At this point in his career, there’s nothing Jack White can’t do. After forming The White Stripes in 1997 with his then wife, Meg, and releasing six incredible studio albums, along with the magnificent live album Under The Great Northern Lights in 2010, the Detroit native pulled the plug on his groundbreaking band at the height of their popularity. The White Stripes became cemented in history as one of the most legendary garage rock bands of all-time. Part of what made The White Stripes so incredible was White’s reinvention and repackaging of his blues influences, Blind Willie McTell, Son House and Robert Johnson. His worldwide recognition with The White Stripes helped catapult his other bands, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, into the forefront of the rock world while upholding his blues roots. In 2012, White released his first solo album, Blunderbuss, which received universal acclaim from critics. News that White is set to release a new solo album and new material with The Dead Weather in the upcoming year has surfaced, and it’s becoming clear this man’s repertoire of songs will keep growing, so let’s take a took at his top 10 songs to date.
“Blunderbuss” is the title track on White’s debut album Blunderbuss. This incredibly soulful song cuts deep with ethereal pedal steel and Dylan-esque lyrics. “Corner exit, not tall enough to walk out standin’ straight/ Designed by men so ladies would have to lean back in their gait,” sings White, a few bars before the hook that sounds very much like, “Die, die, die die.”
9. “I Cut Like a Buffalo”
The Dead Weather is a collaboration between The Kills singer Alison Mosshart, Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs, Dead Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age and Jack White. Together they carefully crafted a unique sound that exemplifies the blackness in their rock narrative. On the track “I Cut Like a Buffalo,” off their debut album Horehound, they hit gold with this incredible gothic blues ballad. The shadowy lyrics sung by White create overwhelming dark imagery that fit perfectly with the story being told on Horehound.
8. “My Doorbell”
“My Doorbell” is a track of The White Stripes’ 2005 album Get Behind Me Satin. This song has held up over the years of one of White’s most classic works, with a simple piano/drums attack that resonates with its memorable lyrics and crashing symbols.
7. “Sister, Do You Know My Name?”
“Sister, Do You Know My Name?” is a track from The White Stripes’ second album De Stijl. This mellowed out track features White’s classic fuzz-toned slide guitar jamming out on a classic blues riff. “Sister, Do You Know My Name?” feels like a definitive Detroit blues anthem.
6. “I’m Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman”
This timeless White Blood Cells tune is captivating with its simultaneous guitar/piano attack. The lyrics in “I’m Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman” tell a remarkable story of man losing his manners. “Well I never said I wouldn’t throw my jacket in the mud for you/ but my father gave it to me so maybe I should carry you,” sings White. The imagery his muddied shoes fit perfectly with the narrative White has constructed around his blues themes.
5. “Icky Thump”
The title track off The White Stripes’ outstanding 2007 album Icky Thump finds space in between White’s abrasive guitar solos and eerie clavioline to create a haunting story of traveling to Mexico by wagon. White yells, “White Americans/ what nothing better to do?/ Why don’t you kick yourself out, you’re an immigrant too,” forming an interesting perspective of immigration.
4. “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”
“Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” is the opening track on White Blood Cells, and is without one of the greatest songs White has ever written. The guitar hook is as incredible as it gets in blues rock, and White’s lyrics stand up to the work of his heroes. “If you can hear a piano fall, you can hear me coming down the hall/ if I could just hear your pretty voice, I don’t think I need to see at all,” proclaims White, before crashing back down into the hook. Lyrics like that are what makes White one of the best living songwriters.
3. “Ball and Biscuit”
“Ball and Biscuit” is a crispy cut off the amazing album Elephant. The brilliant riff played by White helps construct “Ball and Biscuit” as one of his bluesiest works. The narrative in this song is built upon the truth of White as the “seventh son,” a fact that immortalizes the myth of White’s Detroit upbringing. “Ball and Biscuit” is without a doubt one of White’s most impressive guitar tracks, with explosive solos so powerful you might just mistake them as strikes of lightning.
2. “We’re Going to Be Friends”
“We’re Going to Be Friends” is one of The White Stripes’ most well known songs. A cut off White Blood Cells, “We’re Going to Be Friends” is a perfect example of White’s versatility as a songwriter. A simple acoustic guitar and drum line help craft this song into a perfect example of “walking blues,” with lyrics chronicling the simplicity of childhood and the first day of school.
1. “Seven Nation Army”
The influence of Elephant track “Seven Nation Army” can’t be overstated. If you’ve picked up a guitar in the last 15 years, you’ve played this riff. If you’ve ever been to a White Stripes show, or more recently one of Jack White’s solo shows, you’ve felt the audiences anticipation to hear this song. And when they finally play it, it’s more than you could’ve ever expected. This garage track turned stadium anthem will go down in history and keep influencing bands and musicians across the world, like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” before it.
– Ryan Artmann