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August 12: The Sultan of Swing

August 11, 2015

knopfweb_1813041cMark Knopfler, the leader of Dire Straits and one of the most interesting and sophisticated guitarists and songwriters in contemporary rock and roll, was born to a British mother and a Hungarian Jewish father in Glasgow, Scotland on this date in 1949. The father was an architect and anti-fascist Marxist who had to flee from Hungary in 1939. Knopfler’s band, Dire Straits, which played from 1977-95, had huge hits with “Sultans of Swing” and “Money for Nothing” — both about the tensions among playing music, making a living, and dealing with audiences — and with “Walk of Life” and “So Far Away.” Fueled by Knopfler’s deep voice, intelligent writing, and highly original, fingerstyle of guitar-picking, the band produced a dozen albums and sold 125 million of them. Knopfler has also produced nine solo albums and several excellent collaborations, including with Emmylou Harris and Chet Atkins, who helped highlight Knopfler’s country influences. To see him playing “Money for Nothing” with Eric Clapton, look below.

“Now look at them yo-yo’s that’s the way you do it
You play the guitar on the M.T.V.
That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.
Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Lemme tell ya them guys ain’t dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb.” —Mark Knopfler, “Money for Nothing”