What’s the meaning of the song “They Dance Alone” by Sting?

The heartbreaking history behind Sting’s “They Dance Alone”

Many artists, actors, and musicians use their talents to give voice to their personal views on world event and to provide a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.  Sting has done this with several of his songs. One of Sting’s most famous songs called “Russians” was famously about the Cold War. He expressed his feelings that the things that divided us weren’t as important as what made us alike.

Few know that he started his career as an English school teacher.  It comes as no surprise when you listen to the poetry and literary references in his lyrics. He sings and writes about highly intellectual concepts and uses words that evoke thoughts of beauty and pain.

Sting released “They Dance Alone” on his 1987 album entitled Nothing Like the Sun.

Both the video and the song lyrics are linked to significant historical and cultural events in Chile between the 1970s and 1990s.

Sting wrote this song in protest to the actions of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. During Pinochet’s dictatorship, thousands were killed between 1973 and 1990.  The song is about the mourning women of Chili who lost husbands, fathers, and sons to Pinochet’s regime.  They would dance to Chili’s National Anthem, the Cueca, with pictures of their lost loved ones pinned to their clothes.

Many other singers did different versions of the song with Sting. The version above features Ruben Blades,  who added additional Spanish vocals.

Music has the ability to provide us with a wealth of emotions and meaning. It can give us peace when we listen to it to relax us. It can get us dancing and inspire us to have a good time. And on rare occasions, it can inspire and educate us on history and cultural events that we otherwise would never have known about.