'Sting is more than a man or his music,' said Robert Downey Jr.

By Rachel DeSantis
Updated November 20, 2016 at 12:00 PM EST
Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Sting was recognized for his contributions to the music industry with the American Music Award of Merit on Sunday at the American Music Awards. The modern-day Renaissance man also took to the stage to perform a medley of hits, including his latest single, “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You.”

“Sting is more than a man or his music. He is one of the most talented and giving human beings on the face ever to walk the face of the earth. Love this guy,” said Robert Downey Jr., who presented the former Police frontman with his award. He also mentioned things people can learn from the singer: “Sexual obsession and ego, love and devotion, the futility of violence, to care about the fate of mankind.”

Sting followed up the award with a rousing performance that spanned the course of his illustrious career. He played “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You” off his most recent album, 57th and 9th, The Police’s iconic 1979 song “Message In A Bottle,” and their 1983 hit “Every Breath You Take.”

“I’m deeply moved by this extravagant gesture,” Sting said when accepting the award. “It’s important for me as a musical migrant to acknowledge the very real debt I already owe to American music, because after all, it was American music that lit the musical spark in my young mind. This uniquely American experiment, perhaps American’s greatest and most influential export, rock n’ roll. The giant musical jam session where the doors were always open, open to all comers in the spirit of welcome and inclusion, the mixing of culture, rhythm, and passion is what made this country the greatest country in the world.”

Sting rose to fame in the late ’70s as a member of The Police, where he released five studio albums and won several Grammys before going solo in 1985. Since then, he’s released 12 solo albums, and tacked on a whopping 10 more Grammy awards. He’s also nabbed an Emmy, three Oscar nominations, and a Tony nomination.

The American Music Award of Merit is reserved for artists “who have made truly exceptional contributions to the music industry,” and was last given to Annie Lennox in 2008. Previous recipients include Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Gloria Estefan, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Prince, and Frank Sinatra.

In addition to his creative contributions, Sting is also an activist, and founded the Rainforest Fund with his wife Trudie Styler in 1989 to protect rainforests of the world and the native people that live there.