Which Part Of His Her Music Belongs To The Singer-Songwriter Mark Knopfler and His Fascination with America

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Mark Knopfler and His Fascination with America

Like many British musicians, Mark Knopfler grew up with an appreciation and fascination for the rebels across the pond in the US. Before Dire Straits and the success of “Sultans of Swing” in 1977, Knopfler was influenced by a wide range of American artists such as Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, JJ Call and Chet Atkins.

In the summer of 1976 he went on an extended vacation to the United States. According to Miles Palmer’s unauthorized biography, Knopfler stayed with friends, talked to strangers and absorbed the excess. During this period he built the confidence to leave behind his work as a teacher and journalist and engage in music in a meaningful way.

While most of the songs on Dire Straits’ first three albums were heavily influenced by his experiences in Britain, his American charm began to bleed through on 1982’s Love Over Gold. The title track, “Telegraph Road,” was written during the band’s first US tour, and the song was written about the ultimate birth and death of an American town. The Telegraph Road in question is apparently somewhere in Michigan, where Knopfler watched from a seat on a tour bus.

As fame and stardom faded from Dire Straits with the success of “Brothers in Arms”, Mark returned to his early interests in country music and country-blues. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Knopfler was lucky enough to play with his hero, Chet Akins, during a television special in Nashville. The two men’s special friendship and mutual admiration lasted until Atkins’ death in 2001. Knopfler’s hobby band, The Notting Hillbillies, was 100% pure country and blues music.

Dire Straits’ last album, “On Every Street”, included some very clear references to the US in the title track (“Fireworks over Liberty are exploding in the heat” influenced by his experiences in New York) and “The Planet of New Orleans”. “Calling Elvis” continues to follow Knopfler’s fascination with the King. One of Nashville’s brightest stars at the time, singer-songwriter Vince Gill, actually worked as a session musician for the album.

His second solo album, 2000’s “Sailing to Philadelphia,” pushed England into the background with just a few house tunes. Instead, “Do America,” “Speedway at Nazareth,” “The Sands of Nevada,” “Prairie Wedding” and the title track were steeped in Americana. It is an appreciation and awe of the country that Knopfler brings to the music; It’s rarely something humiliating. 2004’s “Shangri-La” paid homage to famous (infamous?) Americans like McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, boxer Sonny Liston and again Elvis.

Mark Knopfler’s latest album of duets with Emmylou Harris pretty much left England behind and replaced it with country nostalgia and enjoyment that comes with age and experience. Knopfler has been widely quoted as saying that the tragic events of 9/11/01 in New York influenced several of the songs on the album. Not coincidentally, his touring band for the past ten years has featured some of the most successful session players – where else? — Nashville, Tennessee.

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