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For the song "Roxanne, Roxanne" by U.T.F.O. and the rejoinders including "Roxanne's Revenge" by Roxanne Shanté, see Roxanne Wars

"Roxanne" is a hit song by the rock band The Police, first released in 1978 as a single and on their album Outlandos d'Amour. It was written about a prostitute in Parismarker.



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

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. The Police were initially diffident about the song, but Miles Copeland III was immediately enthusiastic after hearing it, becoming their manager and getting them their first record deal with A&M Records. The single did not chart at first, but it was re-released in April 1979 and reached #12 in the UK and #32 in the U.S., and went on to become one of the classic Police songs as well as a staple of Sting's performances during his solo career. Roxanne has appeared on every single one of The Police's Greatest hits albums.

Rolling Stone ranked it #388 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

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

Music video

There were three different music videos 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.

Cover versions

  • Variations of this song were performed by George Michael on his 1999 covers album Songs from the Last Century, and by Ewan McGregor, Jose Feliciano, Jacek Koman & Richard Roxburgh in the 2001 film Moulin Rouge!, where it was made into a tango, composed by Mariano Mores, called "El Tango de Roxanne".
  • In 2005, the song was also recorded by the Chicagomarker band Fall Out Boy for a limited edition release of their CD, Take This to Your Grave. Their cover also appeared on the album ¬°Policia! - A Tribute to the Police (2005).
  • On November 28, 2006, it was featured on the reality show Rock Star: Supernova, performed by Chris Pierson to negative coments all around and referred to later at times in the show whenever somebody made a bad choice. The song was later performed by Dilana to much more positive comments.
  • Incubus also performed the song along with the original members of The Police (Sting excluded) in a KROQ concert performance.
  • This song was also sampled by the rapper Cam'ron for his 2000 single "What Means the World to You", taken from his second album S.D.E. (Sports, Drugs and Entertainment).
  • In 2006, using Spanglish lyrics, Angela Via sampled the song in "She Used To Be A Friend".
  • In 2006 rapper Camron used the Instrumental in his Single "What means the world to you"
  • In 2007, using the chorus part, Panic At The Disco mixed the song with their own, Camisado, which was played only during their live performances. One of them is Reading Festival.
  • In 2007, Jazz/Funk/Zouk outfit, Wagtale, began performing the song as part of their set to a rapturous reception.
  • During their 2006 shows whilst promoting their album Game Theory, hip hop group The Roots used Roxanne in their song list with drummer Questlove singing.
  • On the May 15, 2007, final 3 episode of American Idol, Blake Lewis covered the song as the first in his set of three performances.
  • It was regularly used by DJ Erol Alkan to close sets of his 2008 tour.
  • A&M Records, the band's record company, are promoting the current 2007 reunion tour as the 30th anniversary of the release of their first single and not indeed that of the band's creation. ABC reported "This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of "Roxanne," the single that broke the Police in the United States." The single itself was released in April 1978. [93008]
  • "Roxanne" was also used in the beginning of the remix of Fat Joe's single Make It Rain. In the beginning of the song, R. Kelly is heard saying "Roxanne, you don't have to turn off the red light" misquoting the beginning verses of "Roxanne".
  • The song was covered by the Indian rock band 'Zero'.
  • In 2009 the American singer Mark Lambert played a cover version with the original Bossa Nova conception of the song.

Other appearances

In a 3-song pack, along with The Police's other songs "Synchronicity II" and "Can't Stand Losing You", "Roxanne" is available for the music video game series Rock Band as downloadable content.

Eddie Murphy's character in the 1982 film 48 Hrs is singing this song while in lock-up as Nick Nolte's character approaches the cell to let him out.

Roxanne is used as the basis of a drinking game. The song is played and the room is split into two. One half is required to drink whenever the word "Roxanne" is sung, whilst the other half drink when the line "You don't have to put on the red light" is sung. As the song reaches its climax, the pace of drinking increases and hilarity ensues.

In Family Guy, when asked by Stewie to list songs whose titles were the names of women, Brian Griffin mentioned "Roxanne" as one of several dozen commonly known in music.

In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, characters repeatedly reference The Police and discuss the necessity of putting on a red light.

Outside Musical References

In the Arctic Monkeys' song "When the Sun Goes Down", "Roxanne" is referenced in the line "And he told Roxanne to put on her red light."

The Flight of The Conchords song, "You Don't Have to Be a Prostitute", is a parody of this song

"Tango de Roxanne" appears in the movie Moulin Rouge!, a movie about love between a writer and a prostitute. The scene appears when Christian, the writer, is conflicted because his lover, Satine the prostitute, must sleep with the Duke if their love is to remain a secret.

The song is spoofed in an episode of Friends where the words are changed to "Ross Can" with Phoebe referring to Ross being able to get her tickets to a Sting concert.

The bass line and guitar riff appears in the [Cam'ron] song "What Means the World to You."

Track listing

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

  1. "Roxanne" - 3:00
  2. "Peanuts" - 2:52

External links

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