Were the Lyrics to “Every Breath You Take” Taken from an Actual Stalker’s Letters?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: The lyrics to “Every Breath You Take” are taken from an actual stalker’s letters.

If The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” is not the world’s most misinterpreted song, it’s certainly pretty high up their on the list of songs that people tend to misinterpret.

The song has become a paragon of romance, while really, the song is not about romance at all, but about unhealthy obession.

Just look at the lyrics:

Since youve gone I been lost without a trace
I dream at night I can only see your face
I look around but its you I cant replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby, please…

Oh, cant you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches
With every breath you take

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
Ill be watching you

Sting, who wrote the song, has a great line regarding it:

One couple told me ‘Oh we love that song; it was the main song played at our wedding!’ I thought, Well, good luck.

In any event, though, the song has brought rise to a number of legends about its origin, with the most prominent being that Sting supposedly used an actual letter from a stalker (either written to him or just a random stalker letter he somehow got his hands on) and adapted said letter into this song.

That is not true.

The song was written by Sting in response to the breakup of his marriage to Frances Tomelty – the unrequited love of the song is what he was feeling at the time.

And really, since Sting has said that Gene Pitney’s “Every Breath I Take” was an influence, it’s unlikely that he would have gotten the lyrics from some random stalker letter.

In addition, it’s PROBABLY not a coincidence that Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Maker” has the lyrics:

Oh oh oh oh oh oh, Every breath I take oh oh oh oh oh
Every move I make hey hey, Baby please don’t go.
Ay ay ay ay ay ay, You hurt me to my soul oh oh oh oh,
You hurt me to my soul oh oh oh oh,
Darling please don’t go.

Another rumor (similarly untrue) is that Sting wrote it about a newborn baby. If you look at the song from that angle, it doesn’t seem so untoward, but yeah, that’s not true, either.

It’s just about his (then) impending divorce.

The legend is..


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

4 Responses to “Were the Lyrics to “Every Breath You Take” Taken from an Actual Stalker’s Letters?”

  1. ParanoidObsessive on July 10th, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    My assumption would be that someone heard the (true) story about how Sarah McLachlan wrote “Possession” based on actual stalker letters, then heard someone mention that “Every Breath You Take” was actually a song about stalking, and then sort of conflated the two stories together.

  2. Great song. Didn’t know it was a stalkers song as a kid. First heard it in cat’s eye. It was the theme song for the movie.

  3. nice even though the lyrics do scream something a stalker may right to his or her intended person of unrequited affection glad to know sting did not use anything dealing with a stalker to write the thing. even though the thing does scream stalker song.

  4. On a similar tip, though — DEVO’s song “I Desire” from the Oh No It’s DEVO album features lyrics taken from John Hinckley’s letters to Jodie Foster. They were published in LIFE magazine (IIRC), and DEVO re-jiggered them into a song. Hinckley shares a writing credit on the song — not just because of the fact that they’re his words, but that DEVO thought it’d be funny if John Hinckley were on Warner Brothers’ payroll for royalty checks.

    As it turned out Hinckley actually WAS a fan of DEVO’s first album.

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