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Mark Knopfler OBE (born 12 August 1949) is a British guitarist, singer, songwriter, record producer and film score composer.

Mark Knopfler is best known as the lead guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for the British rock band Dire Straits, which he co-founded in 1977 with his brother David. After Dire Straits disbanded in 1995, Knopfler continued to record and produce albums as a solo artist under his own name. Knopfler has played in other groups occasionally, such as the The Notting Hillbillies, and has guested on works by other artists, including The Dandy Warhols, Bob Dylan, Bryan Ferry, Eric Clapton, Jeff Healey, John Fogerty, Jools Holland, Steely Dan, Emmylou Harris, Sonny Landreth, Phil Lynott, Joan Armatrading and Chet Atkins. He has produced albums for artists such as Tina Turner, Willy DeVille, Randy Newman, Bob Dylan and even "Weird Al" Yankovic.

His musical scores include Metroland, Local Hero, Cal, Last Exit to Brooklyn, Wag the Dog, and Rob Reiner's classic, The Princess Bride.

He is one of the most respected fingerstyle guitarists of the modern rock era and was ranked #27 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time."

Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits have sold in excess of 120 million albums to date.

Life and career

(1949-1976) Childhood and early life

Knopfler was born in Glasgowmarker, Scotland to an English mother and a Hungarian Jewish father, an architect whose communist sympathies forced him to flee the regime of his native Hungary. The family first moved to Scotland, but then settled in Knopfler's mother's home town of Newcastle upon Tynemarker in the north-east of England when he was around 7 years old. There, he and his younger brother David attended Gosforth Grammar Schoolmarker, where he was inspired by his uncle Kingsley's harmonica and boogie-woogie piano playing. Later, in his teens, he wanted to buy an expensive Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster just like Hank Marvin's, but had to settle for a £50 twin-pickup Höfner Super Solid. Like many other schoolboys of the 1960s, he served an early apprenticeship by forming and joining anonymous schoolboy bands and listening to singers like Elvis Presley and guitarists Chet Atkins, Scotty Moore, B.B King, Django Reinhardt and James Burton. At age 16, he made a local TV appearance as half of a harmony duo along with a friend from school named Sue Hercombe.

In 1967, having displayed a flair for English, Knopfler studied journalism for a year at Harlow Technical College. At the end of the course he secured a job in Leedsmarker as a junior reporter on the Yorkshire Evening Post. Two years later, he decided to further his studies and eventually went on to graduate with a degree in English at the University of Leedsmarker. He left his job as a reporter, and, hoping to pursue a career in music, performed with pub bands around town. He worked as a part-time lecturer at Loughton College and played with mates in a band called the Café Racers, during this period. He also played in a few bands such as the Silver Heels and a duo with long-time associate UK bluesman Steve Phillips who was later to be a member of The Notting Hillbillies. It was also in Pudsey, Leeds, that in 1974 Knopfler recorded a "demo" tape of an original (but unreleased) song; "Summer's Coming My Way".

Knopfler later moved to London and joined a High Wycombemarker-based band called Brewers Droop, appearing on the album "The Booze Brothers". One night while spending some time with friends, the only guitar available was an old acoustic with a badly warped neck that had been strung with extra-light strings to make it playable. Even so, he found it impossible to play unless he finger-picked it. He said in a later interview, "That was where I found my 'voice' on guitar." Mark joined brother David in a band under the name Café Racers but also found himself another musical partner in David's flatmate, John Illsley, initially a guitarist who changed over to bass guitar and became the only other member of Dire Straits to figure throughout the band's career.

(1977-1995) The Dire Straits years

Dire Straits' first demos were done in three sessions during 1977, with Pick Withers as drummer and John Illsley on bass guitar. On the 27 July, 1977 they recorded the now famous demo tapes of five songs - "Wild West End", "Sultans of Swing", "Down To The Waterline", "Sacred Loving" (a David Knopfler song) and "Water of Love". In what was probably October they recorded "Southbound Again", "In The Gallery" and "Six Blade Knife" for BBC Radio London and, finally, on the 9th of November demo tapes were made of "Setting Me Up", "Eastbound Train" and "Real Girl". Many of these songs reflected Mark's experiences in Newcastle, Leeds and London, and were to be featured on their first album, the self-titled Dire Straits which was released in the following year: "Down To The Waterline" recalled images of life in Newcastle; "In The Gallery" is a tribute to a Leeds sculptor/artist named Harry Phillips, (father of Steve Phillips); and "Lions", "Wild West End" and "Eastbound Train" were all drawn from Mark's early days in the capital.

Initially on its release, Dire Straits received little fanfare in the UK, but when "Sultans of Swing" was released as a single it became a chart hit in The Netherlands and album sales took off across Europe and then in the United States and Canada, and finally the UK. The group's second album, Communiqué, produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett, followed in 1979, reaching number one in France while the first album was still at number three.

There were frequent personnel changes within Dire Straits after the release of their third album Making Movies, with Mark Knopfler increasingly the driving force behind the group. Released in 1980, Making Movies marked a move towards more complex arrangements and production which continued for the remainder of the group's career. The album contained many of Mark Knopfler's most personal compositions, with the song "Romeo and Juliet", about a failed love affair becoming what critics call his best loved song; with a trademark he developed keeping personal songs under fictitious names. Dire Straits' fourth album, Love over Gold followed in 1982 and included the UK #2 hit "Private Investigations", "Telegraph Road" and "Industrial Disease", as well as the title track to that album.

With Love Over Gold still in the albums charts, the band released a four-song EP titled ExtendedancEPlay in early 1983. Featuring the hit single "Twisting By the Pool", this was the first output by the band that featured new drummer Terry Williams, (formerly of Rockpile), who had replaced Pick Withers in November 1982. A world tour called Alchemy: Dire Straits Live followed later in 1983, and a double-LP of the recordings of two live shows in Hammersmith Odeonmarker in London was released in March 1984, selling over 500,000 albums.

At this time Mark Knopfler was also involved with other projects, including writing the music score for the film Local Hero, released in 1983. The soundtrack album Local Hero was a large success, and it was followed in 1984 by his scores for the films Cal and Comfort and Joy.

Dire Straits' biggest studio album by far was their fifth, Brothers in Arms, released in 1985. It became an international hit and spawned several chart singles including the US # 1 hit "Money for Nothing," which was the first video ever to be played on MTV in Britain. It was also the first compact disc to sell a million copies and is largely credited for launching the CD format as it was also one of the first DDD CDs ever released. Other successful singles were "So Far Away", "Walk of Life", and the album's title track. The band's 1985–86 world tour of over 230 shows was immensely successful.

After the Brothers in Arms tour Dire Straits went on a lengthy hiatus, with Knopfler concentrating mainly on film soundtracks. Knopfler joined the charity ensemble Ferry Aid on "Let It Be" in the wake of the Zeebrugge ferry disastermarker. The song reached #1 on the UK singles chart in March 1987. Knopfler wrote the music score for the film The Princess Bride which was released at the end of 1987.

Dire Straits regrouped in 1988 for the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert at Wembley Stadiummarker, in which they were the headline act, and were accompanied by Elton John and Eric Clapton, who by this time had developed a strong friendship with Knopfler. Shortly after this, drummer Terry Williams left the band.

Additionally in 1988, Knopfler formed The Notting Hillbillies, a more country-focused band whose line-up featured keyboardist Guy Fletcher, with Brendan Croker and Steve Phillips. The Notting Hillbillies sole studio album, Missing...Presumed Having a Good Time was released in 1990, and Knopfler then toured with the Notting Hillbillies for the remainder of that year. He further emphasised his country music influences with his 1990s collaboration with Chet Atkins, Neck and Neck.

In 1990 Knopfler, John Illsley and Alan Clark, performed as Dire Straits at the Knebworth gig being joined by Eric Clapton, Ray Cooper and guitarist Phil Palmer (who was at that time playing in Eric Clapton's band). When Knopfler, John Illsley, Alan Clark and Guy Fletcher set about recording what turned out to be their final studio album, they were accompanied by several part-time sidesmen, including Phil Palmer, percussionist Danny Cummings, and Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro.

The eagerly awaited follow-up to Brothers In Arms was finally released in September 1991. On Every Street was nowhere near as popular as its predecessor, and met with a mixed critical reaction, with some reviewers regarding the album as an underwhelming comeback after a six year break. Nonetheless, the album sold well and reached #1 in the UK. A gruelling world tour to accompany the album followed, which lasted until the end of 1992. This was to be Dire Straits' final world tour; it was not as well received as the previous Brothers In Arms tour, and by this time Mark Knopfler had had enough of such massive operations. This drove the band into the ground, and ultimately led to the group's dissolution in 1995.

Two live albums were released after On Every Street. Released in 1993, On the Night documented Dire Straits' final world tour. In 1995, following the release of Live at the BBC, Mark Knopfler quietly laid Dire Straits to rest and launched his solo career.

Since the break up of Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler has shown no interest in reforming the group, however keyboardist Guy Fletcher has been associated with almost every piece of Knopfler's solo material to date, and Danny Cummings has made frequent appearances, including one on Knopfler's 2007 solo album, Kill to Get Crimson. In October 2008 Knopfler declined a suggestion by John Illsley that they should reform. Illsley said that a reunion would be "entirely up to Mark", while Knopfler is quoted as saying "Oh, I don't know whether to start getting all that stuff back together again", and that the global fame that came his way in the 1980s "just got too big".

(1996-present) As a solo artist

Mark Knopfler in Bilbao, July 2001
Mark Knopfler's first solo album, Golden Heart, featuring the UK single "Darling Pretty", was released in March 1996. During the recording sessions for the album the main line-up of Knopfler's backing band, also known as "The 96ers," was formed, featuring Knopfler's old bandmate Guy Fletcher on keyboards, and has lasted much longer than any Dire Straits line-up.

In 1997 Knopfler recorded the soundtrack for the movie Wag the Dog. During that same year Rolling Stone magazine listed "Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll", which included "Sultans of Swing", Dire Straits' first hit. 2000 saw the release of Knopfler's next solo album, Sailing to Philadelphia.

In 2002 Mark Knopfler gave four charity concerts with former Dire Straits members John Illsley, Chris White, Danny Cummings and Guy Fletcher, playing old material from the Dire Straits years. The concerts also featured The Notting Hillbillies with Brendan Croker and Steve Phillips. At these four concerts (three of the four were at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, the fourth at Beaulieumarker on the south coast) they were joined by Jimmy Nail, who provided backing vocals for Knopfler's 2002 composition "Why Aye Man".

Also in 2002 Knopfler released his third solo album, The Ragpicker's Dream. However, in March 2003 he was involved in a motorbike crash in Grosvenor Road, Belgraviamarker and suffered a broken collarbone, broken shoulder blade and seven broken ribs. The planned Ragpicker's Dream tour was subsequently cancelled, but Knopfler recovered and was able to return to the stage in 2004 for his fourth album, Shangri-La.

Shangri-La was recorded at the Shangri-La Studio in Malibu, Californiamarker in 2004, where The Band made recordings years before for their documentary/movie, The Last Waltz. In the promo for "Shangri-La" on his official website he said that his current line-up of Glenn Worf (bass), Guy Fletcher (keyboards), Chad Cromwell (drums), Richard Bennett (guitar) and Matt Rollings (piano) "play Dire Straits songs better than Dire Straits did." The "Shangri-La" tour took Mark to countries like India and the United Arab Emiratesmarker for the first time. In India, his concerts at Bombay and Bangalore were very well received, with over 20,000 fans gathering at each concert to listen to a legend many thought would never visit their country.

In November 2005 a compilation, The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler: Private Investigations was released, consisting of material from most of Dire Straits' studio albums and Knopfler's solo and soundtrack material. The album was made available in two editions: a single CD (with a grey cover) and also as double CD (with the cover in blue), and was well-received. The only previously unreleased track on the album is "All the Roadrunning", a duet with country music singer Emmylou Harris, which was followed in 2006 by an album of duets of the same name.

Mark Knopfler
Released in April 2006, All the Roadrunning reached #1 in Denmark and Switzerland, #2 in Norway and Sweden, #3 in Germany, Holland and Italy, #8 in Austria and UK, #9 in Spain, #17 in the United States (Billboard Top 200 Chart), #25 in Ireland and #41 in Australia. All the Roadrunning was nominated for "Best Folk Rock/Americana Album" at the 49th Grammy Awards (11 February 2007) but lost out to Bob Dylan's nomination for Modern Times.

Joined by Emmylou Harris, Knopfler supported All the Roadrunning with a limited - 15 gigs in Europe, 1 in Canada and 8 in the USA - but highly successful tour of Europe and N America. Selections from the duo's 28 June performance at the Gibson Amphitheatre, Universal City, California, were released as a DVD entitled Real Live Roadrunning on 14 November 2006. In addition to several of the compositions that Harris and Knopfler recorded together in the studio, Real Live Roadrunning features solo hits from both members of the duo, as well as three tracks from Knopfler's days with Dire Straits.

A charity event in 2007 went wrong. A Fender Stratocaster guitar signed by Knopfler, Clapton, Brian May, and Jimmy Page was to be auctioned for £20,000 (or $40,000) to raise the money for a children's hospice, was lost when being shipped. It "vanished after being posted from London to Leicestershire, England." Parcelforce, the company responsible, has agreed to pay $30,000 for its loss.

Knopfler released his fifth solo studio-album Kill to Get Crimson on 14 September 2007 in Germany, 17 September in the UK and 18 September in the United States. During the autumn of 2007 he played a series of intimate 'showcases' in various European cities to promote the album. A tour of Europe and North America followed in 2008.

Continuing a pattern of high productivity through his solo career, Knopfler began work on his next studio album, entitled Get Lucky, in September 2008 with long-time band mate Guy Fletcher, who again compiled a pictorial diary of the making of the album on his website. Knopfler will be on tour again in 2010. Knopfler is a member of the Garrick Club in London and played an intimate solo gig there in February 2009.

Country music

In addition to his work in Dire Straits and solo, Mark Knopfler has made several contributions to country music. In 1988 he formed country-focused band The Notting Hillbillies, with Guy Fletcher, Brendan Croker and Steve Phillips. The Notting Hillbillies sole studio album, Missing...Presumed Having a Good Time was released in 1990 and featured the minor hit single "Your Own Sweet Way". Knopfler further emphasised his country music influences with his collaboration with Chet Atkins, Neck and Neck, which was also released in 1990. "Poor Boy Blues", taken from that collaboration, peaked at #92.

Knopfler's other contributions include writing and playing guitar on John Anderson's 1992 single "When It Comes to You" (from his album Seminole Wind). In 1993 Mary Chapin Carpenter also released a cover of the Dire Straits song "The Bug". Randy Travis released another of Knopfler's songs, "Are We In Trouble Now", in 1996. In that same year, Knopfler's solo single "Darling Pretty" reached a peak of #87.

In 2006 Knopfler and Emmylou Harris made a country album together titled All the Roadrunning. Knopfler also charted two singles on the Canadian country music singles chart.

Personal life

Mark Knopfler has been married three times. While he was living in Leeds he married Kathy White, his long-time girlfriend from school days; however, the marriage didn't last, and they separated before Knopfler moved to London to join Brewers Droop.

Knopfler married for the second time in November 1983, to Lourdes Salomone, and became a father to twin sons, Benji and Joseph in 1987, both of whom he has said are talented musically, and aspiring musicians. Knopfler's marriage to Salomone ended in 1993.

Knopfler's third marriage to actress Kitty Aldridge has given him two daughters Isabella (born 1998) and Katya Ruby Rose (born 2003). The family currently lives in Chelseamarker.

Musical style and equipment

Mark Knopfler is left-handed, but plays right-handed, and fingerpicks (using a personal variant of the clawhammer style) instead of using a plectrum (i.e., "pick"). Fingerpicking is usually associated with the acoustic guitar, but Knopfler usually (though not always) plays an electric guitar. Knopfler revealed during a French interview that he uses a pick for his rhythm work during recording sessions. Knopfler surprised the interviewer by pulling a pick out of his pocket and saying that he usually carries one. Knopfler has long favoured Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster style guitars and his Artist Series Stratocaster can be viewed on the Fender website. During the 1980s he came to appreciate the tone of the Gibson Les Paul and his original 1958 has been used regularly in the studio and on stage.

Guitars

Knopfler has approximated that he now owns "around 70 guitars". They include:



Effects

Throughout his career Knopfler has used a wide selection of effect pedals in the studio and during live performances. Here is a list of some of his effects:







Amplifiers

Knopfler has often used many different combinations of amplifiers and cabinets to create his desired sounds.







Live performance

  • Knopfler has been known to sip tea on stage during live performances. Richard Bennett, who has been attending Knopfler's tours since 1996, has also joined in drinking tea with him on stage. photo. On 31 July 2005, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver, BC, the tea was replaced with whiskey in respect of ritual "last show of tour" sort of joke.


Awards and acclaim

  • The Edison Award was awarded to Mark Knopfler for Outstanding Achievements in the Music Industry, the highest award for musicians in the Netherlands.
  • Grammy Awards 1986 - Best Country Instrumental Performance with Chet Atkins (for Cosmic Square Dance)
  • Grammy Awards 1991 - Best Country Vocal Collaboration with Chet Atkins (for Poor Boy Blues')
  • Grammy Awards 1991 - Best Country Instrumental Performance with Chet Atkins (for So Soft, Your Goodbye)
  • In 1993, Knopfler was made an honorary Doctor of Music at Newcastle University.
  • In 1999, Knopfler was made an OBE.
  • In Summer 1995, Knopfler was made an honorary Doctor of Music at the University of Leedsmarker.
  • In 2001, the Masiakasaurus knopfleri (a species of dinosaur) was named after him by scientists who had listened to his music while digging the fossils.
  • On 11 July 2007, Knopfler was made an honorary Doctor of Music at Sunderland University.
  • Knopfler along with his band Dire Straits won the 1986 Grammy award for "Best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal" for their song "Money for Nothing."
  • In February 2009, Knopfler's British Grove Studios was the winner of the Music Producers Guild Award for 'Best Studio'.


Nominations



Knopfler's influence



  • British author and humorist Douglas Adams said about Knopfler, in his book So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish: "Mark Knopfler has an extraordinary ability to make a Schecter Custom Stratocaster hoot and sing like angels on a Saturday night, exhausted from being good all week and needing a stiff beer."


  • The dinosaur species Masiakasaurus knopfleri was named after Knopfler. The paleontologists were listening to Dire Straits recordings when they discovered the species.






  • "Going Home" is also the theme music for John Stanley on Sydney radio station 2UE.


  • According to director Rob Reiner, Knopfler agreed to write the music for Reiner's The Princess Bride on one condition: Reiner had to put the hat that he wore in This Is Spinal Tap in Princess Bride, "somewhere in evidence", as homage to the rock mockumentary. The hat makes its appearance in Princess Bride in the Grandson's (Fred Savage) bedroom.




  • The 2008 stage production Celtic Thunder has covers of multiple Mark Knopfler songs. "Brothers in Arms", written by Mark Knopfler and performed originally by Dire Straits, is performed by Ryan Kelly. As well, the song "Irish Boy" (from Cal) and "Going Home" (from Local Hero) are performed together as an instrumental, entitled "Cal/Local Hero".


Discography

With Dire Straits

Solo albums

Soundtrack albums

Other albums



Producer

  • Infidels (1983) by Bob Dylan. Although Mark disowned the reworked version of the album as released, his production is still noticeable. Left off the album, but later released on The Bootleg Series, is the critically acclaimed "Blind Willie McTell", featuring only Dylan, singing and playing piano, accompanied by Mark Knopfler on acoustic guitar.
  • Knife (1984) by Aztec Camera, a Scottish indie/new wave band, which was mostly a vehicle for the work of Roddy Frame, much as Dire Straits only ever recorded Mark Knopfler compositions.
  • Miracle (1987) by Willy DeVille, was dedicated to Mark and his wife 'for their support which was nothing short of a Miracle in a time of Dire Straits.' The album ends with the ballad "Storybook Love", the theme from The Princess Bride movie.
  • Land of Dreams (1988) by Randy Newman, includes the single "It's Money that Matters" which unabashedly revisits the Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing".


Mark Knofler is featured on Kris Kristofferson's album, The Austin Session, released in 1999 by Atlantic Records. (On the track - Please Don't Tell Me How The Story Ends")

References

  1. (accessed 4 March 2008) The Biography Channel: Mark Knopfler
  2. Kilburn, T. (2006) Mark Knopfler Authorized Biography Retrieved on 2 April 2007
  3. The Journalism Centre Retrieved on 2 April 2007
  4. Chaos on the Sheepscar Interchange Retrieved on 2 April 2007.
  5. Who's been here Retrieved on 2 April 2007
  6. Digitally Recorded, Digitally re/mixed and Digitally Mastered (psg)
  7. http://www.mark-knopfler-news.co.uk/biogs/mark.html
  8. Davies, H. "Rock star hurt in motorcycle crash", The Telegraph, 19 March 2003
  9. PR Inside.com (accessed 6 March 2008), Legend's guitar lost in post
  10. Wright, M. (1997) The Mirror, London, England. Available from: MARK TIES THE KNOT-FLER AGAIN; TV Kitty is wife No 3 in paradise wedding.(Features) Retrieved on 15 May 2007.
  11. (2003), Sunday Mail (QLD). Knopfler a dad Retrieved on 15 May 2007.
  12. Goodman, D. (2000) With Dire Straits no more, Knopfler sails solo, Reuters. Available from: MK INTERVIEW 2000 Retrieved on 14 May 2007.
  13. Mark Knopfler's Interview - Track by Track Guide Golden Heart - Mark Knopfler Retrieved 12 May 2007.
  14. Bacon, T. (2002) Mark Knopfler: On '58 Les Paul and hearing 'voicings' Retrieved 15 May 2007.
  15. Dire Straits / Mark Knopfler Guitar Page - Guitars. Retrieved 21 December 2008.
  16. PENSA CUSTOM GUITARS: History Retrieved 14 May 2007.
  17. Dire Straits / mark Knopfler Guitar Page - Effects. Retrieved 21 December 2008.
  18. Dire Straits / Mark Knopfler Guitar Page - Amplifiers. Retrieved 21 December 2008.
  19. Guy Fletcher 2005 tour diary
  20. Knopfler opens students' studios Retrieved on 3 April 2007.
  21. (1999) BBC News | NEW YEARS HONOURS | OBE civil (K - Z) Retrieved on 14 May 2007.
  22. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/04/03/MN306871.DTL&type=science
  23. Sunderland honours leaders in their fields, Sunderland University
  24. News, markknopfler.com. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  25. Adams, D. (1984) So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, London. ISBN 0-330-28700-1
  26. (2001) Palaeontologists in dire straits name dinosaur for the Sultan of Swing
  27. Whetstone, D. (2006) City welcomes local hero. Available from: guyfletcher.co.uk - projects - news
  28. Commentary Excerpt: Rob Reiner on MGM's new Princess Bride: SE Retrieved 12 May 2007.
  29. Commentary Excerpt: Sultan's Speak, Sachin Tendulkar interview on Star Sports. Retrieved 12 May 2007.
  30. Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Clinton Heylin, Summit Books (1991) ISBN 0-671-73894


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