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Verse Chorus Verse: Dire Straits – “Romeo & Juliet”

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Some people take a classic and make it unwatchable. I know to some, West Side Story is a classic interpretation of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. I could never get past gangbangers that snapped at each other and danced in circles or the songs. Some people find Shakespeare's English a difficult barrier to overcome. I'd rather tangle with thee, thou, and forsooth than hear anything Officer Krupke has to say. The less said about the Claire Danes/Leonardo DiCaprio version of Romeo & Juliet, the better.

For me, only one modern interpretation of Shakespeare's overwrought classic has come close to improving upon the original and it came from the mind of Mark Knopfler. It never makes the countdowns, but I have to ask: how many love songs are better than Dire Straits’ “Romeo & Juliet?” It’s actually fittingly symbolic that this song floats ever so slightly beneath the radar, because that’s Mark Knopfler. The guy’s fuckin’ great, but doesn’t quite get the acclaim he deserves.

Everything about this song is perfect. The intro is perfect. Knopfler picks at his dobro, giving the song a sound from another time. He isn't a classically great singer, but his vocal limitations help keep this from becoming a maudlin mess of nothing. And then he creates a celestial starscape with a shapeless guitar solo that lets this troubadour's tale reach for the heavens.

Knopfler and Dire Straits albums generally get/got mildly positive reviews, but if a more celebrated name turned out these albums and these songs you know the reviews would be more effusive. A rose by another name, right?

Listening to this song reminds me of a line from The Princess Bride. There is such a shortage of perfect songs in this world. It’s a shame to see one go as unnoticed. We'll just keep it our little secret.

Brilliant. Perfect.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • ariel

    i was lucky enough to meet Mr. Knopfler at a Chet Atkins show in Nashville and to see him several times over the years. He always plays red rocks here outside of Denver. His music has been a source of inspiration and enjoyment in my life since 1980 or so. Thanks for this…

  • Cooder has always flown a bit below the radar, which probably suits him fine but it means too many listeners have never gotten any exposure to him. Dire Straits will always be “Money For Nothing,” if anything to the casual listener. That’s a shame because what little people know of them/him isn’t anywhere near his best material.

  • this is such a great song. i love when he tosses in that little “hey la, my boyfriend’s back” thing.

    Knopfler has always reminded me of Ry Cooder, always coming up with great music, yet not exactly a household name.