History of Rock and Roll
17th November, 2014
Jack White and the Blues
Many artists have undertaken the immense task of performing and recording the Blues. However, performing the blues is an entirely separate concept from feeling the Blues, thus where many artists have attempted, only few have arisen victorious. Jack White is one of these artists; a man who arose from humble beginnings and has retained his traditional Blues sensibility regardless of the inarguable success that he has experienced since the conception of his music career in the early 2000’s. From The White Stripes to The Dead Weather and onto his solo career, the evidence is plain; Jack White knows the Blues.
John Anthony Gillis (AKA Jack White) was born on July 9th, 1975, to a maintenance man and a secretary, both of whom worked for the local Archdiocese in Detroit (Biography.com). Thus, when Mr. White became of age he worked as an altar boy for his church, and even considered becoming a priest for a time. However, while Mr. White’s enthusiasm for church was great, he also displayed great interest in learning to play music, and began to play the drums as a first grader. Citing himself as a fan of the Blues, early R&B as well as Rock and Roll, it also became Mr.
White’s inclination to learn how to play both the guitar and the piano. Still, Mr.
White did not truly invest in music as a career path until a long while later, while apprenticing as an upholsterer. Teaming up with a coworker, he recorded a demo tape and began to play local gigs under the moniker The Upholsterers
(Biography.com), but as a drummer.
Mr. White’s musical beginnings are indicative of many in the Rock and Roll tradition. The archetype often appears as follows: A young man is born into a religious family and is introduced to his instruments through church, but does not fancy himself a musician until the timing is apropos. In Mr. White’s case, he did not begin to make his own music a priority until he married a certain Meg White, and adopted her name as opposed to the longstanding Christian traditions of old. Hence,
John Anthony Gillis became John Anthony White at the age of 21, and so Jack White was born.
However, their marriage was tumultuous and harrowing, and while Jack and
Meg White elected to form a husband and wife band, known as The White Stripes, their marriage ended in 2000 after only four years (although the band survived for many more). One can safely assume that the perils and trials of romance (or lack thereof) often serve as the foundation for much of what can be considered Blues music, and Jack White’s early music was no exception. On The White Stripes self titled debut, the agenda was clear: Jack White was angry. The lead guitar was edgy and imprecise, the drums were raw and often imperfect, and Jack’s voice was untrained; essentially, The White Stripes were little more than a two-piece garage act, and were virtually unknown outside the Detroit underground scene except for a
select few critics. And while one would think that as the band continued to release and record more music that perhaps their arrangements and techniques would become more sophisticated, the converse is actually true; Jack White knew that the heart of the Blues does not lie in complexity or production value, rather it lies in the ethos of the music; The White Stripes wanted to make their fans feel something.
They weren’t attempting to elevate or reimagine so much as they sought to bring
Rock and Roll back to the tumultuous and turbulent roots from where it was born:
Jeff Harrison, a producer based out of Denver, believes that the strength of the Blues lies largely within the circumstances and context of its conception; “These weren’t musical auteurs that received much, if any, classical training. These guys were raw and they didn’t necessarily care about being heard by a large audience or even being heard at all in some cases. These guys were hurting. They were in pain and the…