As one half of The White Stripes, he brought a filthy rock and roll sound to a new and adoring generation. Unadulterated, unfiltered and fully-leaded, Jack White has been a leading figure of the music scene for many years now and his guitar ranks among the finest of a new generation.
White achieved the feat of becoming the leading light in garage rock in the early noughties. Not only lending his hand to some of the best rock bands of the last two decades, from The White Stripes to Dead Weather, but also by being a never-ending student of his craft. That craft, most notably, being the handle of his guitar.
When we look back at some of the greatest guitarists to have ever lived it is easy to stop looking after 1980. The stock of impresario guitarists in the sixties and seventies was so good that it almost felt like guitarists gave up during the eighties and nineties. Of course, there are reams and reams of names to be listed off as wonderful guitarists.
While most of those players are technically proficient and masterful musicians, White had something different. He had chutzpah, talent and the grit to get him and the bands he chose over the line.
White is the best at transferring what is either technically or sonically sound into something digestible and evocative. Jack White transcends musical nouse and delivers in spades a whole heap of what music should be about: feeling.
Jack White’s 10 best guitar tracks of all time:
10. ‘Sixteen Saltines’ – Blunderbuss, 2012
The only addition to the list from White’s solo work, ‘Sixteen Saltines’ is White destroying his fretboard as he goes down a screeching rabbit hole around the 2:45 minute mark.
Yet none of that matter when, around the four-minute mark, White unleashes hell and plays some seriously furious notes. The track managed to gather up attention for the Blunderbuss record with a stunning performance on SNL. It was there that the power of White’s performance truly came across.
9. ‘Salute Your Solution’ – Consolers of the Lonely, 2008
Aside from White’s incredible noodling possibilities, the star is also a champion and chord-building progressions. White moves through the chord progression here at a frightening pace to create one of the most notable guitar moments of 2008.
White and Brendan Benson shared vocals on the record but White stole the show with his chunky and crunchy guitar sound.
8. ‘I Think I Smell A Rat’ – White Blood Cells, 2001
This, for many people, was the introduction to The White Stripes—and what an introduction to make. The leading line of the track hits like no other. ‘I Think I Smell A Rat’ is a pure power push across the airwaves that arrives with all the thundering force of White’s runaway creativity.
Taken from the band’s breakthrough record, the song proved that The White Stripes were not to be messed with. Watch the live performance below for a reminder of how it all can go down.
7. ‘Ball & Biscuit’ – Elephant, 2003
The blues go mainstream with Jack White as he takes us all on a trip down the rolling Missippi river. Stopping off at whisky joints along the way, this slow-building song explodes at two moments.
The first one hits at 1:32 and the next arrives on the fourth minute, both are masterful moments of White’s musical prowess and a showcase for what he did with a natural strum of his guitar.
6. ‘Icky Thump’ – Icky Thump, 2007
The opening notes of 2007 effort ‘Icky Thump’ were the introduction to The White Stripes as a newly formed piece of rock and roll legacy. The band had transcended their incendiary beginnings and were now becoming the elders of a rock generation. The group grew into their role and adopted a more cultivated approach on this record.
All that can be seen in ‘Icky Thump’ as White takes the guitar work in two different directions, firstly meandering around the Morricone then coming straight back down to dusty Americana.
5. ‘Hello Operator’ – De Stijl, 2000
It’s the turn of the millennium, Britpop is dead on its knees, the world is a scary place and you look to music to bring some semblance to your life. Look over the horizon, who’s that? It’s Jack White with a Molotov cocktail and the bit between his teeth.
On De Stijl White burned the whole damn place down and did a little jig in the ashes. For many people, ‘Hello Operator’ was the first time they connected with White and the band and for a large chunk of those, they’ve never hung up on him.
4. ‘Seven Nation Army’ – Elephant, 2003
We couldn’t have a list of iconic Jack White guitar tracks without mentioning ‘Seven Nation Army’. The song will remain in the public lexicon for as long as they can remember the simple and oh-so-sweet riff. It has become an anthem used in sports grounds, theatre productions and basically anything with a forboding stomp.
Though it remains one fo the easiest songs you’ll ever learn to play, White uses his own style and panache to make this track feel all-encompassing and captivating.
3. ‘Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground’ – White Blood Cells, 2001
While the track is much shorter on solos than we would usually prefer, the fact remains that this is some of White’s finest work. The riffs are chunky and unrelenting while adding an extra dose of ‘heavy’ on every note he can.
Without doubt one of the band’s best opening tracks for an album ever. The guitar sound is utterly captivating from the very first notes and gives you the quickest introduction to the band you’ll ever need. It’s raw and unfiltered, it’s a buzzsaw to the brain that everyone wants.
2. ‘Black Math’ – Elephant, 2003
This one comes right out the block with a guitar sound so idiosyncratic to Jack White that it is an instantly recognisable riff. This is atypical White and it sees him destroying a riff with the kind of menace that made him a brooding figure of the indie explosion.
Chugging through the airwaves like a juggernaut, the song powers through until White slows it down to a near halt. That is to only to build it back up like a stomping giant, crashing through your local village. Heavy distortion and White’s vocal make this sound like an evangelical torture device—all of which culminates in one of the band’s best tracks.
1. ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’ – White Blood Cells, 2001
While some musos had picked up on the power of The White Stripes long before White Blood Cells the band were shaking the foundations of Detroit since the late nineties. But it was this album, and most importantly, the song ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’ which announced The White Stripes as the uniformed saviours of rock and roll.
While The Strokes had arrived with an all-style little substance approach, The White Stripes were the full package. Not only did they have an effortlessly artistic style but the band were backed by one of the greatest guitarists of his generation. This is where Jack White showed the world that he was different.