Who is Stewart Copeland?

In a new BBC series, Stewart Copeland shares his enthusiasm for music and seeks to get to the bottom of our relationship with it. Here's all you need to know about him...

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BBC Four’s new three-part documentary series Stewart Copeland’s Adventures in Music is a deep dive into humankind’s relationship with music.

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In the first episode, Copeland reveals he became obsessed with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana aged seven; that obsession evolved into a passion for music itself, one which he shares effusively on screen.

That first episode, called ‘Come Together’, sees him meeting a US football team marching band, discovering early human instruments in Germany and taking part in a workshop with Bobby McFerrin which reveals people’s natural instincts for picking up music.

Copeland’s lifelong enthusiasm for music has seen him move in many different musical circles, firstly as a drummer and songwriter, then as an in-demand composer.

His father was a trumpeter in the legendary Glenn Miller Band, though took up a career in intelligence, ultimately for the CIA, and it’s that work which took the Copeland’s from their home in Virginia to Beirut and then London.

With a natural talent for the drums, it was surely a given that Stewart Copeland would end up in a rock and roll band and he did just that. 

After a spell as a music journalist and roadie, Copeland found himself on stage and recording with the band Curved Air. 

He then founded what would be his most famous grouping, The Police, with Henry Pandovani and a bass player known simply as ‘Sting’. They, of course, went on to become one of the most successful British bands of the 1980s.

It was in the ’80s that Copeland began a new career as a composer. An original and distinctive musical style, born of his passion for new sounds and rhythm, set him apart and film directors came calling. 

Indeed two of his early film scores, Rumblefish (1983) and Wall Street (1988), were for Francis Ford Coppola and Oliver Stone.

That emerging style transferred to the stage, too, as Copeland was commissioned to write music for ballet and opera. This included Holy Blood and Crescent Moon commissioned by Cleveland Opera.

While all this was going on, Copeland found himself back on stage behind the drums, performing with the groups Animal Logic and Oysterhead, while his ensemble Orchestralli performed and recorded his own instrumental works.

With 60 million record sales worldwide, five Grammy awards and a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Stewart Copeland has truly taken his passion and made a life with it.

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Stewart Copeland’s Adventures in Music continues on BBC Four on Friday (24 January) at 21:30 GMT and you can catch up on what you’ve missed right now on BBC iPlayer (in the UK).