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Jack White

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jack white

Jack White

Photo: Graham Denholm/Getty Images.

Overview:

Since his emergence in the late 1990s, songwriter and musician Jack White has been a major force in rock music, combining the grit of older styles like blues and country with the flash of arena rock and the do-it-yourself spirit of indie music. In an era when artists enjoy representing new trends, White has distinguished himself by relying on seemingly outdated, classic troubadour traditions that cast him as a musical purist unimpressed with being fashionable. As a result, he’s an artist from a new generation who’s treated with respected by older musicians who recognize an authenticity in him that’s perhaps missing from his contemporaries.

The White Stripes:

White’s landmark work is with his band the White Stripes. Over the course of six albums, the duo (which also featured drummer Meg White, his ex-wife) delivered sharp, bruising garage-rock that was as simple and direct as the band’s black-white-red visual aesthetic. Though a beloved underground group, the White Stripes moved into the mainstream thanks to their third album, 2001’s White Blood Cells. They followed that up with 2003’s brash, stomping Elephant, which contained “Seven Nation Army,” arguably their most ubiquitous hit. The White Stripes continued to make critically acclaimed albums like 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan, but when they announced their breakup in February 2011, they hadn’t released a studio album in four years.

The Raconteurs:

During the end of the White Stripes’ run, White also spent time in the Raconteurs, a side project with fellow songwriter Brendan Benson. The quartet released two albums, including 2006’s Broken Boy Soldiers, which produced the hit single “Steady, As She Goes.” The Raconteurs didn’t have the intensity of the White Stripes -- nor did it feature the blistering guitar solos that became one of that band’s signatures -- but it allowed White to further indulge his love of classic rock. Though a little more playful in its tenor, the Raconteurs demonstrated that White wasn’t curious about keeping up with current musical trends. Not surprisingly, then, the Raconteurs’ album cover for 2008’s Consolers of the Lonely featured a photo of the band that could have been taken from a bygone era.

The Dead Weather:

One side project wasn’t enough for White, though. In 2009, he and a group of musicians came together to form the Dead Weather and released Horehound. The interesting wrinkle, however, was that White wasn’t the lead singer or even co-frontman of the Dead Weather: That honor went to Alison Mosshart, the singer of the Kills. White provided backup vocals and played drums on the band’s two albums. Their last record was Sea of Cowards, and like Horehound it was marked by a dark, spooky, sexual vibe. If neither Dead Weather album matched the impact of the White Stripes’ best discs, it found White having fun being part of a band rather than leading one.

Solo Career:

When the White Stripes ended their run, Jack White decided to make a solo album, although before that he collaborated with other artists, most notably providing vocals on producer Danger Mouse’s Rome project. But in April 2012, White released Blunderbuss, a solo album that didn’t break from the styles he had pursued in his previous bands. Pointedly, the album’s first two singles could not have been more different. “Love Interruption” was a soulful, stripped-down declaration of love that could have fit on the moody Get Behind Me Satan, while “Sixteen Saltines” was a furious guitar workout more fitting for inclusion on Elephant.

Essential Songs:

“Blue Orchid” (with the White Stripes) (Purchase/Download)
“Seven Nation Army” (with the White Stripes) (Purchase/Download)
“Steady, As She Goes” (with the Raconteurs) (Purchase/Download)
“Blue Blood Blues” (with the Dead Weather) (Purchase/Download)
“Love Interruption” (from Blunderbuss) (Purchase/Download)

Trivia:

  • Jack White produced Loretta Lynn’s 2004 comeback album, Van Lear Rose, which won the Grammy for Best Country Album.
  • His real name is John Anthony Gillis. When he married Meg White, he took her last name.
  • He started his own label, Third Man Records, in his hometown of Detroit in 2001. Eight years later, he moved its operations to his new home in Nashville.
  • White has worked on records with Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert and Tom Jones.
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