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Mark Knopfler

The most celebrated British guitar hero to emerge in the 1970s and '80s, Mark Knopfler rose to fame as the leader of Dire Straits, and his songwriting and incisive guitar work played a decisive role in making them an international success story. At a time when punk and new wave were making technique for its own sake seem irrelevant, and metal was taking the guitar solo in noisier and unpredictable directions, Knopfler's clean but dexterous picking proved there was still room for traditionalism and chops in mainstream rock & roll. But even without considering Dire Straits, Knopfler has accumulated an impressive résumé as a producer, sideman, songwriter, and film composer, working alongside some of the best and best-known figures in the music business.

Mark Freuder Knopfler was born in Glasgow, Scotland on August 12, 1949. His father, a Hungarian émigré, worked as an architect, while his mother, of English heritage, was a schoolteacher. The Knopfler family moved to England when Mark was seven years of age, settling in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and he developed a passion for music while spending time with his uncle; as he told journalist Dan Forte, "I heard my Uncle Kingsley playing boogie-woogie on the piano when I was about eight or nine, and I thought that those three chords were the most magnificent things in the world -- still do." A few years later, Knopfler began learning to play guitar, first on an inexpensive Hofner model before moving up to a Fender electric his father bought for him. At 16, Knopfler and some pals cut a demo single that was never released, and he performed in a vocal group that was successful enough to merit an appearance on local television.

In 1967, Knopfler enrolled at Harlow Technical College, where he studied journalism, and a year later he landed a job at the Yorkshire Evening Post, where he wrote news stories and music criticism. After two years at the Post, Knopfler opted to return to school, studying English at Leeds University. While at Leeds, he became friends with a fellow guitarist named Steve Phillips, and they began playing out under the name the Duolian String Pickers; while working with Phillips, Knopfler began developing the fingerpicking style that would become his trademark.

After graduating from Leeds in 1973, Knopfler moved to London and joined a pub rock band called Brewer's Droop, featuring drummer Pick Withers. Knopfler's tenure with the band was short-lived, and he took a position as a lecturer at Essex's Loughton College. Knopfler became friends with a handful of local musicians, and they formed a new band called the Café Racers. Mark's brother, David Knopfler, who was also a guitarist and songwriter, introduced Mark to a fellow musician, John Illsley, who played guitar but was also a solid bassist. When the Café Racers found themselves in need of a bass player one night, Mark asked Illsley to sit in, and before long, Mark, David, and John were sharing an apartment and working on songs, with Mark on lead guitar, David on rhythm, and John on bass. Mark invited Pick Withers to play drums with the new combo, and while they played their first few gigs as the Café Racers, before long they adopted a new name coined by Withers -- Dire Straits.

After cutting a demo tape, Dire Straits found a champion in BBC disk jockey Charlie Gillett, who began playing their demo on his show, attracting the attention of manager Ed Bicknell and Polygram A&R man John Stainze. Bicknell took Dire Straits under his wing and Stainze signed the group to Polygram's progressive and hard rock subsidiary Vertigo Records; Warner Bros. picked up the band for the United States. Dire Straits' self-titled debut album was released in the fall of 1978, and the song "Sultans of Swing" became a surprise hit single in both America and the U.K., with the album following it into the charts, as the group's clean, expert playing, and Knopfler's deft lead guitars, Dylanesque vocals, and evocative songs won the band airplay on pop and classic rock playlists. It was the first of a long string of successes for Dire Straits, and while the lineup would shift frequently over the group's lifespan -- Mark Knopfler and John Illsley would prove to be the group's only constants -- between 1978 and 1995 the group was a top concert draw and a frequent presence on radio and record charts; their landmark 1985 album Brothers in Arms sold over nine million copies in the United States alone, and was the top-selling CD of the '80s in the U.K.

It wasn't long after Dire Straits made their commercial breakthrough that Knopfler began expanding his creative boundaries. In 1979, he was invited to play lead guitar on Bob Dylan's album Slow Train Coming, and in 1983, he produced Dylan's Infidels, as well as leading the backing band. In addition to producing much of Dire Straits' catalog, Knopfler was behind the controls for albums by Aztec Camera, Randy Newman, and Willy DeVille. Knopfler lent his talents as a session guitarist to an impressive and diverse range of artists, including Van Morrison, Phil Lynott, Steely Dan, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Cliff Richard, and Scott Walker. He also penned the song "Private Dancer" for Tina Turner's triumphant comeback album of the same name, and found his songs being covered by the Shadows, whose legendary guitarist Hank Marvin was one of Knopfler's first inspirations. In 1983, Knopfler added "film composer" to his résumé when he wrote the score for the Scottish comedy Local Hero; Knopfler's music was cited in many of the film's rave reviews, and he would later score the films Cal, The Princess Bride, Last Exit to Brooklyn, and Wag the Dog, among others. And when Weird Al Yankovic asked Knopfler's permission to record a parody of Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" for the soundtrack to his film UHF, Knopfler agreed under one condition -- that he be allowed to re-create his guitar parts for Yankovic's version. Weird Al happily acceded to Knopfler's request.

After Knopfler made guest appearances on several albums by another of his heroes, Nashville icon Chet Atkins, the two cut a collaborative project in 1990, called Neck & Neck, which was the first non-soundtrack album Knopfler released under his own name. Knopfler also showed off his love of country sounds with his side project, the Notting Hillbillies, which featured Brendan Croker, Guy Fletcher, and Mark's old Duolian String Pickers partner Steve Phillips. In the fall of 1992, Dire Straits played their last concert, a show in Spain on the tour in support of On Every Street, and in 1995, Knopfler quietly announced that he'd retired the band, feeling they'd become too big. Released in 1996, Golden Heart became Knopfler's official solo debut, followed in 2000 by Sailing to Philadelphia, which included guest appearances by Van Morrison, James Taylor, Gillian Welch, and Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze. The newly prolific Knopfler shortly returned to the studio and released The Ragpicker's Dream in the fall of 2002; a world tour was planned, but after Knopfler was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him with a broken shoulder and collarbone, the dates were canceled. However, he was soon feeling well enough to go back to recording, and issued Shangri-La in 2004, a set recorded at the Malibu compound where the Band recorded and rehearsed in the '70s.

As Knopfler's taste for rootsy, country-influenced sounds became a growing presence in his solo work, he began working on material with singer Emmylou Harris, and their collaborative album, 2006's All the Roadrunning, was recorded during sessions spread over seven years. Knopfler and Harris toured together in support of the set, and a live album, Real Live Roadrunning, came out later the same year. Knopfler continued to record at a steady pace, releasing Kill to Get Crimson in 2007 and Get Lucky in 2009, while still finding room to contribute to albums by Sonny Landreth, Bill Wyman, Diane Schuur, Bap Kennedy, and America. The year 2012 found Knopfler releasing Privateer, the first double-disc studio set of his career; the album debuted at eight in the U.K. Three years lafter, Knopfler returned with Tracker; the album debuted at three in the U.K. and 14 in the U.S. In 2016, he collaborated with Evelyn Glennie on the soundtrack for Altamira. ~ Mark Deming
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Privateering - Deluxe Edition

Disc 1

1. Redbud Tree

2. Haul Away

3. Don't Forget Your Hat

4. Privateering

5. Miss You Blues

6. Corned Beef City

7. Go, Love

8. Hot Or What

9. Yon Two Crows

10. Seattle

Disc 2

1. Kingdom Of Gold

2. Got To Have Something

3. Radio City Serenade

4. I Used To Could

5. Gator Blood

6. Bluebird

7. Dream Of The Drowned Submariner

8. Blood And Water

9. Today Is Okay

10. After The Beanstalk

Disc 3

1. Why Aye Man

2. Cleaning My Gun

3. Corned Beef City

4. Sailing To Philadelphia

5. Hill Farmer's Blues

x

Track List: Get Lucky

1. Border Reiver

2. Hard Shoulder

3. You Can't Beat The House

4. Before Gas And Tv

5. Monteleone

6. Cleaning My Gun

7. The Car Was The One

8. Remembrance Day

9. Get Lucky

10. So Far From The Clyde

11. Piper To The End

x

Track List: Kill To Get Crimson

1. True Love Will Never Fade

2. The Scaffolder's Wife

3. The Fizzy And The Still

4. Heart Full Of Holes

5. We Can Get Wild

6. Secondary Waltz

7. Punish The Monkey

8. Let It All Go

9. Behind With The Rent

10. The Fish And The Bird

11. Madame Geneva's

12. In The Sky

x

Track List: One Take Radio Sessions

1. The Trawlerman's Song

2. Back To Tupelo

3. Song For Sonny Liston

4. Rudiger

5. Boom, Like That

6. Everybody Pays

7. Donegan's Gone

8. Stand Up Guy

x

Track List: Shangri-La

1. 5.15 a.m.

2. Boom Like That

3. Sucker Row

4. The Trawlerman's Song

5. Back To Tupelo

6. Our Shangri-La

7. Everybody Pays

8. Song For Sonny Liston

9. Whoop De Doo

10. Postcards From Paraguay

11. All That Matters

12. Stand Up Guy

13. Donegan's Gone

14. Don't Crash The Ambulance

x

Track List: The Ragpicker's Dream

1. Why Aye Man

2. Devil Baby

3. Hill Farmer's Blues

4. A Place Where We Used To Live

5. Quality Shoe

6. Fare Thee Well Northumberland

7. Marbletown

8. You Don't Know You're Born

9. Coyote

10. The Ragpicker's Dream

11. Daddy's Gone To Knoxville

12. Old Pigweed

x

Track List: Sailing To Philadelphia

1. What It Is

2. Sailing To Philadelphia

3. Who's Your Baby Now

4. Baloney Again

5. The Last Laugh

6. Do America

7. El Macho

8. Prairie Wedding

9. Wanderlust

10. Speedway At Nazareth

11. Junkie Doll

12. Silvertown Blues

13. Sands Of Nevada

x

Track List: Beryl (Single)

1. Beryl

x

Track List: Privateering (Sampler)

1. Redbud Tree

2. Privateering

3. Corned Beef City

4. Got To Have Something

5. I Used To Could

x

Track List: Tracker (Deluxe)

1. Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes

2. Basil

3. River Towns

4. Skydiver

5. Mighty Man

6. Broken Bones

7. Long Cool Girl

8. Lights Of Taormina

9. Silver Eagle

10. Beryl

11. Wherever I Go (Feat. Ruth Moody)

12. .38 Special

13. My Heart Has Never Changed

14. Terminal Of Tribute To

15. Heart Of Oak

Comments

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I once read that Mark knits sweaters for the handicap in his spare time. Congrats to spare time. Way to go Mark!
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wpwatterson
What beautiful pure notes time after time he lifts us up
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I
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I'm in love & peace & happiness with Mark knopfler ! Who couldn't be? Yah yah!
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silky smooth . . .w/just enough rasp . .
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Who the hell are those people in the photo.
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tigfalls
Song for sonny liston!
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Speedway at Nazareth kicks.
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I love Marks guitar playing and he has good singing voice and style.
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I could listen to Mark in this song brother in arms and most of his songs all day without tiring.
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gonutsguy5
Evolve is the passing of time, stick to listening not using words on your own.
Mark K. collaboratio n is his finest work, he can expand to higher highs and the sound of his Fender is pure genius.
JJ
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Apparently, I need to see him live!
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the best, of the best.....nic e red rock's show Mark....
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I've been a fan since Dire Straits. His music evolves with the passing of time.
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M.Knopfler = Genius - If Clapton is God - Then Mark is the Messiah! :-)
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i like studio recorded songs i dont like recordings at concerts
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i was referring to the song by Dire Straits song being Brothers in Arms in the Miami Vice ep in the 80s Bruce McGill {D-Day from Animal House} was a dectective in the ep I remember Crocket & Tubbs driving down a highway and Brothers in Arms was the background song I went out in morning and bought that album on vinyl excellent song by an excellent band
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I remember hearing this song on an ep of Miami Vice in the 80s it blew me away - the lyrics the guitar work he is a real guitarist - not like the wanna bes of today - hes one of the best
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As a guitar player, I can say playing a clean tone, as Mark does in this song, shows his talent. It's easy to hide those accidental / clumsy notes picked / strummed playing in distortion, but those notes can be easily heard when played clean. I did not hear any misplayed notes in this one. And he plays electric guitar with his fingers. I'm glad that a talented musician such as himself has been so successful in his career. I only wish there were more of them out there. note to self...
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I went to go see Mark all by myself in Oakland t0:O
Going Oakland alone IS a harrowing experience all by itself
Mark is amazing artist and musician I recommend anybody to go see him....
He will not disappoint!

0:o)
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kaydaze
Oh and I love that he is not selfish! He really listens and enjoys the other phenomenal artists he plays with... Most of the time you just don't see that. He is engaged at all times! Love!
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kaydaze
Saw him in St. Augustine a few nights back. While he was great and the band and all of their instruments was amazing his mic was off from even before sound check. Thats on the venue and sound guy(s)I'm sure he wasn't happy with it either!. Still enjoyed seeing him live as I have been a huge fan since early Dire Straits!
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Didn't realize they had so many good songs brothers in arms my favorite so far
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jcallaebc
Saw him in Pittsburgh last week. I know you're not just sayin' Monika!
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Saw Mark yesterday at Warner Theatre downtown DC. Awesome show! Thanks for coming and playing for us :-) Luv Ya!
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Sam Mark yesterday at Warner Theathre downtown DC. Awesopme Show! Thank You for coming and playing for us :-) Luv ya.
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edkomasara
Some guitarists just play fast when they don't know what to play. Knopfler always knows what to play.
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montesdad2
Waiting for NYC at the beacon. My son flies in from NOLA for another MK show. Father and son reunion. Awesome
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My 4 favorite artists, guitarists and songwriters are Mark Knopfler, Jerry Rafferty ,Eric Clapton and David Gilmore.I think music is a spiritual experience. God pulled back the curtain reached down and touched these artists and gave the world a gift.
There music sets me free and changed my life.
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DIDN'T EVEN HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE CREDITS IN PRINCESS BRIDE.
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He is just the Best!!!..... .
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fariborz1500
When you consider his voice , the poet , song writing ability with continued creating and developing and of course a lead guitarist who has a unique finger picking style , makes him the very best IMO . It is not just one thing about Mark . Loved his concert in Dallas in Sep 26th .
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An amazing guitar picker. In my opinion the best.
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Disagree with posts... the Berkeley show was the best !! :).... If readers get the chance to see this Tracker show do NOT miss it. The guys are refreshed after the europe/UK and are just bringing it.
One of the best attributes of Knopfler is the way he blends his guitar work in to the song, rather than just trying to dominate with his skill. It is the difference between being fast (Jeff Beck) and being a full on musician, comfortable with his skill.
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I surely missed a lot while working; I wish I could go back and hear Dire Straits when they were in their heyday!! Thing is, I am enjoying them so much now; Mark Knopfler is amazing, I would always have loved his music!!
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The Santa Barbara show was amazing, thank you Mark!
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Kiss your hand two times and pints this to two other songd
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acheyson
A musical poet, still great after 30yrs seeing him at Wembley Arena in '85. Saw him Fri night in Seattle at the winery, F&%#ing brilliant musician. Incredible band with him too!!!
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jimkayaks
Just saw Mark in Portland, Oregon at Keller Auditorium.. . h e flat out blew the roof off the place. Fantastic show...incre d i b l e talent!
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Just saw MK in Seattle at Chateau Ste Michelle, such an incredible show! What a way to end the summer! MK you made my night!
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barbara753
Taking my three adult daughters to Knopfler in Seattle next weekend..... . . a l l that matters! His music has been a soundtrack they grew up on.....
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merlynsmom20 1 2
they don't make em like Mark D anymore. very underrated forever.. always loved them ...
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belkat
Got tickets to see him in Melbourne (FL) in October. Can't wait!
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nje222001 You got that right! As far as Im concerned there is no better composer, singer, or guitarist out there than Mark Knopfler, including all those Jim.srtr mentioned.
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I posted a while back on Knopfler-he combines a distinctivel y mellow-very cool voice-with outstanding guitar ability. Love this guy.
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Take me back to the good old days:-)
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Jim.srtr, sometimes it's best to be quiet and still and instead of loud and
wrong
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sorry Jerry, I have to disagree. Music is subjective. George was a great guitarist, the same as Mark. They inspire me.
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Jim, George Harrison? Good but not in the same league as Mark or the others you cited.
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He has such a distinctive way of playing which I can always recognize. Even though Romeo and Juliet is my favorite song, I really love this song, it's just so soothing and has a great message..... l o v e him. Oh, he's really great with E.L.Harris.. . .
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