As one half of The White Stripes, Jack White was at the forefront of the garage rock revolution. They might have only been a duo, but that didn’t harm their seismic sound and the guitarist always provided songs that could fill stadiums and hearts alike.
White has been a leading figure of the music scene for decades now, and he’s a modern-day guitar god who is making sure that rock ‘n’ roll is still breathing today. With every project that White has put his name to, he has thrived. Whether as a solo artist or with bands like The Dead Weather or The Raconteurs — failure simply doesn’t exist in the guitarist’s lexicon.
White is on his way to being a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and his induction couldn’t be more deserved. Following The White Stripes calling it a day in 2011, White has enjoyed a thrilling decade that’s seen him release three acclaimed solo records plus an album with both The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather.
Most artists only enjoy one successful musical project, yet White has four to his name. Who knows what the next decade has in store from him, but one of rock’s most studious minds is somebody who you can always rely on to produce the goods.
In celebration of White’s stellar career, this feature ranks his ten greatest songs with and without The White Stripes. Let’s jump in!
Jack White’s 10 best songs of all time
10. The Dead Weather – ‘I Cut Like A Buffalo’
The Dead Weather are the heaviest of Jack White’s projects, and the group allows him to get down and dirty. Alison Mosshart from The Kills and Dean Fertita from Queens Of The Stone Age complement White’s talents devilishly well.
‘I Cut Like A Buffalo’ featured on their impeccable debut 2009’s Horehound, and it’s three and a half minutes of furore. The way that Mosshart and White trade vocals on the track is delicious. His sparring partner allowed him to be a different rock ‘n’ roll singer, and the results are spellbinding.
9. Jack White – ‘Love Is Blindness’
‘Love Is Blindness’ was only intended to feature on the 2011 U2 covers album, AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered, but has since taken on a life of its own. White added it to the Japanese deluxe edition of Blunderbuss and later appeared in The Great Gatsby.
White’s version of the track is a masterclass in how to cover another artist. He pays homage to the original whilst interjecting his own depraved twist on ‘Love Is Blindness.
8. The White Stripes – ‘Blue Orchid’
‘Blue Orchid’ is the opening track from The White Stripes’ spectacular 2005 album, Get Behind Me Satan. As album openers go, they don’t get much more exuberant than this one.
It gets one of the most vital albums of a generation off to a flying start and sets the tone for the rest of the journey. ‘Blue Orchid’ is a hell-raising anthem that sees White let loose and produce one of the best riffs of his career.
7. The White Stripes – ‘Ball and Biscuit’
With a running time of over seven minutes, ‘Ball and Biscuit’ was too long to be released as a single, but that’s not stopped it from being recognised as one of The White Stripes’ most defining moments.
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 erupts into an imperious solo that showcases why he is one of the greatest living guitarists.
6. The White Stripes – ‘We’re Going To Be Friends’
What makes Jack White an icon is his versatility. He’s an artist who can do it all, and ‘We’re Going To Be Friends’ couldn’t contrast any further from the last selection.
The simplicity of the stripped back ‘We’re Going To Be Friends’ is what makes it such a joyous listen. White tells the story of the advent of a new friendship on the first day of a school year, and its wholesome charm will even touch the most cold-hearted person on the planet.
5. The Raconteurs – ‘Steady, As She Goes’
Since 2004, Jack White has been creating magic with The Raconteurs. They’ve recorded three albums together across this time, but their debut single remains their crowning moment. ‘Steady, As She Goes’ was one hell of an introduction from the band in 2006 and proved from the off that they were a serious outfit rather than White’s new plaything.
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. The White Stripes – ‘Icky Thump’
‘Icky Thump’ is the title track from the group’s final album released in 2007. The White Stripes bowed out while they were still firing on all cylinders and left an impeccable legacy in their tracks.
The White Stripes were never overtly a political band, but they 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. Jack White – ‘Lazaretto’
‘Lazaretto’ was when Jack White proved that he was capable of flying by himself outside of the mechanism of The White Stripes, The Dead Weather, or The Raconteurs. 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 being played live, where he can put ‘Lazaretto’ on steroids and make it even bigger than it sounds on the record. It runs wild in your head all day after you’ve heard it, and is White doing what he does best.
2. The White Stripes – ‘I Fell In Love With A Girl
If you grew up on a diet of music television, the iconic Lego video for ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’ will be imprinted on your mind until you draw your final breath. There’s no denying the sheer innovativeness of the video, but sometimes that can overshadow what a killer track ‘Fell In Love With A Girl Is’.
Sure, it’s not the most complicated or technically astute track in the world, but the simplicity of it only plays into the charm of ‘Fell In Love With A Girl. Jack White’s enchanting guitar makes sure to grab your full attention for the duration of the track, which announced The White Stripes to the masses in 2001. Sometimes simplicity is key.
1. The White Stripes – ‘Seven Nation Army’
There was only ever one choice for number one, wasn’t there? ‘Seven Nation Army’ has transcended Jack White and The White Stripes and fully initiated itself within British 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.”
Few songs ever achieve the universal appeal that ‘Seven Nation Army’ has established. Despite the song being impossible to escape from, it’s never got irritating like ‘Mr Brightside’, and that imitable riff still sounds heavenly even after thousands of listens.