As Jack White has just released his fourth solo album, Fear Of The Dawn and is preparing the fifth, Entering Heaven Alive, we decided to take a look back at his career, going back to the White Stripes’ debut in 1999.
“Fell In Love With A Girl” from 2001’s ‘White Blood Cells,’ was their one-minute fifty seconds long breakthrough, and it was a definite preview of things to come: simple, almost primitive, but insanely catchy rock and roll that cared nothing for trends. But few could have predicted that the White Stripes would become arena headliners, or that Jack would have a discography that includes two other bands, solo albums and collaborations with everyone from Elton John to Nas, the Insane Clown Posse to the Muppets.
In honor of Jack’s obsession with the number three, we thought we’d give you a list of his (roughly) 333 best minutes of music, including the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather, his solo stuff, artists he’s produced, and some of his collaborations.
This is as stripped down as the White Stripes got: it’s just Jack and Meg White singing over Jack’s piano playing. The song follows a blues tradition of songs telling the tale of a disaster: some fans think that the song is based on the 1972 Buffalo Creek Disaster in Logan County, West Virginia. On February 26, 1972, a coal mining dam collapsed at the head of Buffalo Creek in Logan County and 132-million gallons of black water raged destroying or damaging 17 communities and claiming the lives of 125 people, including entire families, according to the West Virginia Encyclopedia.
A song that Jack recorded for the documentary ‘It Might Get Loud,’ which featured three guitar icons: Jimmy Page, the Edge and Jack. At the beginning of the film, Jack builds a primitive guitar and plays this song.
At the peak of Jack White’s starpower, he launched Third Man Records and started a series of one-off singles by different artists - most of whom could be described as indie rock or critical darlings. So how did this collaboration with the Insane Clown Posse happen? “He called us out of the blue and asked if we'd be down to come down to Nashville, to his studio, to do some work,” ICP’s Violent J told MTV at the time. “He's one of the most respected musicians today, and we're one of the most non-respected musicians today, and I think he knew it would drop a lot of jaws and shock people.” The song is apparently an adaptation of a Mozart jam from back in the day, and you can Google the title to see what the NSFW song is about.
Who but Jack White gets to collaborate with the Muppets *and* the Insane Clown Posse? This Stevie Wonder cover, given a bit of menace and creepiness by White, was recorded for ABC’s reboot of ‘The Muppet Show.’
In his two-decades-plus career, Jack White has rarely whiffed. ‘Boarding House Reach’ was a rare example of an album that doesn’t hold up to his legacy, but “Over and Over and Over” was one of the (relatively) bright spots.
Dex Ronweber used to front a two-piece band called the Flat Duo Jets, a band that obviously influenced Jack. As he told Rolling Stone, “I was in high school when I first heard the Flat Duo Jets. They were a guitar/drums band… within months, they became my favorite band. Some kind of rawness hit me, and I saw there was no need for anything else.” Jack was likely excited to record a single with Ronweber’s duo for Third Man Records.
An intense instrumental jam… which is why the US Soccer Team used the song at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Hey, you can’t use “Seven Nation Army” all the time!
Jack’s first solo single saw him sharing the mic with a great singer named Ruby Amanfu. He’d released other one-off solo songs over the years, but this song introduced Jack as a solo artist, with a different look (using all shades of blue) and sound (acoustic and keyboard-heavy) than we’d heard from him before. Jack has always been comfortable sharing the spotlight with women, as he did with Meg in the White Stripes, Alison Mosshart in the Dead Weather, or backing up legends like Wanda Jackson or Loretta Lynn. However, understanding romance eludes him: as he sings with Amanfu, “I want love to roll me over slowly/Stick a knife inside me and twist it all around.”
Jack White and his bands are always game to throw a curveball: the Dead Weather is a dark, bluesy, punky band in the vein of the Stooges. So why not cover one of the signature tunes (but not *the* signature tune) of synth-rock pioneer Gary Numan? Yet it sounds great. Singer Alison Mosshart, by the way, is one of the most underrated singers in rock and roll.
You could hear that Jack, and everyone involved, had a blast on Wanda Jackson’s ‘The Party Ain’t Over’ album. Ms. Jackson’s first single came out in 1954 – she was a peer of Elvis Presley. Here, she covers a semi-recent Dylan song – “Thunder On The Mountain” was from 2006’s Modern Times. This jam made the song, and Wanda, feel new and fun.
It’s basically a Jack solo song. In the video, Jack is singing and playing his acoustic guitar on a couch while Meg lays down and listens. And it’s so laid back that, a few years later, Jack Johnson covered it. Third Man Books, an arm of White’s Third Man Records, even adapted the song into a charming children’s book.
A fun little jam that sees Jack recalling the sound of the White Stripes’ ‘Get Behind Me Satan’ and its use of marimba.
A funky jam about a dysfunctional relationship, where Jack yelps, “There ain't no difference between yours and mine/I think about this almost every time/So listen very closely 'cause I'm only gonna say it twice.”
Whether it’s a solo record, one of his bands, or one of the projects that he produces, Jack is usually the guy in charge of his recording sessions. That wasn’t the case here: superstar producer Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton, who has produced U2, Gorillaz, the Black Keys, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, A$AP Rocky and Norah Jones, among others) and Daniele Luppi (a film and television composer) teamed up for a project called ‘Rome’ and used White as one of the collaborators. “Two Against One,” one of three songs that White contributed to, sounded nothing like anything White had done before.
The White Stripes often had fairly simple straight-ahead lyrics, and that often made the songs more powerful. That’s definitely the case here.
Jack has been known to get into conflicts with his peers, and this might be an example. Many have interpreted this song to be a swipe at singer/songwriter Ryan Adams, particularly at the end when he says, “Easy target/easy tiger!” (Adams released an album called ‘Easy Tiger’ in 2007).
A jam with a ‘70s funk vibe that sounds like it’s based on the drumbeat from Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Miss Lover.” And it’s about… starting a corporation. “Yeah, I'm thinking about starting a corporation/Who's with me?” he announces in the song, adding, “Nowadays, that's how you get adulation!”
A sad lament about the state of the world, and how politicians offer empty “thoughts and prayers” during times of crisis. White told The Independent, “That phrase has become meaningless. It's a thoughtless phrase. Basically an insult.”
Jack White and A Tribe Called Quest leader Q-Tip have a mutual admiration thing going on; Tip joined White onstage at Madison Square Garden in 2015 to perform a medley of White’s “That Black Bat Licorice” and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Excursions.” Jack later contributed to Tribe’s final album, 2016’s ‘We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service.’ Rock/hip-hop collaborations often end up like chocolate and cheese - two great tastes that don’t work together. Not the case here.
The Dead Weather is notably different from White’s other projects; in this band, White is mainly the drummer, only occasionally taking the mic. But this song sees White and singer Alison Mosshart sharing vocals on a frantic jam about a guy named Jackie Lee, who vows revenge after someone steals his $3 hat.
He’s not too clear about what the culprit did. But this song, which features Ruby Amanfu on backing vocals, sounds like a song that plays in a saloon before the crap goes down. You can almost picture someone getting thrown through a window.
This was not written by Jack; it was penned by the Dead Weather’s Alison Mosshart and guitarist/keyboardist Dean Fertita (also a member of Queens of the Stone Age). But in this band, more than his others, Jack is happy to cede the spotlight (although it’s a blast to watch him play the drums).
A sad country ballad that sees Jack shaking his fist and yelling “get off my lawn”... but he’s got a point. “There are children today who are lied to/Told the world is rightfully theirs,” he croons. “They can have what they want, whenever they want/They take like Caesar and nobody cares/Live like Caesar and nobody cares/I can't bring myself to take without penance/Or atonement or sweat from my brow/Though the world may be spoiled and gettin' worse every day/Don't they feel like they cheated somehow?”
Jack rants, again, This time, he’s mad about the modern age. But this time, it’s rocking! “Had enough of these modern times!” he shouts. “About to drive me out of my mind/And you know this too well/I'm holed up in my little cell!”
A synth-driven breakup ballad, sung mostly by Brendan Benson, but Jack joins him on the chorus: “I thought about leaving you, once or twice/Leaving it all behind, and never think twice/Somewhere far away on a beach sounds nice.”
A country ballad that’s could be a hit if a big-name Nashville artist cut it, but Jack’s version, featuring guest vocals by his fiddle player Lillie Mae Rische, is lovely in its own right.
It’s not a “break-up” ballad. But it *is* a “breaking up” ballad. The sad relationship in this song feels like its circling the drain: “You don't understand me/But if the feeling was right/You might comprehend me/And why do you feel the need to tease me/Why don't you turn it around/It might be easier to please me… And there's always another point of view/A better way to do the things we do/And how can you know me/and I know you/if nothing is true.”
Apparently, this was one of Meg White’s least favorite White Stripes jams. Probably due to Jack questioning if the “girl” is really not feeling well: “Well strip the bark right off a tree and just hand it this way/Don't even need a drink of water to make that headache go away/Give me a sugar pill and watch me just rattle down the street!”
In which Jack appears to try to give a dude who was dumped some advice: “A lot of people get confused and they bruise real easy when it comes to love/They start putting on their shoes and walking out and singing ‘boy, I think I had enough’/Just because she makes you feel wrong/She don't mean to be mean or hurt you on purpose, boy/Take a tip and do yourself a little service/Take a mountain turn it into a mole.”
In another era, Jack White could have been a great country artist (but also, he could have been a peer of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple). This country-ish song is a reminder that if you’re in a relationship with Jack, and things go sour, it’s probably going to make it into a song: “I ain't the reason that you gave me/No reason to return your call/You built a house of cards/And got shocked when you saw them fall/Well I ain't saying I'm innocent/In fact the reverse/But if you're headed to the grave/You don't blame the hearse!” And if you get lost in his wordplay, he offers a reminder towards the end of the song: “Well, you seem to forget just how this song started/I'm reactin' to you/Because you left me brokenhearted!”
A lot of Jack’s breakup songs are angry: this one is riddled with sorrow. As the narrator’s relationship is disintegrating, he’s trying to make it work. But he’s not sure his love interest is as committed to the relationship.
Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David (the guys behind pop classics like “Do You Know The Way To San Jose?” and “I Say A Little Prayer”), and first popularized by Dusty Springfield in 1964, Jack and Meg bring a lot of angst and muscle to their update.
‘The American Epic Sessions’ were recorded during a BBC/PBS documentary that showed an engineer restoring the first electrical sound recording system ever… from 1925. Jack and superstar producer T Bone Burnett gathered a bunch of artists to record songs on the system. One of those recordings was by legendary hip–hop artist, Nas, revisiting his 2001 classic “One Mic.” Nas was backed by White on piano, Carla Azar on drums and Dominic Davis on upright bass, and it’s what hip-hop might have sounded like in the roaring ‘20s.
A bagpipe-driven song celebrating Jack and Meg’s Scottish heritage. The bagpipe player, Jim Drury, of the Tennessee Scots Pipe Band, told GQ: "You don't do well in Nashville unless you're a good guy. You have to have social graces. I'd never met Jack [White] before so I didn't know what to expect [from the session]. But I'd heard stories, y'know? I was impressed by how musical he was and how agreeable he was to changing things on the fly.” That might shed some light on why he’s able to collaborate with everyone from Insane Clown Posse to Wanda Jackson.
A somewhat more positive song about a relationship, despite the melancholy music. But it’s a realistic look at long relationships: “You want everything to be just like the stories that you read, but you can't write /You've gotta learn to live and live and learn.” But the couple are in it for the long haul: “We wrote our names down on the sidewalk /But the rain came and washed them off /So we should write them again on wet cement /So people a long time from now will know what we meant.”
Jack White has always been a huge Dylan fan, telling Rolling Stone “I have three dads: my biological father, God and Bob Dylan.” And sure, a lot of artists cover Dylan, but the man doesn’t often reciprocate. However, in 2004, he invited Jack to join him on stage for the White Stripes’ classic “Ball and Biscuit.”
Another cover of a Dylan deep track: “New Pony” is from 1978’s ‘Street Legal.’ Alison Mosshart makes the tale of a pony named Lucifer more fearsome than Dylan (or Jack White) ever could, especially when she warns, “Oh, baby, that God you been prayin' to/Gonna give ya back what you're wishin' on someone else!”
A B-side produced by Beck, who contributes backing vocals. Jack complains about the trials and tribulations of being famous: first, a lady who “stuck a cellphone camera right into my face.” Jack’s reaction? “With a flick of my wrist, I filled her nose with mace!” Then a paparazzi approaches him at LAX. Jack, of course, smacks him with his laptop. Then, he decides to change his ways, when a lady asks for a photo for her grandson. Jack agrees and this is what he gets for being a nice guy: “And as the digital camera lit up the place /She unloaded a chrome .45 in my face!”
Another jam from the ‘American Epic Sessions.’ It’s just Elton on piano and Jack on guitar, both guys singing together and having a blast. According to Pitchfork, Elton improvised a new song from lyrics that Bernie Taupin handed him.
The original White Stripes version is from the sessions that Beck produced for the ‘Conquest’ EP, but here, Jack teams up with country singer Margo Price (who was once signed to Third Man Records) for a rocking version at Nashville’s “Mother Church,” the Ryman.
Jack White has the uncanny ability to find old things, dust them off, and make them seem new(ish). That’s what he does here with this 1960 song by Little Willie John.
Another devastating break-up song. "And if I knew what to do, then I'd do it" is sucah a sad line.
The film ‘Cold Mountain’ was a big moment for Jack White: it marked his acting debut; he played a supporting character named Georgia (he’d later play Elvis Presley in 2007’s ‘Walk Hard’). It also marked some of his first solo recordings, this best of which was the 1930s blues number “Sittin’ On Top Of The World,” a song that Howlin’ Wolf, the Grateful Dead and Cream also covered.
The argument of Dolly Parton’s rock influence can end right here. Of course, the White Stripes’ version of her classic trades her plaintiveness for rage and fury.
A song that pre-dates a relationship. The object of the narrator’s affection is with partners who don’t appreciate her, so he offers to listen to her stories. He concludes, “I'll fall in love with you /I think I'll marry you.” We don’t know how she feels about this, though.
The first song from Jack’s solo debut. It’s clear that his recent split with ex-wife Karen Elson is on his mind; weirdly, the couple had a “divorce party” to mark the occasion. But Jack still seems stunned that it’s over: “They tell you that they just can't live without you/They ain't lyin', they'll take pieces of you.”
While we love Meg’s drums, this song is like what would happen if Jack formed a mariachi band instead of a blues-rock duo. Unsurprisingly, it’s great.
The first song on the first White Stripes album. Right off the bat, they’re pulling tricks from the blues… and somehow making it sound fresh, exciting, new and dangerous.
When the Rolling Stones played two nights at New York’s Beacon Theatre in 2006, Jack White had been a major force for less than a decade, but clearly the band had respect for him. Not only did he join them on stage, but when the ‘Shine A Light’ album and film came out two years later, he joined Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. “Loving Cup” is an album track from the Stones’ classic, ‘Exile On Main Street,’ released in 1972… three years before Jack was born. Yet he went toe to toe with Jagger as if it had always been a duet.
As Jack White explained in 2007 to Mojo Magazine: "Well, there's this character that everyone has in their head when they're having breakfast alone, this person you might represent to someone across the room looking at you. When someone comes into your life you have to decide, which 'you' are you gonna give them? A lot of times in a bad relationship you give them the fake version and that's why it doesn't end up working out." The guitar and the organ are both so distorted, at times it’s hard to determine what you’re hearing.
This piano ballad - basically a Jack solo song – was the source of a bit of speculation from White Stripes fans. In the band’s early years, Jack and Meg pretended to be siblings. In fact, they were a divorced couple. So when Jack sang, “And I love my sister/Lord knows how I've missed her/She loves me/And she knows I won't forget/And sometimes I get jealous/Of all her little pets/And I get lonely, but I ain't that lonely yet,” people were definitely wondering if he was singing about Meg.
A rollicking acoustic jam about a legendary Detroit hotel where the Beatles were rumored to have stayed (it turns out, the rumor was untrue). There’s also a rumor that the White Stripes are banned from the building, but that might just be Jack’s penchant for creating his own mythos.
Even after writing about love for two decades plus, Jack is still wrestling with understanding it: “Love is such a selfish thing/Always crying, ‘Me, me, me’/And it’s always trying to mess up all my plans/And I work real hard to make you understand/And I try my best to help you understand.”
Another Dead Weather song that was co-written by singer Alison Mosshart and guitarist Dean Fertita; Mosshart is the only band member who appears in the video, in which she seems to be taking on a hurricane. It’s appropriate: if you’re lucky enough to have seen the Dead Weather (or her other band, the Kills), you know that the woman is a force of nature.
A blues standard by the legendary Robert Johnson. The man has been covered by countless blues acts, and again: it’s amazing that the White Stripes managed to make him sound new and fresh in 1999.
Jack sounds as heavy here as he does with the Dead Weather, but it adds a bit of theremin, giving the song a bit more of a chaotic sound.
"That's basically a hip-hop song," White told Jam! Music at the time, so it makes sense that Q- Tip from A Tribe Called Quest joined him on stage to perform the song in New York in 2015. "I wasn't going for it but I just found myself in the middle of it. I think I've done that a lot in my career and people haven't noticed. 'Icky Thump' is a hip-hop track. 'Freedom at 21' was a hip-hop track but I don't think anyone really categorizes that."
Another example of the Stripes dragging a blues standard, kicking and screaming, into a new era. This 1930s song by Son House has also been covered by the Grateful Dead, Gov’t Mule and John Mellencamp. The lyrics tell a story about a man reading a letter informing him that the woman that he loves has died, and Jack White brought more anguish to it than anyone since Son House himself.
Jack told Rolling Stone: "That [song] started on an acoustic guitar - it became an idea to use as many different styles of the blues as I could in one song. It goes from the really screeching, distorted, heavy blues sound, to an almost wimpy Wurlitzer kind of loungey blues sound, to white-boy takes on the blues, to real earthy, country blues."
The opening track from the Dead Weather’s debut gave a taste of the danger that the band embodies. The narrator is headed for a relationship that probably won’t work out: the person is cruel, shameless, cold, dangerous, and even evil. But as Alison Mosshart bellows: “I can take the trouble/'Cause I'm 60 feet tall!!!”
A blunderbuss is a muzzle-loading handgun, which was popular in the 18th century "I always loved that word," White told NME. "That song was also something that I woke myself up in the middle of the night to write it down because those characters were in a dream and that melody was too. It was a new rule I made for myself, if anything comes up in a dream, get up and write it down."
A funky jam (it even uses a clavinet) that is – maybe – about the power of friendships, community, or even of being in a band? (“If you call me I'll come running/And you can call me anytime/And these sixteen strings we're strumming/They will back up every line.”)
One of the few DW jams that features vocals from both Alison Mosshart and Jack White, although White didn’t co-write it (the other members of the band did: Mosshart, Dean Fertita and bassist Jack Lawrence). It’s not a duet; rather, it’s a fearsome, bluesy, punky shouting match.
Unlike many of their indie-rock peers, the Raconteurs never had a problem with embracing classic rock sounds. “Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)” sounds, at first, like an homage to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone.” But Brendan Benson is singing about depression in a way that ‘70s rockers rarely did: “And I've been riding this thing out/Since I was 8 yrs old/And if you could just see inside of me/You'd see a heart made of gold.” And, unfortunately, when he sings “Somedays, I just feel like crying/Somedays, I don't feel like trying,” a lot of people likely relate. But the song ends with him repeating the mantra, “I'm here right now/I'm not dead yet!” It’s not quite optimistic, but it does contain a bit of hope that things can get better.
The theme to the 22nd James Bond film was the franchise’s first duet. It was rumored that Amy Winehouse was supposed to do the theme, but was unable to. Enter Jack White, who wrote and recorded the song (he played guitar, piano and drums) with Jack Lawrence of the Raconteurs (and soon of the Dead Weather) on bass. Keys added her vocals later. The critics didn’t love the song, and it was definitely a bit more aggressive than most Bond themes… which, in a way, fit in with the Daniel Craig era of 007, which was way more aggressive than the past iterations of the character.
One of the few Dead Weather tracks to feature White’s lead vocals, with Alison Mosshart singing backup. The best version is the one recorded live at Third Man Records, which you can find on the band’s YouTube page. But the studio take is excellent as well.
In the late ‘00s, a notebook of unused lyrics by Hank Williams surfaced, and was presented to Bob Dylan, who turned one of them into a new song “The Love That Faded.” He shared different lyrics with a number of different artists, who added their own music and created new songs out of the “lost” lyrics. Again, Jack sounds absolutely credible – and awesome – as a country crooner.
The White Stripes’ breakthrough single clocked in at a little under two minutes, but it was a massive smash, and if you were listening to the radio in 2001/2002, you heard it all…the…time. Like Nirvana’s breakthrough, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Fell In Love With A Girl” owed more than a little to the Pixies, but clearly the White Stripes was more than a knock-off.
Anyone who saw Ms. Loretta Lynn open for the White Stripes at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom in 2003 (including this writer) knew that the collaboration was something special. White produced her next album, and also put together a band that included himself, as well as bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler of Detroit garage rockers, the Greenhornes… both of whom would later join Jack in the Raconteurs. (Raconteurs guitarist/singer Brendan Benson worked on the album as an engineer). On this duet, White seemed to imagine what would have happened if Loretta Lynn replaced Robert Plant on Led Zeppelin ‘III,” and it actually works.
A true collaboration between Jack and Beyonce, they co-wrote and co-produced the track, which samples Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks.” Jack discussed the song in an interview at the time: “I just talked to her and she said, ‘I wanna be in a band with you.’ I said, ‘Really? Well, I'd love to do something.’ I've always loved her voice — I mean, I think she has the kind of soul singing voice of the days of Betty Davis or Aretha Franklin. She took just sort of a sketch of a lyrical outline and turned into the most bodacious, vicious, incredible song. I don't even know what you'd classify it as — soul, rock and roll, whatever. ‘Don't Hurt Yourself’ is incredibly intense; I'm so amazed at what she did with it.” The NSFW song - commonly seen as Beyonce putting her husband Jay-Z on blast for allegedly cheating on her - is clearly something White is proud of, as he performed an excerpt of it on his legendary ‘Saturday Night Live’ performance in 2021.
White announced the release of two new albums with this song, which showed that, even after two decades, he hasn’t lost any of his intensity.
Alison Mosshart sings like a demon here, but the unsung hero on this track is Dean Fertita, going back and forth from keyboards to guitar.
A song that took inspiration from Blind Willie McTell’s “Three Women Blues.” As White told the U.K. magazine Uncut, “I thought it was an interesting song… I had covered Blind Willie McTell songs in the past and I came up with that first line - 'I've got three women, red, blonde and brunette' - just as a starting point for myself. I thought, 'I'm gonna do a completely modern version of this song.' It doesn't really have much to do with Blind Willie McTell's song at all beyond the first line." He also noted that it wasn’t about himself: he told Rolling Stone that the song references a digital photograph, which is not at all something Jack White is into: “If you know anything about me, do you think I like digital photography? No. I don't. So obviously this song is not about f---ing Jack White." And, as he pointed out, not all blues songs are about the people singing them: “That's one thing people really get wrong about all the old blues musicians - that every song they were singing was from the heart and about their own specific problems. I highly doubt that Blind Willie McTell had three girlfriends at the same time - it's hard to pull off for anyone, especially someone who's blind."
This single introduced White’s darkest, heaviest project yet. And it introduced White in a different light: now a record label owner (he also launched Third Man Records at around the same time), he didn’t always need to be center stage: he was the drummer, not the singer and he didn’t even write the song, which was penned by Alison Mosshart and Dean Fertita. But it was a powerful and exciting new direction for him.
One of Jack’s wildest videos, it features lots of kids doing lots of stuff that they shouldn’t do… including kidnapping the singer, tying him up and putting him in car that is doused in gasoline. The video doesn’t seem to have too much to do with the song, which White claims was inspired by his daughter asking him for a snack, as he told NME: “I said, 'What do you want to have?' She said, 'I think I'll have 16 saltine crackers.' And I said, 'You'll have three!'”
As previously mentioned, the ‘Rome’ songs sound notably different from the rest of White’s catalog, and White notes that working with Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi was definitely a different experience for him. For one thing, he’d never written lyrics for someone else’s music before. He told The Sun, "At first I didn't know what to do: sit down and play the piano like I'd usually do or work in a new way. In the end, I drove around in the car listening to it and singing whatever came to mind into a handheld recorder. I didn't know what character Brian [Burton, aka Danger Mouse] was thinking of and he hadn't given any topics to write about. I had to become an antenna at that point but I just did what the music told me."
Of all the eras of U2 for Jack White to cover, you wouldn’t expect him to go for their very future-forward ‘Achtung Baby.’ But White joined a cast of artists including Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode and the Killers to pay tribute to U2’s 1991 classic. On U2’s version, Bono sounds like he’s accepted the end of a relationship, White sounds furious and he’s kicking and screaming on the way out the door.
Co-written by the entire group, Alison and Jack share the vocals here. Their back and forth is used to great effect in the video, which features the two of them walking across a field towards each other, blasting away with automatic weapons.
A gothic ballad about a kid named Billy, his brother and their mother, who witnesses her loser boyfriend attacking a priest with a hammer. The twist comes when we learn more about the priest, and why he’s there.
A hip-hop inspired track about the quarantine stations built for maritime travelers between the 15th and 19th centuries. And it has a sweet fiddle solo! At the time, White told The Observer he was so busy that the idea of such a place became almost exotic: "I fantasize about living in one-room apartments and being in a work camp somewhere, where there's absolutely nothing around me but a cot and a teapot and a sink," he said. He might not feel that way, post-pandemic. But at any rate, it’s a great jam.
Maybe more than any other Raconteurs jam, this song shows the dichotomy of Jack White and Brendan Benson and their weird Stooges-meets-Badfinger mix. It feels like they’re conversing both through their vocals and their guitars.
An update on the swaggering blues-rock of the ‘70s. Here, Jack seems to be dumping someone he’s having an affair with: “How're you gonna rock yourself to sleep/When I give up my midnight creep girl/How're gonna get that deep/When your daddy ain't around here to do it to you?” If Robert Plant has ever heard this song, he’s probably wondering “Why didn’t *I* write that?”
In which the Raconteurs “unplug” and team up with country artists Ashley Monroe and Ricky Skaggs to reimagine their country-tinged ‘Consolers of the Lonely’ track as a full-on bluegrass jam.
Written by Jack, who sings lead. It’s another song where you can hear his hip-hop influence, albeit in a strange way: he seems to be mimicking a turntable scratching with his vocal noises.
Yet another song where Jack’s hip-hop influence comes out, and this extends to the video, which was directed by Hype Williams, whose resume includes videos for the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur.
A rollicking piano-driven jam, but Meg’s drums here are the secret weapon (as they so often were). It sounds like a huge dance hit… from the 1940s. The music video played to that vibe: it was shot in black-and-white, and shows Jack and Meg White performing in front of a crowd of children who look a lot like the characters in ‘The Little Rascals’... and it actually premiered on Nickelodeon.
On the White Stripes FAQ, Jack White said, "There's a button at the top of my navy peacoat, and it's the hardest button to button. I thought that was a great metaphor... It also comes from sayings of my father, like 'My uncle Harold had a 10 button vest but he could only fasten 8.'" Welp, Jack is often cagey about the meanings behind the songs. Anyway, the Michael Gondry-directed video is iconic and was parodied in ‘The Simpsons’ episode “Jazzy and the Pussycats.”
Sometimes Jack White and Brendan Benson’s voices seem to blend into each other: not here. On the opening track from their second album. Brendan’s singing starts off the song, before Jack comes in with Ad-Rock-like yelping. Indeed, “Consoler of the Lonely” sounds like two songs by two singers smashed together, and yet it works.
“Fell In Love With A Girl” was the White Stripes’ first mainstream hit, but the follow-up single, “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” really introduced the duo to the world. The former was a fast song that didn’t sound out of place on the still-powerful alternative rock format; the latter felt like a hidden gem from the vault of Zeppelin or Hendrix and way more of a blues rock influence than any recent artists, aside from blues purists like Kenny Wayne Shepherd or Gov’t Mule. And - importantly - it was the first time most fans actually saw Jack and Meg, since the iconic “Fell In Love With A Girl” video featured Lego blocks and stop motion animation. And we were introduced to them in the midst of their breakup, as shown in the Michael Gondry-directed video. And while they claimed to be siblings, the video suggested otherwise.
Jack White told the U.K. magazine Mojo that he wrote the song while touring with the Raconteurs, who were opening for Bob Dylan: “I don't usually write on tour, but I left the show to go write that song. Well, the next day I was talking to [Dylan] and I said, 'I wrote this song last night called 'You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You're Told)' and he goes (mimes Dylan's sharp intake of breath as if to say 'That's a bit strong')'. Then he says, 'But what key is it in, man?'" While it’s one of White’s many iconic songs of the ‘00s, it would fit right in on a ‘70s playlist with Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Aerosmith, KISS and AC/DC.
A Rolling Stone reader’s poll named this Jack White’s greatest song, and it’s one of our favorites. It’s another great blues update, where Jack claims the “seventh son” title that’s been used in blues songs over the decades: “It's quite possible that I'm your third man, girl/But it's a fact that I'm the seventh son.” The “seventh son” of a family allegedly has supernatural powers according to folk legends (especially if his father was also a seventh son). Jack White was actually the seventh son in a family of nine children. The “third man” reference might be literal - he’s saying that he’s the woman’s “third man” (flipping the sexual stereotype; it’s more often the man who has multiple partners). But it also ended up being the name of White’s record label, which he would launch a few years later.
By 2006, White was fronting one of the biggest rock bands in the world, the White Stripes, and he had brought country legend Loretta Lynn back to the mainstream with her ‘Van Lear Rose’ album. But when the Raconteurs dropped their debut single, it showed that the guy was always going to be trying new things (and he’s continued doing that for over a decade since then). Entertainment Weekly noted that it was “less weird” than the White Stripes, and that seemed to be part of the plan: the Raconteurs have never tried to obscure their love of classic rock and power pop. The song was about growing up - White told U.K. magazine Uncut, "It’s asking a question, which is, 'Is getting married and settling down starting a new life, or is it giving up?... I think the big notion in my head was, we’re all getting older now and enough of goofing around. All our friends are musicians, so it was like, 'How much of this world can we stay a part of and how much do we reject?'” It seemed he was growing out of the wild musician lifestyle, but also out of the indie-rock notion of wanting to reject classic rock.
The lead single from ‘Elephant’ led fans to believe that the band had abandoned their “no bass guitar” policy, as the song opens with what sounds like a bass riff. In fact, Jack was playing his guitar through an effects pedal, which made it sound like bass. But back to the riff: it holds up with the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” as one of the most distinctive in rock and roll history. He’d had the riff for a while, and planned to use it if he was ever invited to do a James Bond theme. But feeling that the invite would never come, he used it for this song (and of course, just a few years later, he did a Bond theme, “Another Way To Die”). Although White allegedly doesn’t use setlists for his solo shows, he told Rolling Stone that this song often closes his set: “It feels kind of like you just have to play it at the end of the show,” he says of his biggest anthem. “I’ve done it all over the set, and it just has that sort of closing thing to it, especially when there’s an outdoor, festival vibe.”