Jack White, the “raconteur” of rock music


Jack White by Zoa Studio

I love Jack White. And with this proclamation we begin today’s article! On the occasion of the birthday of this American multi-instrumentalist, actor, collector (and a thousand other things), you will understand the reasons that led me to this statement! In addition to his biography, we will discover some curiosities, the first of which is linked to his name.

The early years of Jack White

Jack White was born on 9 July 1975 in Detroit into a large family: he is in fact the youngest of 10 siblings. His real name is not Jack White but John Anthony Gillis. The name will change when he meets Meg White. Stay tuned and then we will tell you the story!

Polish on his mother’s side and Scottish-Canadian on his father’s side, John is raised as a fervent Catholic. His father and mother both worked for the archdiocese of Detroit, respectively as building maintenance superintendent and secretary in the cardinal’s office.

John Gillis became an altar boy. In adolescence, however, John hesitates between being a musician or a priest. Unable to combine his passion with a religious career, he chooses music. And if I can afford the joke, thank God!

Jack White’s earliest musical influences were his older brothers, who were in a band together called The Catalyst. He learned to play the instruments they had abandoned; he started playing drums in first grade after finding one in the attic. As a child he was a fan of classical music, but in elementary school he started listening  The DoorsPink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. In addition to these he also became passionate about blues and rock of the 60s that would have influenced him in the White Stripes.

At 15 he began a three-year apprenticeship as an upholsterer, along with a family friend, Brian Muldoon. John credits Muldoon with exposure to punk music while they worked together in the shop.

The entrance into the world of music

John Gillis formed his first group, Two Star Tabernacle, with his friend Dan John Miller in the late 1990s before taking off to join various bands in Detroit, including The GO.

This musical adventure ends when he is excluded from the group. He is not the first artist we know that he is excluded from the group, do we want to talk about Ozzy Osborne or Lemmy Kilmister?

However, John decides to found a new group, The White Stripes, with his wife Meg White. John takes his wife’s surname, one of the reasons I love this man. For a long time it was rumored that the two were brothers but, in reality, they were married, from 1996 to 2000.

In March 2000, Meg and Jack divorced. Being quite unknown to the whole world right now, they decided by mutual agreement to communicate to reporters that they were brother and sister in order to preserve people’s attention to their music and not their private life.

It is this choice that, for years, and sometimes even today, has confused the character of the relationship between Meg and Jack. Theories were popping up everywhere among reporters.

Thanks to this group Jack is successful in the United States but also internationally. In 2003, the band released the single Seven Nation Army, whose guitar intro led Jack White to be named one of the best 100 guitarists in the world by Rolling Stones magazine. Jack White with the White Stripes held hundreds of concerts, various albums (list below) and the notoriety of a leading group of the rock scene in recent years.

  • 1999 – The White Stripes
  • 2000 – De Stijl
  • 2001 – White Blood Cells
  • 2003 – Elephant
  • 2004 – The Legendary Lost Tapes
  • 2005 – Get Behind Me Satan
  • 2007 – Icky Thump

After The White Stripes

When the band broke up in 2011, Jack White explains on the duo’s official website: “The reason is not due to artistic differences or the lack of desire to continue, nor to health problems as both Meg and Jack are in good shape. It’s for a myriad of reasons, but mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special in the band and make it stay that way.

Subsequently, Jack White will have several projects including two new groups. First The Raconteurs with a good friend Brendan Benson and also Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler, then with The Dead Weather formed by Jack White and Alison Mosshart, Dean Fertita and again Jack Lawrence.

The first group is the basis of three splendid albums Broken Boy Soldiers (2006), Consolers of the Lonely (2008) and Help Us Stranger (2019). Also with the second “supergroup” three albums are released. Here too the sound is very direct.

The notable difference between The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, beyond the musical subtleties of course, is the composition of the latter group. In fact, Jack takes a few steps back from his usual position as a guitarist to get on drums and backing vocals while Alison Mosshart is on lead vocals and Dean is on guitar.

Jack White goes solo

Jack White’s solo career began in 1999, when he had the opportunity to collaborate with numerous artists: The Walker-White Trio, The Soledads Brothers, The Hentchmen, The Detroit Cobras, The Von Bondies, Whirlwind Heat, Thee Jenerators’, The Fells, Blanche, Mark Ronson, Loretta Lynn, Beck, Brendan Benson. 

Later he released 3 solo albums. But that is not all.

In 2001 he founded the Third Man Records label in Detroit. The name comes from the film The third man, with Orson Welles. Later the headquarters moved to Nashville, the home of country music. The headquarters building is also a shop and a recording studio with a 150-seat room.

In 2003 Jack got a part in the film Cold Mountain, and also participated in its soundtrack. The artist is asked to record five songs, three of which will also sing during the film. White says he is very happy to have had the opportunity to let the audience try out some folk music. It seems that a relationship with actress Renée Zellweger was born from this film, which lasted for some time.

A few years later, to confirm Jack’s passion for cinema, in 2008 he duets with Alicia Keys in the song Another Way to Die, the soundtrack of the James Bond film Quantum of Solace.

In the summer of 2009 he participated in the music documentary It Might Get Loud, which focused on the techniques of using the electric guitar. Together with him, there are Led Zepelin’s Jimmy Page and U2’s  The Edge. During the same documentary White records his first single in just ten minutes, while it is filmed by the camera. The name of the song is Fly Farm Blues, available on iTunes in digital version since August 2011 and available for purchase on vinyl from Third Man Records.

Why do we love Jack White?

Because Jack White is a convinced multi-instrumentalist of modern rock. His torn, dirty and impulsive playing is good for the spirit.

In an era where instrumentation intersects with technology, Jack White manages to be contemporary by re-proposing “historical” sounds. The list of his “vintage” guitars is varied. We leave you a link where you can admire and drool on the collection of Jack’s guitars: https://www.groundguitar.com/jack-white-guitars-and-gear

We also love him because he doesn’t leave you indifferent. It is almost inhuman to be able to successfully do everything, but then he is very human.

A proof of his “humanity” is the obsession with the number 3, an obsession that came due to the work in upholstery. The colors of the White Stripes are three: white, red and black. One of their best-known songs is called The Big 3 Killed my Baby, consisting of a text with three lines for three stanzas, in which the word three is repeated several times. 

Traditional blues songs also consist of three phrases per line, a rule also present in several White Stripes’ songs. In addition, Jack is used to autograph ‘Jack White III.

We also love him for his philanthropic activity. White has provided financial support to institutions in his hometown, from baseball fields to theaters.

In addition, the National Recording Preservation Foundation received a $ 200,000 gift from White to restore and preserve deteriorated sound recordings. On May 3, 2019, Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan awarded White an honorary degree in literature “for his dedication to Detroit and significant contributions to the arts as one of the most prolific and renowned artists of the last two decades “.

Art is loved and supported. Jack loves art and supports it. So we love Jack White … it’s that simple.



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