A couple of years ago when a man I admired and respected was dying, I was asked to prepare an article to be published when he died. Basically an obituary, but also an appreciation for a talented man who through fate, bad luck, and his own demons never really received the recognition he deserved. While I was able to supply the nuts and bolts of his career and give my opinion, I knew if I wanted people to notice I’d need to have a quote from a not only a familiar name but one whose opinion would carry some weight. While there was an obvious choice I didn’t hold out much hope of hearing back from him as he didn’t know me from a hole in the ground. However, to my delight and heartfelt appreciation, it was only about a week after I sent out the email request I heard back from Mark Knopfler.
He hadn’t worked with Willy DeVille since the late 1980s when they had made the Miracle album, which included the theme song for the movie The Princess Bride, “Storybook Love”, which had garnered DeVille an Academy Award nomination. Yet in spite of that he wrote a beautiful and gracious letter saying what he had appreciated about DeVille’s singing and the pleasure he had making his minor contributions to the album (his words not mine). Listening to his new release, Privateering, released by Universal Music September 11, 2012, I’m reminded once again not only of Knopfler’s talent, but the simple elegance of spirit that infuses both his music and everything about the man. It’s not a thing you can point your finger at and say look there’s an example, there’s just something his music exudes which cocoons you with its warmth of heart. Like a magic cloak, you can wrap around yourself to protect you from the privations of the world.
In one of the books in his The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the late British author Douglas Adams spent a couple of paragraphs rhapsodizing about the way Knopfler played his Fender Stratocaster. He called it the most beautiful sound in the known universe, even more beautiful than the sounds made by some sort of love dragons. In fact, Adams went on to say, if these love dragons happened to hear Knopfler play, they would just pack it in, weeping in frustration over their inability to match the quality of his playing. Now Adams was known for his hyperbole, and of course he was a science fiction writer, so its doubtful the love dragons in question really exist. However, his point about the sensuous beauty Knopfler is able to create with his Stratocaster wasn’t exaggerated.
In his typical understated fashion though, Knopfler flashes his talent only rarely. Unlike others who seem to feel the need to be constantly saying “look at me,” he is quite content with sharing the spotlight with those he plays with. Oh sure, he’ll take his solos, and be it slide, acoustic, or electric guitar they are all things of beauty, but they’re only one part of a song, not the song’s reason for being. (Note: For some reason the order of songs on the download I received for review purposes seems to bear no relationship whatsoever to the order they appear on the actual release. So in order to avoid any potential confusion I’ll only refer to tracks by name.)