Mark Freuder Knopfler was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1949. His father was an architect and a chess player and his mother was a teacher. David was born in 1952. The family re-settled in Blyth, Northumberland, in North East England in 1954 and eventually both brothers went to Gosforth Grammar School. Mark was initially influenced musically by his uncle who played both harmonica and boogie-woogie piano. By the time he got his first guitar a twin-pick-up Höfner Super Solid, he could play and soon joined schoolboy bands. Mark (aged)16, made his television debut as part of a harmony duo, with his classmate Sue Hercombe. The aspiring fingerstyle guitarist listened to Scotty Moore, B.B King, Django Reinhardt, and James Burton among others.
Mark left school to study journalism and got his first job as a junior reporter at the Yorkshire Evening Post. Later he decided to further his studies, and completed a degree in English at the University of Leeds. Still keen on music and writing songs he recorded a demo disk of "Summer's Coming My Way" in 1970 with Silverheels. He moved to London in 1973 and joined the band, Brewers Droop, appearing on the album The Booze Brothers. During this time the acoustic guitars available to him were of inferior quality and in order to play them, he perfected his unique finger-picking style.
When Mark left Brewers Droop, he took a day job teaching music at Loughton Collegein Essex but continued gigging with local pub bands including the Café Racers. He formed a duo with Steve Phillips called The Duolian String Pickers then in 1977, invited bass guitarist, John Illsley to join the Café Racers, later the same year Mark (lead guitar) and David (rhythm guitar) formed Dire Strait with John Illsley (bass), and Pick Withers (drums). The group were all working at the time but the band’s name was and attempt at irony. They borrowed enough money to record a five-song demo tape, which included the song "Sultans of Swing." They took the tape to disc jockey Charlie Gillett, (BBC Radio London.) and he [played it on his radio show. Two months later, Dire Straits signed with the Vertigo Records and their first album, Dire Straits , which was produced by Muff Winwood, was released in 1978 .
At first reception in the UK was look warm but when the single was released in the US it jumped into the top five. The album had sold well in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe but was slow to chart in the UK. The group's second album, Communiqué,(produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett), followed and went to Number One in France, Germany, Sweden and New Zealand in the album charts. The single, "Lady Writer", did less well in the singles charts although album went on to sell over 7 million copies worldwide: in Europe it sold 3.6 million copies, and in the United States it reached gold status.
David Knopfler left Dire Straits in 1980 during the recording of Making Movies. Sibling strain had left a rift between the brothers and whilst he had completed the guitar tracks for the album, Mark re-recorded them.
Making Movies, the band’s third album was released in in 1980 and included more complex arrangements and production. Making Movies was recorded at the Power Station in New York and the title was taken from a line in the song "Skateaway" and from the outtake "Making Movies". Jimmy Iovine joined Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler produced the album. The album included many of Mark Knopfler's most personal compositions, most notably "Romeo and Juliet" and "Tunnel of Love." The album topped the Italian and Norwegian album charts whilst selling well throughout the world.
Following the end of the On Location Tour in 1981, Mark Knopfler began writing the songs for their fourth album, Love Over Gold. It was co-produced with engineeer, Neil Dorfsman and released in 1982. The lead single "Private Investigations" reached number 2 in the UK chart and the album topped the charts in many countries.
With Love Over Gold still in the albums charts, the band released a four-song EP titled ExtendedancEPlay in early 1983. The hit single "Twisting by the Pool", featured Terry Williams, (Rockpile), who had replaced Pick Withers on drums.
The band completed an eight-month-long world tour which culminated with two sell-out concerts at London's Hammersmith Odeon. The double album, Alchemy Live was released in 1984. During this time Mark Knopfler pursued other projects including writing and producing musical scores for films: Local Her (1983); Cal (1984); Comfort and Joy (1984). The soundtrack for Local Hero included "The Way It Always Starts" which had originally been intended for Love over gold album, but instead was sung by Gerry Rafferty. David Knopfler released his first solo album, Release, in 1983, which featured both Mark Knopfler and John Illsley. The album had only modest success.
Mark Knopfler also worked as a session musician and recorded and performed with many prominent musicians, including B.B.King, Chet Atkins, Chris Botti, John Anderson, the Chieftains, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Bryan Ferry, George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Jools Holland, Sonny Landreth, Phil Lynott, Van Morrison, Steely Dan, Sting, and James Taylor.
In the early 80s, he produced albums for Aztec Camera, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman and Tina Turner . "Private Dancer" was originally planned for Love over Gold, with all but the vocal tracks being recorded. Knopfler then decided a female voice would be more appropriate and handed the song to Tina Turner for her comeback album, Private Dancer.
Brothers in Arms, was the band’s fifth album and was recorded at Air Studios Montserrat When it was released in 1985 it became an international blockbuster selling more than 30 million copies worldwide. It was also released on compact disc format and sold over one million copies. "Money for Nothing", was the first video played on MTV in Britain and topped the US singles charts The album included several successful singles including: "So Far Away": "Walk of Life", and the title track, Brother in Arms. A very successful world tour to promote the album followed in 1985–86.
Dire Straits stopped working together for a time after the incredible success of Brothers in Arms and Mark concentrated his efforts into scoring the soundtrack for The Princess Bride, (1987). The band got together a year later and topped the bill at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert at Wembley Stadium. Terry Williams (drums) left the band, and Mark Knopfler announced the official dissolution of Dire Straits. The compilation album, Money for Nothing, was released and reached number one in the United Kingdom. The band did regroup and recorded On Every Street (1991) which sold well despite meeting with mixed critical reviews. The band embarked on an enormous world tour, but the schedule proved too gruelling and the performances were not well received by fans. Dire Straits released, two more live albums, On the Night (1993) , and Live at the BBC (1995). This album had been previously recorded in 1978 at BBC Studios in London. Tired of touring and keen to pursue other projects Mark eventually dissolved Dire Straits in 1995.