Sunderland honours Sultan of Swing

Released: Wednesday 11th July 2007 at 11:00

One of North-East’s most famous sons was honoured by the University of Sunderland today (Wednesday, July 11) for his wonderful services to the music.

Former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler was joined by around 2,000 students at the university’s annual academic awards ceremony at the Stadium of Light.

Mark received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from university Chancellor Lord Puttnam for his outstanding contribution in the field of music.

Proud Geordie Mark, who was brought up in Gosforth, is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s finest fingerstyle guitarists, as well as a hugely successful singer/songwriter.

Although best known as the frontman for Dire Straits, he has also enjoyed a very successful solo career over the past decade.

In the mid-80s, when Dire Straits had released Brothers in Arms - one of the best selling albums of all time – they were tagged 'the biggest band in the world'. Their unforgettable set during Live Aid in 1985, with fellow Geordie Sting, helped to cement that tag.

After 18 years with the band, selling over 100 million albums and doing several world tours, Mark, who was brought up in Gosforth, felt it was time to get back to his roots as a musician and concentrate on a solo career. Since then he has released four critically acclaimed albums.

From a very early age there were indications that Mark’s life was to be inextricably linked with music. At 18 months old he could sing, probably influenced by the many hours listening to the BBC radio show “Listen with Mother”.

However, it was his Uncle Kingsley who had the biggest impact on his “music education”, with his harmonica, banjo and his love of Boogie-Woogie music.

At sixteen, Mark set up a harmony duo with school-friend Sue Hercombe, who he taught the art of fingerpicking. During this time the duo played Newcastle’s folk clubs and Mark also got his first taste of celebrity, with an appearance on BBC Look North with Mike Neville.

Mark has also written music for several films, including Local Hero, Cal, The Princess Bride, Last Exit to Brooklyn and Wag the Dog and has played and recorded with artists including Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Randy Newman and the late Chet Atkins.

The self-taught guitarist is well known for his charity work and his passion for the North-East.

The North-East, and its people, have had a huge influence on his music. They’ve also been one of the reasons why he has not been swept away by fame, like so many others in his profession.

Mark said: “It’s a thrill and an honour to receive this award from the University of Sunderland. What I also like is that awards like this recognise the achievements of those people who do not go down the academic road.”

Mark’s award came at the same time as the university introduced a new music course.

The new combined programme, run by ADM& C and C & T, is the BSc in Sound and Music Technology, which will provide students with the skills to enter the music industry, either as studio sound engineers, or with the technical skills to augment their talents as performing artists. This new programme will commence in September and will add to our work in the performing arts, and technology, giving new opportunities to students.