Roxanne (The Police song)

"Roxanne" is a song by English rock band The Police. The song was written by lead singer and bassist Sting and was released 7 April 1978[4] as a single in advance of the November 2 release[5] of their debut album Outlandos d'Amour. It was written from the point of view of a man who falls in love with a prostitute. On re-release on 12 April 1979,[6] the song peaked at No. 12 on the UK Singles Chart.

Roxanne - The Police (Original UK Release).jpg
Original 1978 UK sleeve
Single by The Police
from the album Outlandos d'Amour
Released7 April 1978
Producer(s)The Police
The Police singles chronology
"Fall Out"
"Can't Stand Losing You"
Alternative cover
UK 1979 reissue
UK 1979 reissue
Audio sample
Music video
"Roxanne" on YouTube

The song ranked No. 388 on the Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time"[7] and was voted No. 85 by VH1 on its list of the "100 Greatest Rock Songs".

In 2008, "Roxanne" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[8]


The Police lead singer Sting wrote the song inspired by the prostitutes he saw near the band's seedy hotel in Paris, France, where the Police were lodged in October 1977 to perform at the Nashville Club. The song's title comes from the name of the character in the play Cyrano de Bergerac, an old poster of which was hanging in the hotel foyer.[9]

Sting had originally conceived the song as a bossa nova, although he credits Police drummer Stewart Copeland for suggesting its final rhythmic form as a tango. During recording, Sting accidentally sat down on a piano keyboard in the studio, resulting in the atonal piano chord and laughter preserved at the beginning of the track.[10] As a nod to the gaffe, Sting is credited in the liner notes for playing "butt piano."[10] The Police were initially diffident about the song, but Miles Copeland III was immediately enthusiastic after hearing it; he became their manager and got them their first record deal with A&M Records.

We went into Surrey Sound Studios and it was working pretty well. We recorded a few tracks, one of which I wrote more or less as a throwaway. That was 'Roxanne', I didn't think much more about it until we played the album to Miles Copeland who is, of course, Stewart's brother and a bit of an entrepreneur, though he'd never been particularly interested in The Police. In fact, he'd kept away from it to say the least. He did come along to the sessions while we were putting the first album together but more or less just to offer brotherly advice to Stewart. He heard the album and quite liked it. When we got to Roxanne, we were a bit embarrassed because the song was a bit of an anachronism, because compared with our usual material it was slow, quiet and melodic. Far from saying he thought it was a piece of shit, he said it was amazing. I thought, 'He likes this song. This is fantastic!

— Sting, A Visual Documentary, 1978[11]

According to Andy Summers:

Sting played it for me in my living room early on. He was very shy at first bringing in his songs. But it was brilliant, and later on we all worked it out in a damp basement in North London. I remember Stewart telling Sting where to place the bass notes, which was a bit tricky. Miles Copeland came down to hear us and we were kind of embarrassed to play it for him, because Miles had blinders on and was into fast and furious punk. But much to his credit, he said, 'This is great, a knockout!' I was really surprised. And he took it to A&M and got a contract for one single. I don't think it ever broke the Top 40 in America, but eventually it became the Police signature tune.

— Andy Summers, Guitar World, 1/94[12]

"Roxanne" became the band's debut single for A&M Records. However, despite the praise given by Miles Copeland, the single did not chart upon its initial release. Writing in Record Mirror, singles reviewer Bev Briggs declared "This must be the big breaker for The Police .... what the hell, go out and buy it immediately".[13]

The band released two further singles in the UK that year: "Can't Stand Losing You", which charted at number 42, and "So Lonely", which did not chart. Then, in early 1979, "Roxanne" was issued in North America as the group's first single there. In the US, "Roxanne" entered the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1979 and peaked at No. 32 in April. In Canada, the single placed one rung higher on the charts, peaking at No. 31.

The song's international success spurred a UK re-release of "Roxanne" in April 1979, which reached No. 12 in the UK Singles Chart.[14] A live solo version performed by Sting from the 1982 album The Secret Policeman's Other Ball received moderate airplay on album-oriented rock radio and reached No. 28 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart.[15] The song went on to become a staple of Sting's performances during his solo career, and it was performed when The Police reunited in 2003 for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 1997, "Roxanne" was remixed by American rapper and producer Puff Daddy for the compilation The Very Best of Sting & The Police.[16] The remix, entitled "Roxanne '97", featured raps from Pras and samples from UTFO's "Roxanne, Roxanne".[17] "Roxanne '97" peaked at No. 59 on the Billboard Hot 100.[18]


"Roxanne" has appeared on all of the Police's greatest hits albums. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 388 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[7]

In 2000, VH1 ranked the song at No. 85 on its list of the "100 Greatest Rock Songs" while in 2003 it was ranked No. 90 on their list of the "100 Greatest Songs of the Past 25 years".

It is one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. In 2008, "Roxanne" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[8]

This was the first song the band performed live at the 2007 Grammy Awards to kick off their 30th Anniversary Reunion Tour.

Music videoEdit

Two different music videos were released for "Roxanne". The first shows the band performing the song on a stage on what is perhaps a sound check to a show. Many slow motion shots of the group live appear here as well. The second version was shot on a sound stage and shows the band performing before a red backdrop.[citation needed]


Weekly chartsEdit

Year-end chartsEdit

Chart (1979) Rank
Canada (RPM)[33] 195
New Zealand (RIANZ)[34] 43
Chart (2019) Rank
Portugal (AFP)[35] 1169


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[36] Gold 25,000 
United Kingdom (BPI)[37] Platinum 600,000 

  Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Track listingEdit

7": A&M / AMS 7348 (UK)Edit

  1. "Roxanne" – 3:00 (Sting)
  2. "Peanuts" (single edit) – 2:52 (Stewart Copeland, Sting)


In 2012, the song was covered by singer Juliet Simms for the reality television show, The Voice. Her cover reached number 86 on the Billboard Hot 100.[38]

Tonight Show performanceEdit

Sting also performed the song on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, alongside Fallon and three other men who regularly perform as the barbershop quartet The Ragtime Gals.

External linksEdit


  1. ^ Gable, Christopher (2009). The Words and Music of Sting. Praeger Publishers. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-2759-9360-3.
  2. ^ Prince, David J. (23 December 2009). "The Decade in Music: Top 50 Moments page 3 > The Police Rock the Grammys". Billboard. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  3. ^ Piccoli, Sean (5 July 2007). "The Police adjust to touring in the 21st century". PopMatters. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  4. ^ Clarkson 1996, p. 75.
  5. ^ Mojo (2007). Irvin, Jim (ed.). The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion (4th ed.). Canongate Books. p. 412. ISBN 978-1-8419-5973-3.
  6. ^ Clarkson 1996, p. 86.
  7. ^ a b "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (1–500)". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 20 August 2006.
  8. ^ a b "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame – r". Grammy Hall of Fame Award. The Recording Academy. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  9. ^ Sting (2003). Broken Music. Simon & Schuster.
  10. ^ a b Hodgson, Peter (10 December 2010). "Oops! 10 Great Rock and Roll Bloopers". Gibson Guitar Corporation. Archived from the original on 3 May 2014. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  11. ^ "The Police: Roxanne, 7". Archived from the original on 8 October 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  12. ^ "Release Details: Roxanne, 12". Archived from the original on 14 March 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  13. ^ Briggs, Bev (15 April 1978). "Singles". Record Mirror. p. 10.
  14. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  15. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2002). Rock Tracks. Record Research. p. 136.
  16. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Sting / The Police – The Very Best of Sting & the Police". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  17. ^ Diehl, Matt (28 November 1997). "Roxanne '97 Puff Daddy Remix". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  18. ^ a b "Billboard Hot 100" (PDF). Billboard. 10 January 1998. p. 84. ISSN 0006-2510.
  19. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Hung Medien. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  20. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 4776a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  21. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Roxanne". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  22. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 28, 1979" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  23. ^ "The Police – Roxanne" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  24. ^ "The Police – Roxanne". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  25. ^ "Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. 28 April 1979. p. 96. ISSN 0006-2510.
  26. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending APRIL 28, 1979". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 5 February 2011.
  27. ^ "Record World Singles" (PDF). Record World. 14 April 1979. p. 31. ISSN 0034-1622. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  28. ^ "Sting & The Police – Roxanne 97 (Puff Daddy Remix)" (in Dutch). Ultratip. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  29. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 49, 1997" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  30. ^ "Sting & The Police – Roxanne 97 (Puff Daddy Remix)" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  31. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  32. ^ "The Police – Roxanne" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  33. ^ "1979 Top 200 Singles". RPM. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  34. ^ "End of Year Charts 1979". Recorded Music New Zealand. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  35. ^ "Top 3000 Singles + EPs Digitais: Semanas 01 a 52 de 2019 de 28/12/2018 a 26/12/2019" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Associação Fonográfica Portuguesa. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  36. ^ "Italian single certifications – The Police – Roxanne" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 16 April 2021. Select "2019" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Roxanne" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  37. ^ "British single certifications – Police – Roxanne". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
  38. ^ "Hot 100" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 124 no. 14. 28 April 2012. p. 42. ISSN 0006-2510.