Mark Knopfler Biography

12 August 1949, Glasgow, Scotland. This homely ex-teacher was UK band Dire Straits main asset through his skill as a composer, a tuneful if detached vocal style - and a terse, resonant fretboard dexterity admired by Eric Clapton and Chet Atkins, both of whom sought his services for studio and concert projects in the 80s. Courted also by movie directors to score incidental music, Knopfler inaugurated a parallel solo career in 1983 with David Puttnam’s film Local Hero from which an atmospheric tie-in album sold moderately well with its single ‘Going Home’ (the main title theme) a minor UK hit (which was incorporated into the band’s stage act). Further film work included soundtracks to Cal, Bill Forsyth’s Comfort And Joy and with Dire Straits’ Guy Fletcher, The Princess Bride. After he and the band’s drummer Pick Withers played on Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming, Knopfler was asked to produce the enigmatic American’s Infidels in 1983. Further commissions included diverse acts such as Randy Newman, Willy DeVille (Miracle), Aztec Camera (Knife) and Tina Turner, for whom he composed the title track of Private Dancer. Knopfler was also in demand as a session guitarist, counting Steely Dan (Gaucho), Phil Lynott (Solo In Soho), Van Morrison (Beautiful Vision) and Bryan Ferry (Boys And Girls) among his clients. By no means confining such assistance to the illustrious, he was also heard on albums by Sandy McLelland And The Backline and Kate And Anna McGarrigle (Love Over And Over).

For much of the later 80s, Knopfler was preoccupied with domestic commitments and, in 1986, he was incapacitated by a fractured collar bone following an accident at a celebrity motor race during the Australian Grand Prix. In 1989, however, he and old friends Brendan Croker and Steve Phillips formed the Notting Hillbillies for an album and attendant tour, but neither this venture nor several nights backing Clapton during a 1990 Albert Hall season indicated an impending schism in Dire Straits’ ranks. Throughout the first half of the 90s Knopfler sessioned on countless albums and, with Dire Straits finally winding down, it was only in 1996 that his ‘official’ solo career was announced. The debut Golden Heart featured support from slide blues guitarist Sonny Landreth, singer-songwriter Paul Brady, the Chieftains and Vince Gill.

Knopfler returned to soundtrack work with contributions to the movies Wag The Dog, Metroland, and A Shot At Glory. His belated follow-up solo album, 2000’s Sailing To Philadelphia, featured contributions from Van Morrison and James Taylor, but Knopfler’s underrated writing skills really shone through on the tracks ‘Baloney Again’ and ‘Silvertown Blues’. The Ragpicker’s Dream, released with almost indecent haste in 2002, was a true solo album, with Knopfler for the first time in recent years sounding like he was not writing with a soundtrack in mind. The follow-up took its name from the Shangri-La studios in Malibu, California where the album was recorded. In 2006, he recorded an album with Emmylou Harris that proved to be a highly enjoyable collaboration.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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