Sting wrote this in 1979 after seeing television reports of starving children. By this time, he had traveled extensively with The Police and experienced many cultures. The images he saw of people living in extreme poverty led him to write the song.
The Police were on their second American tour when Sting wrote this song in a motel room. Sting thinks it's the only song he ever wrote on the road.
The song asks how we react when confronted with uncomfortable truths. Sting explained: "What are you left with when you're faced with atrocities? All you can do is cry."
The Police played this when they toured Australia in 1980, a few months before they recorded it.
Sting played this at Live Aid in 1985. The concert was a benefit organized by Bob Geldof to help starving children in Africa. This was a very appropriate song for the occasion.
A version from Sting's first solo tour is on his 1986 album Bring On The Night. It was recorded in Paris.
A live version by The Police is on their compilation album Message In A Box.
A 1980 performance by The Police was used in the British documentary Urgh! A Music War, which featured Punk and New Wave bands like Wall Of Voodoo, XTC and Devo.
Sting performed this on the charity telethon, Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief, which was held on January 22, 2010. He was backed by American hip-hop band the Roots, and trumpeter Chris Botti.
Sting performed this at the Live 8 concert in London in 2005. He recalled in Lyrics By Sting: "It seemed as relevant to me then as it was a quarter of a century ago. Biafra, Darfur ... the issues surrounding genocide are the same, and I wonder if we are making any progress at all, or are we now totally immune to the images of horror that appear daily, everywhere we turn?"