Mark Knopfler was born on August 12, 1949, in Glasgow, Strathclyde, Scotland. The first song he wrote and recorded was when he was 16, but it never was released. Aside from Dire Straits, he was also in The Notting Hillbillies, who released one album in 1991. He also enjoyed a prolific solo career. He is well known for always playing a Fender Stratocaster and a voice that mirrors Bob Dylan. Another standout is he never uses a pick when playing the guitar. In 2000 he received the Officer of the Order for his music. Interestingly, he also has a dinosaur named after him, Masiakasaurus Knofleri, because researchers who discovered them were listening to his music during the find. Even though he’s best known for his music career, it’s the second profession he pursued; the first was journalism. Knopfler once said, “I feel incrdibly privledged, but anyone can tell me one good thing about fame, I’d be very interested to hear it. It’s a by-product of sucess.” His solo career certainly illustrates this. These are the 10 best Mark Knofler solo songs of all time.
This song is an anthem for people who like to go against the grain and stand out from the constraints of society. Knopfler uses a gambler who has little regard for others as a model for those who choose to put themselves first. Like many other singer/songwriters, Knopfler puts himself inside the character’s head, making the song come to life. According to ABC News Radio, during an interview, he discussed the themes on his album “Tracker” and how he put himself into many characters in his songs.
9. If This Is Goodbye
One of the most devastating events in the United States was September 11, 2001. Many singers and other artists wrote songs about the tragedy and how it affected not only them but the people around the county. Knopfler read an article written by Ian McEwan, and it inspired him to write this song. It’s about the last phone calls made from the Twin Towers. He wanted to create something that might add a feeling of love to an otherwise horrific situation.
Undoubtedly, after John Lennon’s assassination, many artists felt unrest and wondered if this was a trend. The lyrics of this song capture some of Knopfler’s fears. Sadly, they weren’t all speculation. Shortly after Lennon’s murder, a sketchy-looking guy started following him around. The singer noticed that everywhere he went. Even though the experience was unsettling, Knopfler later found out he was a fan who desperately wanted an autograph.
7. Laughs and Jokes and Drinks and Smokes
Early inspirations for Knopfler were Van Morrison and Bob Dylan, whose influences feature prominently in this song. It’s also about his career before performing with Dire Straits and all the sacrifices he made to pursue his dream of being a musician. As you listen to the song, you will also hear a lot of nostalgia for the early days before he was globally known.
The singer found it interesting that not only are Stradivari, Guarneri, and Arnati violins are crafted in Monteleone, Italy, and a line of f-hole guitars are made in New York by an Italian named Monteleone, so he wrote a song about it. Knopfler once went to the store in New York and watched Moteleone at work. Afterward, the craftsman continued to send him messages. He’s now immortalized in the lyrics.
5. Wherever I Go (Featuring Ruth Moody)
Moody was a singer-songwriter and part of Wailin’ Jennys. Knopfler first heard her work while listening to “The Transatlantic Sessions.” He immediately resonated with her voice and wanted to perform a song with her. The song also features saxophonist Nigel Hitchcock, who provided instrumentation for other artists like Tom Jones, Ray Charles, and Robby Williams.
4. Sailing to Philadelphia
According to Unmask, Knopfler said, “using stories in songs is like a Bonsai thing. For instance, in a song like ‘Sailing to Philadelphia’ I was thinking about miniaturizing a massive book.” The novel inspiration was Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon, a story about Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, English surveyors who created the line between Pennsylvania, Maryland, Deleware, and Virginia, later known as the Mason-Dixon Line.
The opening song on “Tracker” is about Beryl Bainbridge, a writer from Liverpool who Knopfler greatly admired, despite never rising to fame because of England’s class system. One of the standouts on this track is he returned to a sound perfected by Dire Straits.
Before he was a world-famous musician, Knopfler worked as a copy boy. The lyrics in this song describe his pre-fame days in the early 1960s. The title of the song referred to when he met the poet Basil Bunting who wrote Brigg Flatts. Bunting sat across the table during the encounter, looking like he’d rather be anywhere but there. Undoubtedly, he chose the poet because his fame allowed him to leave the newspaper, similar to how Knopfler found fame with Dire Straits and then a solo career. Additionally, the singer worked at an ice cream parlor, another job woven into the lyrics. The song is also about the joys of youth, like kissing his first girlfriend.
1. 5:15 am
This is the first song from Knopfler’s solo album Shangri-La. According to Dire Straits Blog, it’s about the 1967 “One Armed Bandit Murder.” He grew up in North East England, where the murder took place. Although one might think it’s a story about a horrific act of violence, it’s about slot machines in the area that created economic hardships for many people. North East England is a working-class area, and the coal mining industry is the most prevalent. These jobs were complex, and many tried to win big to escape these conditions. It’s also an area with a substantial organized crime influence. The singer poured all of this imagery into the lyrics. The song’s title refers to Angus Sibbet, a fruit machine worker, and his death.