Superstar guitarists are a dying breed, but Jack White’s imperial fingers prove that they are yet to go into instinct. While he still has a pulse running through his body, guitar craftsmanship remains in steady hands. He was at the forefront of the garage rock revolution with The White Stripes, but his shimmering talent has shined in every project he’s leant his hand to.
Whether it’s making a delectably debauched Bond theme tune that can send shivers down your spine or get electricity thumping in football stadiums as chants of ‘Seven Nation Army’ unite 90,000 — White is an artist who is about as versatile as they come.
With every project that White has put his name to, he has thrived. He can do it all, and he’s got an array of vehicles for displaying his talent that suits the differing facets of his personality. He’ll be a guitarist that will be discussed for decades to come and already got one foot in the door to becoming a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.
Following The White Stripes called it a day in 2011, the thrilling guitarist has enjoyed a sensational decade that’s seen him release three widely-acclaimed solo records plus spells with both The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather.
Most artists only enjoy one successful musical project, yet White has four to his name. Narrowing his genius down to just six songs from across these projects is a challenge, and some notable exceptions will rightly infuriate some of you, but that’s White’s fault.
Jack White’s six best guitar tracks:
6) ‘Love Is Blindness’
‘Love Is Blindness isn’t technically an original track, but White’s primordial playing on the effort made it his own. Admittedly on a much smaller scale, when White covered this U2 track for the covers album, AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered, he took ownership of it like Hendrix did with ‘Watchtower’.
Over the decade since its release, the song has taken on a life of its own. White eventually added it to the Japanese deluxe edition of Blunderbuss and later appeared in The Great Gatsby.
He interjects his own depraved twist on ‘Love Is Blindness’ and makes it a compellingly morose masterpiece.
5) ‘Steady As She Goes’
For close to 20 years, White has been rustling up magic with The Raconteurs. They’ve only made three albums together across this time and still never managed to eclipse their opening mission statement. ‘Steady, As She Goes’ was an introduction carved out from above in 2006 and immediately made people take notice of the group as a serious entity.
White said to Uncut in 2006: “It’s asking a question, which is, ‘Is doing that – getting married and settling down – starting a new life or is it giving up?. I think the big notion in my head as 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?'”
4) ‘Icky Thump’
‘Icky Thump’ is the title track from the group’s final album released in 2007, and they left things on a high note. The White Stripes managed to bow out while still firing on all cylinders and left an impeccable legacy in their tracks.
The track is one of White’s most miraculous pieces of work, the way he builds up tension and dread before exploding across his fretboard shows why he’s held in such high esteem.
Furthermore, his skill helps amplify the song’s political message, which saw them use their voice and stand up against America’s vitriolic immigration policy on ‘Icky Thump’. In the track, White sings, “White Americans, What? Nothin’ better to do? Why don’t you kick yourself out, you’re an immigrant too.”
3) ‘Ball and Biscuit’
With a running time of over seven minutes, ‘Ball and Biscuit’ allows White to flex his self-indulgent side and create one of The White Stripes’ most defining moments despite not even being a single.
It’s got everything you want from a traditional 12-bar blues song. White’s relaxed dive-bar style delivery builds the tension before he lets rip when igniting a solo that showcases why this list labels him as a guitar genius.
We could go on and on about the intricacies of White’s magnetic tone, built on grim yet dynamic dirt, but better just plugging in and let the man himself burn the house down.
‘Lazaretto’ is a joy to behold. It’s a thrilling adventure, which if you don’t find stirring, you need to seek medical attention. Every moment of the track is captivating from when it starts until the very second it ends and leaves the listening pining to hear more.
Like a lot of stuff that White has produced in his career, it lends itself perfectly to the live arena, which is where he gets the opportunity to put ‘Lazaretto’ on steroids. His freewheelin’ skillset is on full show during this riveting spectacle of the track that the masterful guitarist took to Worthy Farm.
A set that will be etched into Glastonbury heritage for a long while to come.
1) ‘Seven Nation Army’
While from a technical standpoint, ‘Seven Nation Army’ might not be White’s finest hour, only a true master of a craft could forge a riff that is ingrained so deeply within the universal popular culture. Seeing the track go from his brain to belonging to the masses is of great pride to White, who once said: “Nothing is more beautiful in music than when people embrace a melody and allow it to enter the pantheon of folk music.”
“‘Seven Nation Army’ started out about two specific people I knew in Detroit,” White told Rolling Stone. “It was about gossip, the spreading of lies and the other person’s reaction to it. It came from a frustration of watching my friends do this to each other.
“In the end, it started to become a metaphor for things I was going through. But I never set out to write an expose on myself. To me, the song was a blues at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The third verse could be something from a hundred years ago. It won a Grammy for Best Rock Song. [Laughs] Maybe it should have won for Best Paranoid Blues Song.”
Even if you’ve never heard of Jack White, you know this song and love it. The same adoration can be said for people who’ve obsessed over everything he’s ever done; that unforgettable riff still sounds outrageous no matter how many times you’ve listened to it.