In Love With Music

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

Considering his achievements, David Knopfler is a modest guy. A founding member of 70s and 80s supergroup Dire Straits, he also has eight successful solo CDs to his name, as well as countless writing credits.  He has his own record label and was one of the first people to sell CDs online.  Not only that, he is the author of “The Bluffer’s Guide to Rock,” and is a regular contributor to several magazines.  Despite all this, you’re unlikely ever to see him at a music awards ceremony or hanging out with the stars. You can, however, see him at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz this Sunday, as he is currently on tour to promote his latest CD entitled “Wishbones.”

David Knopfler was born in Glasgow , Scotland , and grew up in Newcastle in the north-east of England .  By age 11 he was playing guitar, piano and drums, and by 14 writing his own songs and performing them in folk clubs. After graduating from college, he took a job as a social worker in London .  There, he shared a flat with bass guitarist John Illsley, and one day they invited David’s brother Mark to come over and play.  Mark brought with him drummer Pick Withers and a band was born that would eventually become Dire Straits.

After two albums and three years of extensive touring with Dire Straits, Knopfler felt the need to broaden his horizons beyond the band, which focused primarily on his brother’s songs.  He formed his own record label, Paris Records, and released his first solo CD, “Release,” in 1983.  Knopfler’s album was inevitably compared to Dire Straits, and the comparisons were very favorable.  The songs had a personal, intimate quality, of which Knopfler said, “In Dire Straits I learned how to translate the intimate from the bedroom to the arena.  Since leaving I’ve been wondering how you put the genii back in the bottle.  I’m still interested in the way the personal can also translate to universal themes, but hopefully with less hoopla and distraction.”

“Release” was followed by 1984’s “Behind the Lines,” and “Cut the Wire” in 1985, which included the hit single “When We Kiss.”  Following his first three albums, he worked steadily, releasing an album every two to three years.  “Wishbones,” however, was seven years in the making.  Featuring guitarist and longtime friend Harry Bogdanovs (who is joining him on his current tour,) several former members of Dire Straits and even the English Philharmonic Orchestra, the album’s 14 tracks show the time and care spent on its recording.  The songs are full of atmosphere, dealing with life and love in all its aspects, and Knopfler’s voice is strong and assured throughout. 

Of his long and productive career, Knopfler is typically pragmatic. “I don’t regard what I do as remotely glamorous.  I write and record music because I completely love doing it, not because of any exotic desires for fame or popularity.”  This down-to-earth attitude may just be what has kept him going so long.

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, November 6, 2003

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