Known primarily for helming the White Stripes in the first decade of the early 21st century, White was also a band member with the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather. He also produced for other artists, most notably Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson.
White was the youngest of ten children born to Teresa and Gorman Gillis. He began playing instruments, specifically the drums, by the age of six. He was raised Catholic and was a fan of classical music as a child. By his teens, he was listening to blues artists like Son House and Blind Willie McTell. In interviews, he has often called House’s “Grinnin’ in Your Face” his favorite song of all time. White studied music at Detroit’s prestigious Cass Technical High School. At 15, he took a three-year apprenticeship as an upholsterer with a family friend, Brian Muldoon. White credits Muldoon with exposing him to punk music and pushing him to play music as a band.
The White Stripes (1997-2000)
In 1997, Jack formed the White Stripes along with drummer Meg White. Over the years, the two have courted controversy via their claims that they were siblings when, in fact, they met in a bar in a Detroit suburb and married on September 21, 1996. He took her last name. They divorced on March 24, 2000. WK
The duo became part of the underground garage rock scene in Michigan. They signed to an independent Detroit-based garage punk label, Italy Records, in 1998. The next year they released their eponymous debut.
The band’s sophomore effort, De Stijl, made it to #38 on the independent album chart of Billboard magazine. They also developed a very distinguishable look with their all red, white, and black clothing.
The White Stripes Hit Big (2001-03)
2001’s White Blood Cells became one of the most important albums of the new millennium, heading up a garage rock revival. It was followed in 2003 by the even more successful and acclaimed Elephant.
Other Projects (2003-04)
In 2003, White was rumored to have done some vocal work for Electric Six, specifically on their song “Danger! High Voltage.” White and the group denied it, but the group’s lead singer, Dick Valentine, did say later White was featured on the song. WK A Q Magazine article also said White worked on the group’s “Gay Bar” song.
White also performed five songs for the Cold Mountain soundtrack. He “had a brief but highly publicized romantic relationship with actress Renée Zellweger, whom he met during the filming of Cold Mountain.” WK
In 2004, White produced Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose. He had produced before, including the White Stripes’ albums, the 2000 eponymous album by the Soledad Brothers, and the Von Bondies’ 2001 album Lack of Communication. This, however, was his highest profile project and one of Lynn’s most acclaimed albums.
The White Stripes’ Final Albums (2005-07)
A couple more albums followed – 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan and 2007’s Icky Thump. During the making of a video for the group’s 2005 Blue Orchid, White met model Karen Elson. They married on June 1, 2005. They had a daughter in 2006 and a son in 2007.
The White Stripes officially announced they had split on February 2, 2011.
The Raconteurs (2006-08)
In the interim between the White Stripes’ Satan and Thump albums, White formed the Raconteurs with Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence, and Patrick Keeler. The latter two were the bassist and drummer respectively for the Greenhornes, whom White had produced on the 2005 compilation album Sewed Soles.
The Raconteurs released their debut album, Broken Boy Soldiers, in 2006. They released a second album, Consolers of the Lonely, in 2008.
Other Projects (2008-09)
That year, White also collaborated with R&B singer Alicia Keys for the song Another Way to Die, the theme song for the James Bond film Quantum of Solace.
In 2009, White appeared alongside other guitar legends Jimmy Page (the Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin) and The Edge (U2) in the documentary It Might Get Loud. The three discussed the electric guitar and their different playing methods.
The Dead Weather (2009-10)
While one side project would seemingly be plenty to keep anyone busy, White also formed the Dead Weather in 2009. Alison Mosshart of the Kills took vocal duties alongside White, who took on drums as well. The Raconteurs’ Lawrence took on bass while Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age, took on keyboards and guitars. They released Horehound in 2009 and followed it less than a year later with 2010’s Sea of Cowards.
What Does the Future Hold? (2011)
In 2011, White took on yet another female legend when he produced Wanda Jackson’s The Party Ain’t Over. Much like Loretta Lynn, she was a legend of her genre, although her forte was rockabilly while Lynn’s was country. Like the Lynn album, Jackson’s work with White gave her the highest profile she’d had in years.
With the break-up of the White Stripes, no one knows for sure what the future holds for Jack White. Will the Raconteurs work together again? Is there another Dead Weather album in the works? What other legends might White produce? Perhaps a long awaited solo album will emerge. Who knows. Jack White is sure to surprise his fans with yet another curve in an already eclectic and acclaimed career.