Jack Sonni, the ex-guitar player with Dire Straits, whose contributions can be heard on the band’s 1985 release Brothers In Arms, one of the U.K.’s all-time best-selling albums, died Wednesday (March 30). He was 68.
Born Dec. 9, 1954 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Sonni’s passion for music began at a young age, when he learned various instruments, including piano, trumpet and the six-string, which he mastered.
Sonni furthered his career with a relocation to New York, and he’d make his mark in the history books as the “other guitar player in Dire Straits,” a reference he was happy to share on his official biography.
Dire Straits’ lead guitarist is, of course, frontman Mark Knopfler, widely recognized by his peers as one of the finest to ever play the instrument. The two axemen reportedly met in a guitar shop, after which Sonni was invited to record parts for the band’s fifth studio album.
The result was Brothers In Arms, which led the Official U.K. Albums Chart for 14 weeks, and reigned over the Billboard 200 for nine weeks. The album smashed records around the world, shifting an estimated 30 million copies worldwide, and won two Grammys (best music video, short form for the title track, and best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal for the Billboard Hot 100 leader “Money For Nothing”).
When the rockers embarked on a major world tour in support, Sonni wore a distinctive red coat. That tour, too, was a record-setter. In Australia, fans bought more than 950,000 tickets, a record that stood for decades.
Sonni played guitar synthesizer on album cut “The Man’s Too Strong” and performed on stage with the band for the Wembley Stadium leg of the historic 1985 Live Aid concerts.
Following the birth of his daughters, Sonni calling time as on his career as a musician in 1988, instead pivoting to marketing. He went on serve as vice president of marketing for Guitar Center, a role that kept him connected with his beloved instrument.
Writing on his official site, Sonni described himself as “a writer, musician, nomadic raconteur, father and grandfather who has taken to heart the reality in the hard-learned lesson that life is short.” In life, he embraced the philosophy to “live well and live now” in pursuit of “creating memorable moments with friends and family”.
In recent years, he played alongside fellow alum on Dire Straits Legacy, ”born from our love and respect for the music of Dire Straits, and to bring the music to fans who have been starved of hearing it played live by the musicians who made it, for far too long,” DSL wrote in a 2018 statement.
Dire Straits leads tributes to the late artist. “Rest In Peace,” reads an official post. Another, from DSL, explains: “Our beloved Jack has left a void in our heart and soul… we will miss you so much, you are forever with us.”