Posts Tagged ‘Englishman in NY’

Behind Sting’s “Englishman in NY”

If you’ve listened to Sting, you’ve definitely heard this song and specifically the line “It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile, be yourself no matter what they say”. Branford Marsalis’ groovy, yet slightly sad sax stays with you long after the song is over. I always thought the song was somehow about Sting and his early days in New York. Instead, the “Englishman” in the song is none other than the  famous eccentric Quentin Crisp.

According to Wikipedia, “Quentin Crisp (25 December 1908 – 21 November 1999), born Denis Charles Pratt, was an English writer and raconteur. He became an icon of homosexuality in the 1970s after publication of his memoir, The Naked Civil Servant, brought to the attention of the general public his defiant exhibitionism and refusal to keep his sexuality private. Sting wrote the song not long after Crisp moved from London to an apartment in New York’s Bowery. Crisp had remarked jokingly to the musician “…that he looked forward to receiving his naturalization papers so that he could commit a crime and not be deported.”

The beautiful video was directed by David L. Fincher, and featured scenes of Sting and his band in New York, as well as the elusive Crisp. At the end of the video, after the song fades, an elderly male voice says: “If I have an ambition other than a desire to be a chronic invalid, it would be to meet everybody in the world before I die… and I’m not doing badly.” In many ways, the true star of the video is the city itself with Quentin Crisp making appearances. You’ll also see glimpses of the twin towers – like ghosts in the distance. Sobering.

Sting – English Man In New York
Video link:

John Hurt reprising his famous role as Quentin Crisp


  • An Englishman in New York, the movie which was released last year, stars John Hurt, who reprises his famous role as Quentin Crisp. The film focuses on the later years of Crisp’s storied life.
  • The Black Eyed Peas sampled the track for their song “Union” which also features new vocals from Sting.

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