Sting Addresses Current Media Attack While Honouring Jim Foley

By Karen Bliss 3/6/17 |

Sting, live at Toronto's Rebel, March 5 — screenshot.
Alluding to the combative refrain from Donald Trump discrediting the media, musician Sting said Jim Foley, the 40-year-old American photojournalist who was abducted in 2012 in Syria and beheaded in 2014 by the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) and the horrific video released to the world, “deserves all of our gratitude” for “[putting] his life on the line to tell the truth.”

Sting, who co-wrote the Oscar-nominated song “Empty Chair” with J. Ralph, for the documentary Jim: The James Foley Story (directed by Brian Oakes), told the sold-out crowd at Rebel last night (March 5) in Toronto that he initially said he couldn’t write a song for it  — except he didn’t quite phrase it like that.

“Last Sunday night [Feb. 26], I performed at the Academy Awards, and it was a great honour to me because I was singing a song that was very important to me,” the singer said.

“It was written for a documentary, a very small documentary called Jim about a man named Jim Foley. Jim Foley was a young American photojournalist who was beheaded by ISIS in 2014 in Northern Syria.  Heavy subject. The producer showed me the film about a year-and-a-half ago and at the end of the movie I was emotionally distraught.  He said, ‘Can you write a song for this movie?’ and I said, ‘No fucking way can write a song. It’s beyond my powers. Nothing I could write would be commensurate with the way I’ve feeling right now.’

“So he said, ‘Well think about it.’ So I said ‘Okay.’

“So I go home,” Sting continues.  “It was Thanksgiving and I was in New York City. I was with Trudy [his wife] and some of my kids. Then I had this thought, ‘What if one of my kids was in captivity, in grave danger somewhere far away? What would I do? I would probably have some kind of ritual at the table, like leave a place for them or leave an empty chair in the hope that they’ll come back one day and fill it.

“Once I had that thought, I realized that that was the metaphor that I could write a song or hang a song upon so I wrote the song the next day. I sent it to them. You know it’s a very small documentary, but it ended up being nominated for an Oscar. So I went along and sang it, just me and a guitar.”

Without naming Trump or his “fake news, dishonest media” nonsense, Sting added, “You know, at a time when news media is under attack, when the truth itself is under attack, a man like Jim Foley who put his life on the line to tell the truth, to tell the truth to the world, he serves all of our gratitude; he deserves to be honoured and he deserves to be respected by everyone from the top down. So it’s my honour to sing this song for Jim. It’s called ‘The Empty Chair.’”

And with that preamble, Sting sang the song just how he did on the Oscars, alone on the acoustic guitar.

Read the lyrics below the video.


If I should close my eyes, that my soul can see,
And there's a place at the table that you saved for me.
So many thousand miles over land and sea,
I hope to dare, that you hear my prayer,
And somehow I'll be there.

It's but a concrete floor where my head will lay,
And though the walls of this prison are as cold as clay.
But there's a shaft of light where I count my days,
So don't despair of the empty chair,
And somehow I'll be there.

Some days I'm strong, some days I'm weak,
And days I'm so broken I can barely speak,
There’s a place in my head where my thoughts still roam,
Where somehow I've come home.

And when the Winter comes and the trees lie bare,
And you just stare out the window in the darkness there.
Well I was always late for every meal you'll swear,
But keep my place and the empty chair,
And somehow I'll be there,
And somehow I'll be there.

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