In a rapidly evolving music industry, Jack White, born John Anthony Gillis, has been a ubiquitous presence in the independent music scene, becoming a rock star in a system that no longer creates rock stars. Between fronting the venerable White Stripes, playing lead guitar and sharing songwriting duties with Brendan Benson in The Raconteurs, and playing drums and singing with The Dead Weather, White’s distinctive style and voice are etched in much of the best rock music of the last 15 years. When you consider his producer credits (Loretta Lynn, The Greenhornes, Wanda Jackson), the formation of his own record label, Third Man Records, and his steadily increasing film career, the clichéd term “hardest working man in showbiz” seems perfectly applied.
The rugged, deliberate blues of the White Stripes epitomize White’s hometown of Detroit, but when you explore his songwriting catalog past the bombast of tracks like “Seven Nation Army” and “Icky Thump”, you discover a more nuanced and gifted songwriter. Deeper cuts like “We’re Gonna Be Friends” and “I Want To Be The Boy” show melody and songwriting chops on-par with the all-time greats. Rolling Stone named him the 17th Greatest Guitar Player of All Time, more for his seeming endless wealth of foot-stomping guitar riffs and searing, almost spastic soloing, than for his technical prowess. His axe of choice with the White Stripes is a JB Hutto Montgomery Airlines, a fiberglass and plastic guitar with a hollow body which was sold through Montgomery Ward catalogs in the 1960’s, an odd choice that furthers his legend as a guitarsman.
His captivating brilliance as a live performer is unmistakable no matter which of his bands he’s onstage with. He attacks each song like a human blowtorch, squeezing every ounce of visceral energy as if he were simultaneously channeling the sad lives of every departed bluesman who ever strummed an E chord. He twitches, yelps, howls and screams, delivering each line believing he literally can expel his heartbreak through a microphone.
Post written by Quinn Chalkley