Okay, so we have to admit it's just about the ultimate cliché: Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl happens to be a prostitute. Boy decides he's going to rescue girl, to make her his one and only, to make sure she never has to sell herself again.
Like we said, it's just about the ultimate cliché. But that doesn't mean it's not also a classic, killer song. We may have seen this movie before, but where else have we felt the kind of true anguish that Sting conveys in his wailing vocals? "Roooooxxxxxannnnnne! You don't have to put on that red light…"
About the Song
Sting (lead vocals, bass guitar), Andy Summers (guitar, backup vocals), Stewart Copeland (drums, backup vocals)
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
Sting was inspired to write "Roxanne" after staying in a hotel on the edges of Paris's Red Light District, imagining a story about saving a good-hearted prostitute from the ravages of the night. And her name? That came from an old theatre poster hanging in the hotel lobby – one advertising a long-forgotten production of Edmond Rostand's classic play Cyrano de Bergerac. Rostand's Roxanne was the forbidden object of Cyrano's affections; the story of his unrequited love is as riveting as anything in literature. Cyrano de Bergerac probably didn't have Sting's acrobatic vocal range – he was more famous for his huge nose than for his singing, after all – but it's still not hard to imagine Cyrano crying out Roxanne's name, letting loose with something like Sting's trademark wail.
On the Charts
"Roxanne" didn't make the charts when it was first released in 1978, but in 1979 it reached #12 in the UK and #32 in the USA.
"Roxanne" ranks #388 on Rolling Stone 's top 500 songs of all time.
The song appeared on every single one of The Police's Greatest Hits albums.
The Police played "Roxanne" at the 2007 Grammys to kick off their sold-out reunion tour of '07-'08. The tour ended up grossing $358 million, making it the third most lucrative concert tour of all time.