Most people know Mark Knopfler from the band Dire Straits, but he also adds talent as a guest with other artists.
There’s nothing dire about Mark Knopfler. His lengthy career is surely a testament to the musical gifts he shares with the world.
We’re digging deeper into this multi-faceted musician, who joined forces with some top-notch artists on their albums.
Let’s hit it!
Who Is Mark Knopfler?
Mark Knopfler is a British singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer. Born in 1949, he’s originally from Scotland but raised in England. He was the lead guitarist, singer, and songwriter for the rock band Dire Straits.
With his younger brother, Knopfler co-founded Dire Straits. The band recorded six albums, including their best-seller, Brothers in Arms, released in 1985. Ten years later, in 1995, they disbanded.
From there, Knopfler launched a highly successful solo career. He produced nine solo albums and composed and produced scores for nine films, including the 1987 movie The Princess Bride. You can also find his production credits on albums from Tina Turner and Bob Dylan.
Classic Rock magazine described Knopfler as a virtuoso with his fingerstyle guitar playing. He ranked 27th on Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” This multi-talented man is still playing and in demand today.
We’re reviewing seven of our favorite Mark Knopfler guest collaborations.
#1 Slow Train Coming by Bob Dylan
In 1978, Bob Dylan claims Jesus showed up in his Arizona hotel room after a concert. From there, he began Bible classes and revamping his songs. Toward the tour’s end, he replaced lyrics with biblical verses.
After that tour, Dylan started writing songs reflecting his new spirituality. Hal Lindsey influenced Dylan with his prophecy that the Book of Revelation was the apocalyptic world’s end.
The album, Slow Train Coming, carried the ominous message of the end times. Dylan felt compelled to write about them, though the concept frightened him.
Dylan caught the final show of the Dire Straits’ residency at the Roxy in Los Angeles, California. Afterwards, he approached Knopfler after the show, asking the guitarist to participate on his next album. Knopfler agreed, unaware of the religious nature of the material.
Despite his concern for the Christian nature of the music, Knopfler reflected that Dylan was very professional. Knopfler was able to make suggestions regarding the music.
#2 Break Every Rule by Tina Turner
In 1986, Tina Turner released her sixth solo album, Break Every Rule. It was the follow-up to her hugely successful comeback album, Private Dancer. Turner enlisted several artists and producers, including Phil Collins and Bryan Adams.
Graham Lyle and Terry Britten produced the entirety of side one of Break Every Rule. They were the team behind Turner’s hit single, What’s Love Got to Do with It.
The album’s second side included tracks with several guest producers, including Mark Knopfler. In fact, he wrote the song, Overnight Sensation. Knopfler produced and played guitar on the ninth and tenth tracks of the album.
Break Every Rule charted well internationally and reached number four on the U.S. Billboard 200.
#3 Read My Licks by Chet Atkins
Read My Licks is Chet Atkins’ fifty-sixth studio album. He released this country album in 1994. For the album’s production, Atkins enlisted talented singers and musicians to back up his own guitar virtuosity.
The album has diverse undertones of pop and folk rock, though it’s clearly in Atkins’ “Nashville Sound.” Mark Knopfler was onboard as a guest guitarist.
Read My Licks has a long and impressive lineup of credits for almost fifty people. Knopfler was in the company of fiddler Stuart Duncan and country piano legend Floyd Cramer.
Knopfler provides meaty instrumental backing to Atkins’ smooth three-finger-style Travis technique.
#4 The Long Black Veil by The Chieftains
The Chieftains, formed in 1962, is the quintessential Irish folk band. Their sound is almost entirely instrumental and uses the Irish version of the bagpipe, uilleann pipes. They’re credited with popularizing traditional Irish music around the world.
For their 1995 album, The Long Black Veil, the band collaborated with well-known musicians, including Sting, Van Morrison, and Tom Jones. As a guest artist, Mark Knopfler contributed lead vocals and guitar to the song The Lily of The West.
Mark’s voice adds to the song so effortlessly. So wildly perfect every time. Along with his masterful guitar strokes, it doesn’t get much better than this. The Long Black Veil is one of the Chieftains’ most popular and best-selling albums.
#5 October Road by James Taylor
James Taylor released his fifteenth studio album, October Road, in 2022. The album contained new songs written by Taylor and arrived two years after releasing his Greatest Hits Volume 2.
Taylor released the album in two versions: a single disc and a limited edition two-disc version with three extra songs. Sailing to Philadelphia, the third bonus track features Mark Knopfler as guest composer, vocalist, and guitarist.
Mark’s deep voice and slight Scottish accent pairs well with Taylor’s smooth, higher range. Additionally, the lyrics reflect Knopfler’s talented writing skills. “It was my fate from birth. To make my mark upon the Earth.” It’s hard to make a better song than this.
#6 80 by B.B. King
B.B. King released the album 80 to celebrate his 80th birthday in 2005. It features duets with a variety of excellent musicians. Not surprisingly, the album won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards.
The King of the Blues asked Mark Knopfler to join him as a guest on this album. Mark played guitar on the track All Over Again.
B.B. sings the bluesy lament he’s known for while riffing away on Lucille. Additionally, Knopfler matches him with an easy supporting guitar. Arguably two of the best guitarists in the world complement each other on this legendary recording.
#7 Songbird: Rare Tracks & Forgotten Gems by Emmylou Harris
Emmylou Harris put together a box set of songs she selected as personal favorites. The collection contains four CDs and a bonus DVD. Songbird: Rare Tracks & Forgotten Gems came out in 2007.
Working with James Austin, Harris pulls together a retrospective of her five-decade career. She also digs into her special collaborations, unreleased live and demo tracts, and tribute projects.
Mark Knopfler and his band are on disc four with the haunting song written by Hank Williams Sr., Alone and Forsaken. In fact, Knopfler produced the song and added a wavering electric guitar to the version. He creates the perfect musical backdrop for Harris’ beautiful yet emotional vocal delivery.
The box set and the song are indeed keepers.
A Talented and Gifted Musician
A man of many talents, we love the results when Mark Knopfler collaborates as a guest with other artists. His voice adds a rich depth to any song. Whether lead or backup, his guitar magic fills up the genre.
Do you have a favorite Mark Knopfler song? Tell us about it in the comments.