Jack White is one of the best guitar players of our time, hands down. Since 1997 he has been a part of 3 successful bands (most famously The White Stripes) and has also had a fantastic solo career. Jack’s success can be attributed to his passion for the blues and rock and roll. Whether it’s the way he writes his music, records it, or plays it live, you can always tell that Jack White loves what he does and wants to share his passion with each and every listener.
Let’s take it back to the early 90s when Jack White was still known as Jack Gillis, still living in Detroit, and had just landed his first professional music gig; playing drums for the band Goober & the Peas. Over their 5-year career Goober & the Peas played alongside Bob Dylan, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The Austin Chronicle also dubbed them “quite possibly the most exciting live act in America” after playing at South by Southwest in 1993. But 2 years later they were no more and Jack had to figure out what was next.
In 1996 Jack married Meg White, a local Detroit bartender, and took her last name. Soon after their union Meg began to play the drums and the two went on play their first show as The White Stripes in August of 1997. In 2001, after a couple of years of playing in the Detroit underground garage rock scene, the duo rose to fame thanks to a show they played in London. Then it was really off to the races for The White Stripes.
Following the big break The White Stripes released 4 more albums (2 of which are on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all time list): White Blood Cells (2001), Elephant (03), Get Behind Me Satan (05), and Icky Thump (07). Each album had its own fair share of hits, including “My Doorbell”, “Fell in Love with a Girl”, “Icky Thump”, and most notably “Seven Nation Army”. Fun fact alert! “Seven Nation Army” was written during a sound check for a show in Australia and is also how Jack used to mispronounce Salvation Army as a young child. Now the song is known across the world as one of the greatest rock songs of our time, and has also been turned into a massive anthem, chanted out at almost every sporting event. Need Proof?
The whole time that Jack was playing with Meg as The White Stripes, he was also involved in quite a few other projects. In 2005 Jack formed The Raconteurs in Detroit. The band released 2 full-length albums before going on hiatus in 2011 (this hiatus is starting to seem more and more like a split). Then after his move to Nashville, Jack brought together another band, The Dead Weather. With two LPs out already, they plan to release a third next year. Finally, White also started his record label, Third Man Records, in 2003. It wasn’t until 2009 that he established a location, but now at the headquarters in Nashville you will find a record store, a performance venue, and a recording studio.
After The White Stripes split, Jack couldn’t call it quits. He embarked on a solo career and continued to succeed and create great music. His debut solo album Blunderbuss (2012) was truly a solo album. He wrote all the music by himself, recorded it at his studio, and produced it too. Then this past June he released his second solo album Lazeretto, again released on Third Man Records. To me both albums seem like grown-up versions of The White Stripe’s LPs. When back then he would really shred and rock out on his guitar at times, his solo albums have a much more bluesy sound. He goes back to his roots and continues to create some great rock music. Fun fact #2: Lazeretto was inspired by a book of short stories and poems Jack wrote as a teenager, and was also the term for a quarantine station used by sailors.
As well as producing some of the best rock music over the past 2 decades, Jack has had a big voice in the music industry. He is well known as a proponent for a minimalist style. The White Stripes became well known for their simple way of playing with just one guitar and one set of drums, and he often questions why other bands need more than one guitar player. White also prefers analogue to digital recording and encourages it. Jack thinks that digital recording gives the artist too much freedom to change what they played. Instead one should just record what you play and create a song that way. He has also been a fan of vinyl records over digital CDs. He released a limited edition, Ultra LP version of Lazeretto that included hidden tracks and holograms to encourage people to buy vinyl again. In August it was reported that Jack had sold 60,000 vinyl copies of Lazeretto, setting a new record for vinyl sales. 60,000! That’s hard to even do with a digital album now a days. Finally, Jack recently helped save the Detroit Masonic Temple. In 2013 it was nearly foreclosed on but Jack donated the $142,000 owed in back taxes and in return had a theater inside named after him.
Jack White has been a large part of the music industry for some time now. He has always created cutting-edge rock music and I hope he continues to do so. Jack’s influential voice in the music world will also hopefully save an industry that continues to rely on the Internet as well as digital forms of music. So go check out his new solo albums (maybe you can even still find one of those limited edition LPs) or take a trip back in time and rock out to some White Stripes as your weekend begins.
Bonus Videos: Jack playing "Seven Nation Army" this past year at Bonnaroo and talking about cell phones at concerts with Conan.