Sting wrote this song about famed gay author Quentin Crisp and his experiences as an outcast. Crisp moved from London to New York in 1986, and Sting spent several days with the author.
John - Levittown, NY
This was released as a single in 1988, reaching #51 in the UK. In 1990, a remix by Dutch producer Ben Liebrand was released as a single and hit #15.
David Fincher directed the video, in which Quentin Crisp appeared. Fincher has directed videos by Madonna, Paula Abdul and The Wallflowers, as well as the movies Seven, The Game and Fight Club.
Branford Marsalis played sax on this track.
The Black Eyed Peas sampled this on their 2005 song "Union."
Hermes - Athens, Greece, for above 4
Sting remembered feeling homesick when he first moved to New York and seeking out the English pubs in the city to get a taste of home. "I'd go, early on Saturday mornings, to one of these pubs to watch live soccer from England via satellite. There you could drink English beer, enjoy a greasy fried breakfast, and rub shoulders with Englishmen from Manchester, Liverpool, London, and Newcastle. We'd yell at the screen as if our voices could have some magical influence over a poor offside decision by the ref or to advise him that a foul had been committed when he was looking the other way. We are a superstitious and primitive tribe, and when the match was over, we'd fade back into the city like ghosts," he remembered in Lyrics By Sting.
Listen carefully to this song and you'll hear a familiar refrain: "One of my favorite little jokes is from an 'Englishman In New York,' where at one point we're playing 'God Save The Queen' in a minor key. It really tickles me but nobody else hears it!" Sting told Guitar in 1996.
Sting wanted an eclectic mix of music to convey the varied sounds on a New York City street. He told Musician in 1987: "It started as a reggae kind of lilt, then I added a bridge that felt classical, so I put the violins and harpsichords on, then we went into a jazz section. I wanted to give the impression of somebody walking down the street, passing different musical events. To sum up what it's like on the street in New York. You pass a shop window and hear different kinds of music in each one."
Sting performed this at the Grammy Awards in 2018. He was joined by Shaggy, who sang some of their collaboration "Don't Make Me Wait" before they returned back to "Englishman in New York," with Shaggy singing, "I'm a Jamaican in New York."
The Canadian hip-hop artist Kardinal Offishall reworked the track as "Ill Eagle Alien" on his 2008 album Not 4 Sale.
In 2020, Shirazee, an African musician who immigrated to New York City, transformed this song into "African In New York" with lyrics about his personal experience coming to the city. Growing up in Benin, his mom played "Englishman In New York," so he was familiar with the song.
Sting loved his version and arranged for Shirazee to join him on a duet remix called "Englishman/African In New York
," which they performed in 2021 on NPR's Tiny Desk series. It was released as a single along with a video directed by Modern Day Auteur, who also directed the video for Shirazee's original reworking.