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Mark Knopfler

Mark Knopfler with Dire Straits performing live
Mark Knopfler with Dire Straits performing live

Mark Freuder Knopfler, OBE (born August 12, 1949, Glasgow, Scotland) is a British guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He is best-known as the lead guitarist and vocalist for the band Dire Straits, but has also made albums as a solo performer and played in other bands (such as the Notting Hillbillies). He has also performed on work by other artists, such as Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and the late Chet Atkins, and produced albums for artists such as Tina Turner, Randy Newman, and (again) Bob Dylan. In addition, he has scored the music to several films, including Local Hero, The Princess Bride, Cal, Last Exit to Brooklyn and Wag the Dog.

Personal Life

Early Days

Mark Knopfler is the son of a Jewish architect whose communist sympathies forced him to flee the fascist regime in his native Hungary. When Mark was about nine years old, the family moved to Newcastle upon Tyne in the North-East of England. There, he and his younger brother David (also a musician) attended Gosforth Grammar School. He was inspired by his uncle Kingsley's harmonica and boogie-woogie piano playing. Later, in his teens, he wished to buy the expensive flamingo-pink Fender Stratocaster just like Hank Marvin's, but had to settle for a twin pick-up Hofner Super Solid. Like many other schoolboys of the 1960s, he served an early apprenticeship by forming and joining anonymous schoolboy bands and listening to guitarists such as Chet Atkins, Scotty Moore, Jimi Hendrix, Django Reinhardt and James Burton. At sixteen he made a local TV appearance as half of a harmony duo along with school-friend Sue Hercombe.

At school Knoplfer had demonstrated a flair for English and in 1967 he studied journalism for a year at Harlow Technical College. At the end of the course he secured a job in Leeds as a junior reporter on the Yorkshire Evening Post. After two years he decided to further his studies and commenced a degree in English at Leeds University. He also worked as a lecturer at Loughton College during this period. It was whilst Knopfler was living in Leeds that he met a local blues singer/guitarist by the name of Steve Phillips. He married Kathy Knopfler in Leeds, who was an art teacher. He then moved (alone) to London and joined a band called Brewer's Droop. His wife sent money to him on a regular basis. They were later divorced. Soon after he made his first record in a London studio; an unreleased demo of an original song, "Summer's Coming My Way".

Dire Straits

Dire Straits recorded and released their first, self-titled album in 1978 to little fanfare but five months later a single release, "Sultans of Swing" became an unlikely chart hit and album sales took off. The second album, Communique, followed in 1979. The band's third album, Making Movies was released in 1980 and marked a move towards more complex arrangements and production which would continue for the remainder of the band's career.

In 1982 Dire Straits released their fourth album, Love Over Gold. Around this time Mark Knopfler was also concentrating on other things, writing the music score for the film Local Hero, released in 1983. This was followed by Cal in 1984.

Dire Straits' biggest hit was the band's fifth album, Brothers in Arms, which became an international hit on its release in 1985, and spawned several chart singles including the number one hit "Money for Nothing", which was the first video ever to be played on MTV in Britain. The band's 1985-86 world tour was immensely successful.

After the Brothers In Arms tour Dire Straits went on a lengthy hiatus, with Knopfler concentrating on solo work, film soundtracks and work with the Notting Hillbillies. Dire Straits regrouped in 1990 for the release of their final original studio album, On Every Street in 1991. The album was released to a mixed critical reaction, regarded by some as an underwhelming follow up to Brothers In Arms.

After On Every Street two live albums were released, the first of which, On The Night, in 1993, documented Dire Straits' final tour. This was followed two years later by Live at the BBC.

Dire Straits' line-up changed over the band's career, and Knopfler was always the driving force behind the band. After expressing a desire to give up touring on a large scale, Mark Knopfler launched his solo career and quietly disbanded Dire Straits in 1995. The band's keyboardist, Guy Fletcher, has been associated with almost every single piece of Knopfler's solo material following Dire Straits' dissolution.

After Dire Straits

In 1996, the year after Dire Straits' official disbanding, Knopfler released his first solo album Golden Heart, with most critics seemingly impressed. In this same year, in August, Brothers In Arms was certified 9x platinum.

In 1997 "Rolling Stone" magazine released a poll: "Rock N' Roll Hall Of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll", which included "Sultans Of Swing", Dire Straits' first hit, which remained significant throughout their entire career as a band.

In 1998 Knopfler recorded the soundtrack for the movie Wag The Dog. In October a hits collection of Dire Straits was released: Sultans Of Swing: The Very Best Of Dire Straits.

Knopfler has also released three other solo albums since the dissolution of Dire Straits: Sailing to Philadelphia (2000), The Ragpicker's Dream (2002), and Shangri-La (2004).

In March 2003, Knopfler was involved in a motorbike crash, suffering from a broken collarbone and six broken ribs. He recovered however, returning to the stage in 2004.

In late 2005 a third compilation, The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler: Private Investigations was released, and consisted of material from most of Dire Straits' studio albums and Knopfler's solo and soundtrack material.

Knopfler has recently completed work on an album of duets with country music singer Emmylou Harris, entitled All the Roadrunning, which was released on April 24 2006. It has 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 USA (Billboard Top 200 Chart), #25 in Ireland and #41 in Australia.


He is noted for being left-handed, but playing right-handed, and for fingerpicking 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, particularly the Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster, Gibson Les Paul, a custom Pensa (MK-1 MK-2 & MK-80), a Schecter & also a National Style O Resonator (now merged with Dobro) type guitar used on "Romeo and Juliet".

Knopfler and his associated bands have sold over 100 million albums, and performed live to audiences totalling many millions. He has twin sons (Benji and Joseph, born 1987), and two daughters Isabella (1998) and Katya (2003). Mark holds a degree in English from Leeds University and, in May 2006, became Doctor of Music (DMus) at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.


  • Solo
    • Golden Heart (1996)
    • Sailing to Philadelphia (2000)
    • The Ragpicker's Dream (2002)
    • Shangri-La (2004)
    • One Take Radio Sessions (June 2005)
    • The Trawlerman's Song EP (UK) (2005)
    • The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler: Private Investigations (2005)
  • Soundtrack
    • Local Hero (1983)
    • Cal (1984)
    • Comfort And Joy (1984)
    • The Princess Bride (1987)
    • Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989)
    • Metroland (1998)
    • Wag the Dog (1998)
    • A Shot at Glory (2001)
  • Others
    • Missing... Presumed Having a Good Time (Notting Hillbillies (The band is with his friends))
    • Neck and Neck (with Chet Atkins)
    • The Booze Brothers (with Brewers Droop)
    • Slow Train Coming (with Bob Dylan)
    • Infidels (with Bob Dylan)
    • Release (with David Knopfler)
    • Never Told A Soul (with John Illsley)
    • Glass (with John Illsley)
    • Sea Fever (with William Topley)June 2005
    • All the Roadrunning (with Emmylou Harris) April 2006


  • The album Shangri-La was recorded at the Shangri-La Studio in Malibu, California, the same place where The Band made recordings for The Last Waltz.
  • Knopfler was spending some time with friends one night early in his career, and 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 with that, 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".
  • In the latest promo for his new album 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.
  • Formed during the Golden Heart sessions, the main line-up of his solo band, also known as "The 96'ers", has lasted much longer than any Dire Straits line-up.
  • He has been known to sip tea on stage during live performances (Bangalore, India 7 March 2005; Perth, Australia 10 March 2005; Helsinki, Finland 10 May 2005; Copenhagen, Denmark 16 May 2005; London, England 3 July 2005; Lille, France 5th June 2005; and New York, USA 30 June 2005). In Detroit, USA, 8 July 2005 his guitarist Richard Bennett also joined in drinking tea. Richard Bennett again joined Mark Knopfler on stage for a cup of tea on 23 July 2005 in Berkeley, California, USA and also in Tallinn, Estonia on 9 May 2005.
  • British humorist Douglas Adams about Knopfler: "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 listened to Dire Straits recordings while discovering the species.
  • Knopfler was ranked #27 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time."
  • Knopfler agreed to write the music for The Princess Bride only on the condition that director Rob Reiner put the cap that Reiner wore in This Is Spinal Tap somewhere in the movie. This posed some difficultly, as the film was primarily a period piece. Eventually, an identical cap (the original was no longer available) was included in the grandson's bedroom, in contemporary bookend sequences that open and close the film. Knopfler later admitted that he was joking.
  • Knopfler's guitar classic "Going Home" from the soundtrack to Local Hero is used before kick off at Newcastle United's home matches at St. James' Park. Knopfler makes a few appearances at St. James's to watch his favourite side. He recently did a charity gig at Shearer's Bar at St. James' Park.

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It uses material from the Wikipedia article - Mark Knopfler