Born August 12, 1949, in Glasgow, Scotland; married: Lourdes Salamone. Education: Leeds University, 1973. Addresses: Record company-Warner Bros. Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505-4694.

A brief look through Mark Knopfler's career, and there's no question: the man loves his job. Starting out as the singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the hit 1980s rock group Dire Straits, Knopfler branched out into producing other artists and composing music for film. To fill in the gaps, he played guitar for such major artists as Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Joan Armitrading, and Randy Newman. He approached every aspect of his career with the utmost dedication and motivation, mixed in with a whole lot of fun.

Born August 12, 1949, in Glasgow, Scotland, Knopfler moved to Newcastle, England as a young child. His father, originally from Hungary, was an architect, and his mother was a school teacher. Knopfler's interest in music was sparked by his uncle's piano playing. He recalled his inspiration to Dan Forte in Guitar Player, "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."

As a teenager, Knopfler's father tried to encourage his musical interest by giving him a Fender electric guitar. Unfortunately, his father didn't know he also needed an amplifier to play it. Instead of crushing his dad's excitement, Knopfler attempted to amplify the guitar through his family's radio, completely destroying it.

Knopfler left home to attend journalism school at the age of 17. After graduation, he landed a job as a reporter and music critic at the Yorkshire Evening Post, where he stayed for two years. From there, he pursued an English degree at Leeds University, where he graduated in 1973. He later used his education in literature as the influence for some of his lyrics, and his favorites included William Shakespeare, Raymond Chandler, and a list of metaphysical poets.

Formed Dire Straits

After graduating from college, Knopfler moved to London to pursue a career in music. A struggling musician, he moved into a room that had no heat and slept on an ambulance stretcher instead of a bed. Finally, he decided to get a job teaching English part-time at Loughton College for a more stable income, and he worked there until 1977. During this time, he met bass player John Illsley, who worked at a lumber yard. The two formed what became Dire Straits with Knopfler's brother David on rhythm guitar and Pick Withers on drums.

The group convinced a local disc jockey to play a song from their demo called "Sultans of Swing," which resulted in a record deal with Phonogram's Vertigo label. In 1978, Dire Straits released their self-titled debut. The following year, after Dire Straits released their second album, Communique, Knopfler played guitar on Bob Dylan's album Slow Train Coming and Steely Dan's Gaucho.

Mark Knopfler hit a rough spot in 1980 when he and his brother David began having creative differences. Mark accused David of not having enough of a commitment to the band and the friction resulted in David's departure from the band before the release of their next album, Making Movies. Dire Straits replaced David Knopfler with guitarist Hal Lindes and recruited keyboardist Alan Clark. "David was under a lot of strain," John Illsley told Ken Tucker and David Fricke in Rolling Stone. "Mark felt very responsible for David and didn't quite know what to do. But once Making Movieswas out and David had left, it seemed to lift a tremendous strain. Mark felt very freed."

Global Success Forced Group's Demise

Dire Straits continued to perform and record between Mark Knopfler's other projects. They released Love Over Goldin 1982, Twisting by the Pool,an EP, in 1983. They also released Alchemy: Dire Straits Live in 1984. Then, the group hit huge worldwide success in 1985 with the release of Brothers in Arms. The album and the single "Money for Nothing" soared to the top of the charts all over the world, and the album sold more than 15 million copies. The band won several awards for the album, single, and video. Their notoriety landed Knopfler and John Illsley an invitation to perform in the fourth annual Prince's Truse Grock Gala concert in London, with such artists as Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Tina Turner.

After Dire Straits had become a global success, Knopfler announced their breakup in 1988. "A lot of press reports were saying we were the biggest band in the world," he told Rob Tannenbaum in Rolling Stone. "There's not an accent then on the music; there's an accent on the popularity. I needed a rest." He reunited with John Illsley and another incarnation of Dire Straits one more time in 1991 for the release of On Every Street.

Established Film and Solo Career

Knopfler also expanded his pursuits into film music in the early eighties. He made his film composing debut in 1983 with the movie Local Hero. The score won a British Academy of Film and Television Award. Knopfler's song "Going Home" as single from the soundtrack album, also won the award for Best Film Theme or Song at the 1984 Ivor Novello Awards. His work in film music continued through the years with such films as Cal in 1984, Comfort and Joy, also in 1984. He also wrote the soundtracks to The Color of Money in 1986, The Princess Bride in 1987, Last Exit to Brooklyn in 1990, Wag the Dog in 1998, and Metroland in 1999. His scores were in such demand that Screenplaying, a sampling of his music for motion pictures was released in 1993.

Knopfler continued performing and recording with other artists after the breakup of Dire Straits, as well. He collaborated with his long-time friends, singer/guitarist Steve Phillips, keyboardist Guy Fletcher, and singer/guitarist Brendan Croker to form the Notting Hillbillies in 1990. The group released Missing Presumed Having a Good Time on Warner Bros. Records, and embarked on a small club tour. The band grew out of informal jam sessions among its members. "We were having so much fun, it became a band by accident," Knopfler told Tannenbaum. That same year, Knopfler also recorded an album of duets with guitarist Chet Atkins called Neck and Neck. The album won Grammy Awards for Best Country Vocal Collaboration and Best Country Insturmental Performance.

In 1996, Knopfler launched his own solo career after nearly 20 years of collaborations. He recorded his debut, Golden Heart, in Nashville, Tennessee, and Dublin, Ireland. He invited guest musicians to contribute to the album, including country artist Vince Gill and the Chieftain's Sean Keane and Derek Bell. The first single, "Darling Pretty," also appeared on the soundtrack for the film Twister.

After more than two decades of writing, performing, and recording music, Knopfler ashowed no signs of slowing down. After all, he loves his job. "My enjoyjment of making records has increased with age," he said in his record company biography. "I love to write. Being inspired, for want of a better word, is one of the best feelings you can have. It's a huge, glorious adventure for me, and I love being a part of it."

by Sonya Shelton

Mark Knopfler's Career

Formed Dire Straits and signed a record contract with Vertigo Records, 1977; signed U.S. contract with Warner Bros. and released self-titled debut, 1978; released six albums and two EPs, 1979-1988; composed first film score for Local Hero, 1982; Dire Straits announced breakup, 1988; collaborated with Notting Hillbillies and Chet Atkins, 1990; Dire Straits reformed for On Every Street, 1991; released debut solo album, Golden Heart, 1996.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

February 8, 2006: Knopfler won the Grammy Award for best surround sound album for Brothers in Arms--20th Anniversary Edition. Source:,, February 9, 2006.

Further Reading



Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 14 years ago

A great collaborative CD between Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris, made in 2006, is titled, "All the Roadrunning." All tracks on this disc are very lyrical, easy to listen to. Their music will fill some of the holes in your soul.