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  • Writer's pictureSimon Rushby

Fragile by Sting (featuring Stevie Wonder)

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

#listeneveryday 18 Nov 2020

Ben Linder

In April 1987 American engineer Ben Linder was working on a small hydroelectric dam in a rural part of northern Nicaragua. He'd spent time in the country bringing vital services to towns, helping with vaccination campaigns and entertaining local children. While traveling towards a potential construction site his vehicle was ambushed by Contras - a confederation of rebel groups funded at the time by the US Government, probably to destabilise the Nicaraguan government and its infrastructure. Linder was shot and killed.

English musician Sting, formerly the bass player and singer of The Police, wrote Fragile as a tribute to Linder and released it as a single and on his second solo album Nothing Like The Sun in 1988. It was also released soon after in Spanish and also in Portuguese. It didn't do that well in the charts but has become a popular song in Sting's repertoire.

Its poignant lyrics, particularly the lines, "Nothing comes from violence, and nothing ever could" sum up the futility of government power-struggles and the almost inevitable impact they have on the lives of millions. Written during a tropical storm on the Caribbean island of Monserrat, the song's meaning transfers easily and it has been used as a call to care for the planet, and also as a tribute to those killed in the September 11th 2001 attacks in the US. Sting also performed it as the first song in his set at the Bataclan in Paris in November 2016, almost a year to the day after the shocking terror attack at that venue killed 90 people.

I've picked this version because I wanted to highlight both Sting's fantastic songwriting and Stevie Wonder's stunning delivery of the vocal, from when he guested at Sting's 60th birthday concert in New York in 2011. Stevie's phrasing is perfect, his improvised harmonica solos spell-binding, and he saves his best card for the final chorus. This version is so heartfelt it makes the hairs on my neck stand up - I hope it does the same for you. Just watch Sting's face in the background - clearly Stevie's interpretation had that effect on him too.

More to listen to

Sting has revamped the song in many ways - here's one example

Here's another iconic Sting song - Fields of Gold from Ten Summoner's Tales:

A new #listeneveryday post is published every weekday! Comment below or tweet @SimonRushby with your suggestions for future music.

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