It all started when Abba won the 1974 Eurovision Contest in 1974. Stig “Stikkan” Anderson was Abba’s manager and lyric writer. Anderson sold his production and music management companies to Polygram in 1989 (but remained Chairman of the Board of Sweden Music AB and Polar Music International). With the money from the Polygram deal, Anderson set aside MSEK 42 to endow one of the world’s biggest music awards, The Polar Music Prize. (MSEK? MSEK stands for millions of Swedish krona).
The Polar Prize’s independent board includes members of Anderson’s family and luminaries from around the world. (Anderson died on 12 September 1997). The list of honourees who have received the certificate from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is eclectic and impressive. From Ligeti and Arvo Pärt to Metallica, Peter Gabriel and Angélique Kidjo. In 2017, Sting was one of the dual recipients. At the celebratory dinner and presentations, the organisers sprung a surprise on the Englishman in Stockholm.
The YouTube comments capture the emotional power of Annie Lennox’s performance of Sting’s Fragile, a track from his 2nd solo studio album Nothing Like the Sun (1987). The song was written after an American civil engineer, Ben Linder, was killed by Contra “rebels” while working on a hydroelectric project in Nicaragua in 1987. Ivan DeSantis writes, “The talent of Annie Lennox is only eclipsed by how graciously she has always carried herself. Great tribute for Sting.”
K M Carter observes, “Sting’s version is bittersweet, Annie’s is bone-chilling and post-apocalyptic. Shattering. Beautiful.” Dattrax states, “Sensational. Her voice. Her presence. That performance. Their mutual respect. His appreciation. This video is a masterpiece of beauty. Art that moves us. I cry every time I watch this. Thank you for posting this gem.” At the time The Polar Music Prize announced the award to Sting, it released a video highlighting Sting’s laudable achievements. Let’s look:
Well done Sting. As the polar Awards statement concludes (after listing sting’s many achievements in music), “Sting is a true citizen of the world, who has also been indefatigable in using his position as an arena-filling artist to promote human rights”.
Typically two, but sometimes three, Polar prizes are awarded each year. In 2011, it was the Kronos Quartet and Patti Smith. In 2022, it was the Paris-based Ensemble Intercontemporain (“the Stradivarius of modern music”) and Iggy Pop. There is a commitment to recognising the diversity and the range of music. In 2017, when Sting was honoured, the other winner of the Polar Music Award was Wayne Shorter. In its comments on the master saxophonist, The Polar Award webpage notes Shorter’s achievements “in epoch-making groups such as Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis’s second great Quintet and Weather Report”, as well as on key Joni Mitchell albums. In a six decade career, it continued, Wayne Shorter wrote “a number of the most enduring compositions in the history of jazz. Without the musical explorations of Wayne Shorter, modern music would not have drilled so deep”.
In keeping with the spirit of the Polar Music Prize, and in recognition of the fact that Wayne Shorter stands tall with the likes of Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman as a jazz saxophonist, let’s play out with the Polar Music Award’s profile on Wayne Shorter. Enjoy.