Why Mark Knopfler needed Tina Turner to record ‘Private Dancer’


In 1984, Mark Knopfler was on the brink of becoming a major rock star in the music world. He would release “Brothers in Arms” in less than a year with his band Dire Straits. It would go on to become one of the most successful albums of the 1980s.

But interestingly, Mark Knopfler’s journey into the mainstream had a preview a year before “Brothers in Arms” hit the music stores. All thanks to his collaboration with Tina Turner on the song ‘Private Dancer.’

This song, ‘Private Dancer,’ served as the title track for Tina Turner’s comeback album in 1984. The song played a great role in her return to the spotlight alongside the hit ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It.’

Surprisingly, Mark Knopfler originally came up with this song during the recording sessions for Dire Straits’ 1982 album ‘Love Over Gold.’

However, he realized that ‘Private Dancer’ wouldn’t be suitable for him to sing, so he decided to pass it on to Tina Turner.

In a 2004 Q&A with her fan club, Tina Turner shared that Mark Knopfler had this to say about the song: “Mark said this song is not for a man; it’s a girl’s song.”

He did record it but decided not to use it for himself. When he played the demo, he sang the lyrics, “I’m a private dancer, dancer for money, do what you want me to do.” Tina Turner agreed with him, saying, “I think you’re right; it’s not a song for a guy.” She liked the song a lot but wasn’t sure whether the girl in the song was a hooker or a very classical private dancer. Nevertheless, she decided to take on the challenge.

The story of how Tina Turner came to record ‘Private Dancer’ is quite interesting. Her manager, Roger Davis, had connections with Mark Knopfler’s manager, Ed Bicknell.

Bicknell mentioned that Mark had a song that might fit Tina well. He hadn’t used it because he thought it was better suited for a female singer. Mark produced the song and even sang it initially. However, he felt it didn’t quite fit a male vocalist, so it ended up gathering dust on the shelf.

When Tina Turner had the opportunity to record ‘Private Dancer,’ she planned to use the demo version of Mark Knopfler. He had recorded a few years earlier as the main backing track. However, there was a hiccup – Dire Straits’ record company, Vertigo Records, blocked this idea. Instead, Tina Turner brought in nearly all the members of Dire Straits to record a new version of the track.

Now, about Mark Knopfler’s involvement in the final version of ‘Private Dancer’ recorded by Tina Turner. Despite being the original writer and singer of the song, he didn’t actually play on the final cut.

Most of his Dire Straits bandmates joined in to record the backing track. But the legendary Jeff Beck later went on to perform the guitar solo over Knopfler.

Interestingly, Mark  Knopfler wasn’t pleased with this decision and voiced his dissatisfaction. In an interview, he even remarked that Jeff Beck’s guitar solo was “the world’s second ugliest guitar solo.”

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