Happy Birthday: Mark Knopfler

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014
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Happy Birthday: Mark Knopfler

Today marks the 65th birthday of the man who brought you “Sultans of Swing,” “Romeo & Juliet” (the one that wasn’t written by Shakespeare), and extolled the virtues of getting money for nothing and your chicks for free.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1949, Mark Freuder Knopfler was inspired to play guitar by Hank Marvin of the Shadows…or if he wasn’t, he was certainly inspired by Marvin enough that he desperately wanted his very own Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster. In the end, economic realities resulted in him getting started with a twin-pickup Hofner Super Solid instead, but it was enough to get him started in a band or two. Prior to adopting the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle as a full-time endeavor, Knopfler spent a bit of time studying journalism at Harlow College, even picking up a position as a junior reporter for the Yorkshire Evening Post, before ultimately graduating from the University of Leeds with a degree in English. After stints in the bands Silverheels and Brewers Droop, as well as forming a duo with Steve Phillips called the Duolian String Pickers, Knopfler really got serious with a group called the Café Racers, and before long, Mark, his brother (and rhythm guitarist), David, bassist John Illsley, and drummer Pick Withers had begun the Dire Straits story.

The band’s self-titled debut took a bit of time to catch on, but once it did, “Sultans of Swing” became nearly inescapable on the radio, and while the band’s sophomore effort, Communique, didn’t necessarily result in forward momentum for the band, it kept them well aloft, putting them in a position to succeed with “Romeo and Juliet,” the single from their third album, Making Movies. From there, it was on to Love Over Gold, which threw some listeners for a loop with its 14-minute opening track, “Telegraph Road,” but after Dire Straits turned in the requisite live album (Alchemy), they came back with the album of their career…but, of course, you probably know all there is to know about Brothers in Arms by now.

In the wake of Brothers in Arms’ success, an emboldened Knopfler – who’d tested the waters of a solo career between Dire Straits’ studio albums by doing soundtrack work for the films Local Hero, Cal, and Comfort and Joy – started stepping out a bit more, working on a few more soundtracks (The Princess Bride and Last Exit to Brooklyn), doing an album with Chet Atkins (Neck and Neck), and even creating a side band called the Notting Hillbillies. Although Dire Straits came back for one more proper album with 1991’s On Every Street, it proved to be the last gasp for the band, studio-wise.

Not so for Knopfler, however. At this point, he’s actually got more solo albums than there were Dire Straits albums, starting with 1996’s Golden Heart and going all the way up to 2012’s Privateering, not to mention a very lovely collaboration with Emmylou Harris (All the Roadrunning). To celebrate his birthday, we’ve put together a playlist featuring some of Dire Straits’ greatest hits as well as several songs from Knopfler himself, in an effort to provide a look into his entire career. Give it a listen, and be sure to pass along your best wishes to Mr. Knopfler if you get the chance.