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Jack White


Where do you go after you've topped NME's (New Musical Express in the U.K.) first ever Cool List and been named "the coolest person in Rock?" Jack White had that dilemma in '02. The honor came after the White Stripes third album and major label debut, "White Blood Cells," featuring the single "Fell In Love With A Girl." Fortunately, this was more a starting point than an end for White. The next year, Rolling Stone magazine listed White as 17th on their 100 Greatest Guitarist of All Time. Big stuff for the seventh son, the youngest of ten kids, who grew up in Detroit.

The future Jack White was born with the name John Anthony Gillis in '75 (7/9). His first career was as an upholsterer. While White was always busy his lack of business sense undercut his profits. It probably wasn't a good fit anyway for a guy who wrote a lot of poetry. A little closer was his stint as the drummer for the Alt. Country Goober & The Peas. Eventually, White switched to guitar and fell into the local garage Rock scene.

White met and married Meg White in '96 and the following year she started playing drums. In keeping with his unconventional nature Gillis took his wife's surname becoming Jack White. While White dabbled in various projects it soon became apparent that the best combination was simply he and Meg. The White Stripes became local underground favorites which led to an indie contract. They told the press and anyone else that they were siblings - rather than husband and wife. As success loomed, the White's divorced in '00.

"White Blood Cells" led a series of both commercially successful and artistically acclaimed (critics liked them) albums; "Elephant," with the single "Seven Nation Army," ('03); "Get Behind Me Satan" ('05); and "Icky Thump" ('07).

It's difficult to play lead guitar and sing. But it's even more demanding with only drums behind you. White has a percussive style, no doubt a holdover from his drumming days, and the ability to use the guitar to accent songs as well as propel them. Like Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), White played deceptively simple lines that colored and shaped songs in trademark ways.





Many musicians who front highly successful bands have "outside" interests. But White took it to an unusual level. In '03 he appeared in the film Cold Mountain and performed several songs for the soundtrack. Next he appeared with Meg in one of the segments for the film Coffee And Cigarettes. Then White produced Country legend Loretta Lynn's '04 album, "Van Lear Rose," and sang a duet with her on "Portland, Oregon."

Perhaps just to prove he hadn't "gone Country" White also contributed liner notes to a re-issue of The Stooges' '70 album "Fun House." In White's opinion "Fun House" was "the greatest Rock 'n' Roll record ever made." Again in front of the camera, White played Elvis Presley (type casting?) in the comedy Walk Hard before performing "Loving Cup" in Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones concert documentary "Shine A Light."

That itinerary would be enough to keep anyone busy but White undertook yet another major project. He and musician/friend Brendan Benson wrote the song "Steady, As She Goes" together in '05. The two enjoyed the experience and soon formed The Raconteurs. The group issued "Broken Boy Soldiers" ('06), with the single "Steady, As She Goes" and "Consolers Of The Lonely ('08).

Following The Raconteurs' tour in support of their sophomore album White continued on his own trajectory. First, he wrote and recorded, with Alicia Keys, the theme for the James Bond flick Quantum Of Solace.

Unfortunately, it was not a wholly pleasant experience. White voiced his displeasure that the theme song got its first exposure in an advertisement. "We are disappointed that you first heard the song in a co-promotion for Coke Zero, rather than in its entirety," said White's management in a statement.

White's next film appearance was later in the year when the documentary It Might Get Loud with fellow guitarists Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) and The Edge (U2) premiered at the '08 Toronto Film Festival.

Never one to stand still, White became a founding member and drummer of The Dead Weather with Alison Mosshart (The Kills), Dean Fertita (Queens Of The Stone Age) and Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs). Debut album "Horehound" landed in '09, with "Sea Of Cowards" arriving the following year.

Since they had been inactive for an extended spell, it didn't surprise anyone (but was sad) when the White Stripes officially split in February of '11. Later that year, on April 16th, White, in recognition of his work with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather in addition to running his Third Man Records, was the inaugural winner of the Music City Ambassador Award from the City of Nashville. "(White's) individual talent and unique creative spirit bridges gaps between genres and generations," said Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who presented the award.

Considering all the projects and producing credits (White Stripes, The Raconteurs, Dead Weather, Von Bondies and Wanda Jackson, among them) it was time for White to put out a solo album. That happened in '12 with "Blunderbuss." Released on Third Man Records/XL, the album's debut single, "Love Interruption," featured the Ghana-born singer Ruby Amanfu.

Selling 138,000 copies in its first week, "Blunderbuss" became White's first #1 on the Billboard 200. The White Stripes, Raconteurs nor Dead Weather ever reached that pinnacle. However, the Stripes' '07 album "Icky Thump," which debuted at number #2 with 223,000 units sold, was slotted just behind Bon Jovi's "Lost Highway."

Another career peak came a year later when White was named an honorary dean of the Fermatta Music Academy in Mexico City. "The sense of being a musician is making art, and I do not care whether it is solo or as part of a collective project," said White, who was also presented a Lifetime Achievement Award.

White's sophomore solo album "Lazaretto," which refers to a type of hospital set up for those with contagious diseases, dropped in '14. The first single was the crazy good "High Ball Stepper." After that song was released but before the album came out, White made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. The accompanying article was titled: The Strange World of Rock & Roll's Willy Wonka.

On a non-musical note, White, an avid baseball fan, got his own baseball card as part of the 2015 Topps Series 1 set. The card photo was taken when White, wearing a vintage Tigers jersey, threw out the first pitch at a '14 Detroit home game.


Jack White Discography

Albums:

2012 Blunderbuss
2014 Lazaretto

It's tempting to categorize Jack White as the sum of his influences, whether he's mining Chicago's Blues, Music Row's back alleys or doing a 'Mick Jagger channeling Prince' impersonation. But he brings a unique element to his music which is driven more by a desire to get it out than placating an audience.

Also see The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather.

 

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