyrics and recordings for “Evolocean,” a conceptual orchestral piece, and “The Empty Chair.”
Sting bought the guitar at Manny’s Music Store in Manhattan back in 1979. All of the songs on the Police albums from “Reggatta de Blanc” to “Synchronicity” were composed on the Stratocaster, and he played it at Amnesty International’s “The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball” in 1981 and during his first solo tour.
“I chose a guitar that has a great deal of personal, emotional, sentimental value to me,” Sting told Jen. “It has to be that way; you have to care, to give”
Did the singer have a name for his beloved guitar? “Not one I’m gonna divulge,” he said with a smile.
J. Ralph said it was “unbelievable” to have his works featured in the Smithsonian. The celebrated composer hopes his donation will inspire other dreamers like him.
Jen, a longtime Sting fan, noted how his lyrics are still relevant to the issues the world faces today. “Evolution is a slow business,” Sting said.
“All of our problems — environmental, human rights, social, religious — they’re all about lack of consciousness,” the singer and philanthropist continued. “I think art can help us on that path, but it’s a slow process.”
Following their 94.7 Fresh FM interview, the two honorees participated in a discussion that touched on everything from philanthropy to the creative process.
Sting talked about his approach songwriting. “I have to figure out how to capture this very elusive creature: creativity,” he said.
“Once I get the spark of an idea or metaphor,” he continued, “I can work on it, manufacture it into a song.”
Saving a chair for a missing loved one was “the metaphor on which I could hang a song,” Sting said. And so he wrote “The Empty Chair” for the documentary “Jim: The James Foley Story,” about the American journalist who was kidnapped in Syria and was missing for two years before his tragic death.
Jim’s parents were in the front row as Sting returned to the stage with an acoustic guitar for a moving performance of “The Empty Chair,” reminding everyone there why his music belongs in the Smithsonian and “in the business of eternity.”
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