Roxanne (song)

For the song by Golden Earring, see Grab It for a Second.
For the song "Roxanne, Roxanne" by UTFO and the rejoinders including "Roxanne's Revenge" by Roxanne Shanté, see Roxanne Wars.

Original 1978 UK sleeve
Single by The Police
from the album Outlandos d'Amour
B-side "Peanuts"
Released 7 April 1978
Format Vinyl record (7")
Recorded January 1978
Length 3:12
Label A&M
Writer(s) Sting
Producer(s) The Police
The Police singles chronology
"Fall Out"
"Can't Stand Losing You"
Outlandos d'Amour track listing
"So Lonely"
"Hole in My Life"
Alternative cover
UK 1979 reissue
Audio sample
file info · help

"Roxanne" is a song by English rock band The Police. Written by lead singer and bassist Sting, the song was released in April 1978 as a single from their debut album Outlandos d'Amour. It was written from the point of view of a man who falls in love with a prostitute. On re-release in 1979, the song peaked at number 12 on the UK Singles Chart.

The song ranked No. 388 on the Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time"[4] and was voted No. 85 by VH1 on its list of the "100 Greatest Rock Songs".

In 2008, "Roxanne" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[5]


Police lead singer Sting wrote the song, inspired by the prostitutes he saw near the band's seedy hotel in Paris, France, where the Police were lodged in October 1977 to perform at the Nashville Club. The song's title comes from the name of the character in the play Cyrano de Bergerac, an old poster of which was hanging in the hotel foyer.[6]

Sting had originally conceived the song as a bossa nova, although he credits Police drummer Stewart Copeland for suggesting its final rhythmic form as a tango. During recording, Sting accidentally sat down on a piano keyboard in the studio, resulting in the atonal piano chord and laughter preserved at the beginning of the track.[7] The Police were initially diffident about the song, but Miles Copeland III was immediately enthusiastic after hearing it; he became their manager and got them their first record deal with A&M Records.

We went into Surrey Sound Studios and it was working pretty well. We recorded a few tracks, one of which I wrote more or less as a throwaway. That was 'Roxanne', I didn't think much more about it until we played the album to Miles Copeland who is, of course, Stewart's brother and a bit of an entrepreneur, though he'd never been particularly interested in The Police. In fact, he'd kept away from it to say the least. He did come along to the sessions while we were putting the first album together but more or less just to offer brotherly advice to Stewart. He heard the album and quite liked it. When we got to Roxanne, we were a bit embarrassed because the song was a bit of an anachronism, because compared with our usual material it was slow, quiet and melodic. Far from saying he thought it was a piece of shit, he said it was amazing. I thought, 'He likes this song This is fantastic!
Sting, A Visual Documentary, 1978[8]

According to Andy Summers:

Sting played it for me in my living room early on. He was very shy at first bringing in his songs. But it was brilliant, and later on we all worked it out in a damp basement in North London. I remember Stewart telling Sting where to place the bass notes, which was a bit tricky. Miles Copeland came down to hear us and we were kind of embarrassed to play it for him, because Miles had blinders on and was into fast and furious punk. But much to his credit, he said, 'This is great, a knockout!' I was really surprised. And he took it to A&M and got a contract for one single. I don't think it ever broke the Top 40 in America, but eventually it became the Police signature tune.
Andy Summers, Guitar World, 1/94[9]

"Roxanne" became the band's debut single for A&M Records. However, despite the praise given by Miles Copeland, the single did not chart upon its initial release.

The band released two further singles in the UK that year: "Can't Stand Losing You", which charted at number 42, and "So Lonely", which did not chart. Then, in early 1979, "Roxanne" was issued in North America as the group's first single there. In the US, "Roxanne" entered the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1979 and peaked at number 32 in April. In Canada, the single placed one rung higher on the charts, peaking at number 31.

The song's international success spurred a UK re-release of "Roxanne" in April 1979. This re-release of the song was a hit, reaching number 12 in the UK Singles Chart.[10] A live solo version performed by Sting from the 1982 album The Secret Policeman's Other Ball received moderate airplay on album-oriented rock radio and reached number 28 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart.[11] The song went on to become a staple of Sting's performances during his solo career, and it was performed when The Police reunited in 2003 for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


"Roxanne" has appeared on all of the Police's greatest hits albums. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 388 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[12]

In 2000, VH1 ranked the song at number 85 on its list of the "100 Greatest Rock Songs" while in 2003 it was ranked number 90 on their list of the "100 Greatest Songs of the Past 25 years".

It is one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. In 2008, "Roxanne" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[5]

This was the first song the band performed live at the 2007 Grammy Awards to kick off their 30th Anniversary Reunion Tour.

Music video

Three different music videos were released for "Roxanne". The first shows the band performing the song on a stage on what is perhaps a sound check to a show. Many slow motion shots of the group live appear here as well. The second version was shot on a soundstage and shows the band performing before a red backdrop. The third version is identical to the second, except the footage was transferred from videotape to film and has a grainy quality to it.

Chart performance

Weekly charts

Chart (1979–80) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[13] 34
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[14] 31
France (IFOP)[15] 7
Ireland (IRMA)[16] 22
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[17] 21
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[18] 19
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[19] 8
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[10] 12
US Billboard Hot 100[20] 32
US Cash Box[21] 31
US Record World[22] 39

Chart (1982) Peak
France (IFOP)[15] 32
US Billboard Top Tracks[11] 28
Chart (1997)1 Peak
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[23] 19
Italy (FIMI)[24] 14
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[25] 38
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[26] 69
Poland (LP3)[27] 17
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[28] 17

1Roxanne '97 (Puff Daddy Remix)

Chart (2012) Peak
France (SNEP)[29] 195

Year-end charts

Chart (1979) Rank
Canada (RPM)[30] 195
New Zealand (RIANZ)[31] 43


Track listing

7": A&M / AMS 7348 (UK)

  1. "Roxanne" – 3:00 (Sting)
  2. "Peanuts" (single edit) – 2:52 (Stewart Copeland, Sting)

Cover versions and samples


  1. Gable, Christopher (2009). The Words and Music of Sting. Praeger Publishers. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-2759-9360-3.
  2. Prince, David J. (23 December 2009). "The Decade in Music: Top 50 Moments page 3 > The Police Rock the Grammys". Billboard. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  3. Piccoli, Sean (5 July 2007). "The Police adjust to touring in the 21st century". PopMatters. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  4. The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (1–500) at the Wayback Machine (archived 20 August 2006). Rolling Stone.
  5. 1 2 "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame – r". Grammy Hall of Fame Award. The Recording Academy. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  6. Sting (2003). Broken Music. Simon & Schuster.
  7. Hodgson, Peter (10 December 2010). "Oops! 10 Great Rock and Roll Bloopers". Gibson Guitar Corporation. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  8. "THE POLICE: Roxanne, 7". Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  9. "Release Details: Roxanne, 12". Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  10. 1 2 "Archive Chart: 1979-05-19" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  11. 1 2 Whitburn, Joel (2002). Rock Tracks. Record Research. p. 136.
  12. The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (1–500) at the Wayback Machine (archived 20 August 2006). Rolling Stone.
  13. "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Hung Medien. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  14. "Top RPM Singles: Issue 4776a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  15. 1 2 "InfoDisc : Tous les Titres par Artiste". InfoDisc. Select "The Police" from the artist drop-down menu. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  16. "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Roxanne". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  17. "Nederlandse Top 40 – The Police - Roxanne search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  18. " – The Police – Roxanne" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  19. " – The Police – Roxanne". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  20. "Outlandos d'Amour – Awards". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  21. CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending APRIL 28, 1979 at the Wayback Machine (archived 5 February 2011). Cash Box magazine.
  22. RECORD WORLD 1979 at the Wayback Machine (archived 11 May 2005). Record World.
  23. " – Sting & The Police – Roxanne 97 (Puff Daddy Remix)" (in Dutch). Ultratip. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  24. "Indice per Interprete: P" (in Italian). Hit Parade Italia. Creative Commons. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  25. "Nederlandse Top 40 – Sting & The Police - Roxanne 97 (Puff Daddy Remix) search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  26. " – Sting & The Police – Roxanne 97 (Puff Daddy Remix)" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  27. "ROXANNE'97 - The Police & Puff Daddy" (in Polish). LP3. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  28. "Archive Chart: 1997-12-20" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  29. " – The Police – Roxanne" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  30. "1979 Top 200 Singles". RPM. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  31. "End of Year Charts 1979". Recorded Music New Zealand. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  32. Thomas Erlewine, Stephen. "George Michael – Songs from the Last Century". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  33. "Warren Hill – Shelter". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
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