Why 60 Guitar Heroes Collaborated On 1 Song

If you ever wondered whatever happened to Dire Straits, the band officially broke up in the early 1990s, but Dire Straits' lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist Mark Knopfler went on to have a stellar if much more lowkey solo career. Knopfler's latest project is a coup for rock fans, especially for the guitar lovers out there. Knopfler managed to wrangle 60 of rock's best-known and beloved guitarists and other musicians to rework his 1983 song "Going Home (Theme from Local Hero),"  which was originally featured in the 1983 film "Local Hero," for charity.

The list of contributors is a who's who of the rock world (and a few other genres) representing the masters of the craft from the last six decades, from Eric Clapton to Joan Jett to Guns N' Roses' Slash. Plus the Beatles' Ringo Starr on drums and Sting on bass. Perhaps most poignantly, the song features the final work of guitar great Jeff Beck, who died in January 2023. Proceeds from the recording are going to the U.K.'s Teenage Cancer Trust and Teen Cancer America, a charity founded by legendary rockers Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey of the Who, who also appear on the recording (Townsend on guitar and Daltrey on harmonica).

A long list of greats

What began as a pandemic request from the Teenage Cancer Trust to collaborate on a musical project to support the charity soon morphed into an all-star project. The trust, along with its sister U.S. organization, is dedicated to helping young people facing a cancer diagnosis. In the hands of Mark Knopfler and his collaborator and producer Guy Fletcher — the keyboardist for Dire Straits — the musical legends began lining up. "With Mark's full endorsement and word spreading, a wave of requests flooded in to play on the track," Fletcher recalled (via his website). Pete Townsend was soon onboard.

"Before I knew where I was, Pete Townshend had come into my studio armed with a guitar and an amp," Knopfler said in a statement (via Guitar World). "And that first Pete power chord ... Man, I tell you. We were in that territory, and it was just fantastic. And it went on from there." Eric Clapton — aka "Slowhand" — and Pink Floyd's David Gilmore also contributed. "When David Gilmour came in, he played loads of stuff, but there were certain licks that were just absolutely Gilmour," Knopfler told the London Times (via The Independent). "Same with Ronnie Wood, instant Stones. Joan Armatrading played it all the way through and just wailed. You'd never think it's Joan." Of Jeff Beck's contribution, Knopfler called it "spellbinding." While many of the musicians recorded their efforts at British Grove Studios, in West London, others sent their recordings in and Fletcher then added them to the track.  

An embarrassment of riches

Unlike the charity supergroup Band Aid, whose recording of "Do They Know It's Christmas" was one of the big moments from the 1980s you might have forgotten about, or the similar project U.S.A for Africa, Mark Knopfler's endeavor went smoothly. The making of "We Are the World," on the other hand, which included flaring tempers and clashing egos, was akin to cat wrangling for the producers, as was Band Aid's event.

Knopfler was overwhelmed by the number of his fellow musicians who wanted to participate in the project. "What I really want to do, more than anything else, is just to thank each and every one for this sterling response," Knopfler said (via MusicRadar). "I really had no idea that it was going to be like this. ... I think what we've had is an embarrassment of riches, really. The whole thing was a high point." He and Guy Fletcher decided they needed to extend the length of the song to make room for everyone. The list of contributors ended up spanning the music world from metal, including Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath fame and Steve Vai, who was in Whitesnake, to country (Vince Gill, Keith Urban, and Brad Paisley) to blues — Buddy Guy and Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, and everything in between. And it's all for a great cause. You can get it here