One of a new breed of back-to-basics rock acts to emerge from Detroit, Michigan, USA, the White Stripes comprises enigmatic bass-free duo Jack White (b. John Anthony Gillis, 9 July 1975, Detroit, Michigan, USA; guitar/vocals) and Meg White (b. Megan Martha White, 10 December 1974, Detroit, Michigan, USA; drums). The Whites, who Jack claimed were brother and sister from a dysfunctional trailer park family, formed their new band in 1997. Judging from their facial looks it initially seemed likely the duo were brother and sister, but the matter was confused by Jack White stating that the couple were once married, and the posting of a marriage license (from September 1996) and divorce certificate (from March 2000) on the Internet seemed to confirm this fact. Jack White's invention of a far-fetched personal mythology owed a lot to the folk tradition, and was in fact similar to the yarn spun by Bob Dylan about his upbringing when he first arrived in New York in the early 60s.
Jack White had previously played guitar with a number of Detroit-based garage rock bands, including the Upholsterers, Two Star Tabernacle and the Go, but his new project's musical output was equally informed by folk blues, country 60s Britpop and Broadway show tunes. The Whites' striking stage presence, dressed in minimalist red and white outfits, is allied to their thrilling grasp of the rudiments of timeless rock music. The duo released 1997's debut 7-inch single, "Let's Shake Hands", on the Italy Records imprint. After one further single ("Lafayette Blues") for the label, they relocated to the leading independent Sympathy For The Record Industry, debuting with the single "The Big Three Killed My Baby'. 1999"s self-titled long-playing debut album garnered immediate praise, mixing astute cover versions (Robert Johnson's "Stop Breaking Down Blues" and Bob Dylan's "One More Cup Of Coffee") with some devastating originals.
By the time of the following year's De Stijl, named after the Dutch abstract art movement led by Gerrit Rietveld, the media buzz surrounding the White Stripes had reached new heights. Of particular note was the duo's incredible reception in the UK, where their music was lauded by a wide range of media outlets including The Daily Telegraph, The Sun and even Radio 4's Today programme, not normally known for its liberal music policy. The influential John Peel was quoted as comparing their importance to that of Jimi Hendrix and the Sex Pistols. The dispute here is that both these acts were originators, whereas the Whites are very good interpreters. There are just too many shades of early Kinks, the Doors, Television and late 60s American garage/punk bands to warrant a major place in twenty-first century rock history.
At least the Whites went some way to justifying the media hype surrounding them with their excellent third album, White Blood Cells. The album even generated a couple of minor UK hits with the singles "Hotel Yorba" and "Fell In Love With A Girl". The follow-up Elephant was recorded at London's tiny Toe Rag Studios using vintage analogue equipment and only eight tracks. The album offered a welcome respite from the deadening digital conformity of music in the new millennium. The opening track "Seven Nation Army" became a staple of music radio and television and featured one of the year's most distinctive guitar riffs. On 9 July 2003, Jack White badly broke a finger in a car crash putting his creative efforts on hold. He made a credible acting debut later in the year in Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain, and also contributed five tracks to the T-Bone Burnett produced soundtrack
And in 2004, Jack White produced country legend Loretta Lynn's album, Van Lear Rose.
Muze UK Ltd.