Happy 70th Birthday to Mark Knopfler, the British singer-songwriter, guitarist, and co-founder of Dire Straits. They had the No.1 single in the U.S. in 1985 with Money For Nothing, and the No.2 UK single Walk Of Life. Their 1979 certified double-platinum debut album reached #1 on album charts in Germany, Australia and France, and sold two million copies in the U.S. and four million in Europe.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland and raised in England, the 4-time Grammy winner has also produced albums for Tina Turner, Bob Dylan, and Randy Newman and is the composer/producer of nine film scores for movies like Local Hero, set in Scotland, The Princess Bride, and Wag the Dog, with Dustin Hoffman. Successful as a solo artist, Mark also graduated with an English degree from the University of Leeds. WATCH one of the greatest love songs ever recorded—Romeo and Juliet… (1949)

2015 photo by Sebastien.gross, CC license

His unique finger-picking guitar style, which earned him the #27 ranking on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists, was a result of playing on a badly warped guitar neck that had been strung with extra-light strings to make it (barely) usable. It was the only way he could play it—and as a result, he said he ‘found his guitar voice.’

Originally inspired by his uncle Kingsley’s harmonica and boogie-woogie piano playing, Mark formed several bands in the 60s after being influenced by Elvis Presley, B.B King, Django Reinhardt, Hank Marvin, and Chet Atkins (with whom he made a 1990 Grammy-winning album called Neck & Neck). The 5th Dire Straits LP Brothers In Arms (which is the fourth best selling album in UK chart history, with their biggest hits) was a worldwide blockbuster, contributing to the band’s total sales through 2009 of over 120 million records. . . Check out a 1980 performance of Romeo and Juliet, from their third album Making Movies.

MORE Good News on This Day:

  • The Peace protocol to end the Spanish-American War was signed (1898)
  • The Wizard of Oz film starring Judy Garland was first previewed in two test markets – Kenosha, Wisconsin and Cape Cod, Massachusetts (1939)
  • Elvis Presley released his singles Don’t Be Cruel and Hound Dog, a 45rpm record that went to No.1 on the US chart, where it stayed for 11 weeks—a record that would not be broken for 36 years (1956)
  • The first communications satellite, Echo I, was launched, and the following day the first two-way telephone conversation by satellite took place with microwave signals bouncing from one point on Earth to another (1960)
  • The Beatles’ first film A Hard Day’s Night opened in 500 U.S. cinemas to rave reviews, with Time magazine later calling it as one of the all-time great 100 films (1964)
  • Japan and China signed Treaty of Peace and Friendship (1978)
  • The Space Shuttle Enterprise passed its first solo flight test by taking off atop a Boeing 747, separating and then landing in California’s Mojave Desert (1977)
  • Swiss banks agreed to pay $1.25 billion as restitution to Holocaust survivors to settle claims for their assets (1998)

On this day in 1990, the most complete and best preserved skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex was found in South Dakota, and named ‘Sue’, for the paleontologist, Sue Hendrickson, who made the discovery. The fossil was in 1997 for $7.6 million, the highest amount ever paid for a dinosaur fossil, and is now a permanent feature at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois.

trex dinosaur-Sue_skeleton-CC-Connie Ma
Photo by Connie Ma, CC license

And, on this day in 1968, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham played together for the first time, in a room below a record store in London’s West End. The first songs they played were old blues tunes, ‘The Train Kept A-Rollin,’ and a version of ‘I’m Confused’ (soon to become ‘Dazed And Confused’). Jones recalled, “As soon as I heard John Bonham play, I knew this was going to be great… We locked together as a team immediately.” It was not until the following month that they started using the name Led Zeppelin and soon became the hottest and heaviest band of the 70s.

Photo by Jim Summaria, CC license

Their manager, Peter Grant, secured a phenomenal contract with Atlantic Records: $143,000 in advance royalties, one of the biggest deals of its kind for a new band; autonomy in deciding when they would release albums and tour; the final say over the contents and design of each album and how to promote each release, and which tracks to release as singles; their own company to handle all publishing rights.

One of the most innovative, influential, and successful rock groups in history (200–300 million LPs sold worldwide), the band’s fourth album, which features the song “Stairway to Heaven“, is among the most popular and influential works in rock music, and it helped to secure the group’s popularity. Each of their 9 studio albums reached Billboard’s top 10, and 6 scored a number one. WATCH a 5-minute history of the band…