From Stripespedia

A good portion of this article was stolen from the unofficial White Stripes FAQ, created by Twitch. My apologies.


The Sonics

  • Jack: "Probably the epitome of '60s punk. "Psycho Cinderella", "The Witch" -- animalistic screams signifying the base thoughts of mid-'60s bored teens. Harder than the Kinks, and punk long before punk, now finally getting the recognition they deserve. Life becomes better after buying a Sonics record, or at least more tolerable." (Jack's essential purchase: Psycho-Sonic compilation (Big Beat, 1993))

Son House

  • Jack: "He played me 'Death Letter', and then this a cappella song, 'Grinnin' In Your Face'. I heard the song I'd been waiting to hear my whole life. It said, 'Don't care what people think. Your mother will talk about you, your sister and your brothers too. No matter how you try to live, they're gonna talk about you still.' We had a big family, I didn't have that many friends, and I was paranoid. I thought everybody was talking about me all the time. It released my life." "I just thought for the first time that I had heard something real. I don't know it just seemed like there was nothing glamorous about it - it was just pure sound - pure emotion there was nothing fancy about it - that just really appealed to me - it was so good and it didn't need anything else attached to it - it didn't need five other guys playing the exact same thing behind it. Just a guy and a guitar."
  • Dan Miller: When he heard "Grinning in Your Face" by Son House, he was like, "That song changed my life." Hearing something that raw and emotional, and the fact that they're still doing Son House songs now -- I think it's really great to see people keeping that music alive in a modern context.
  • Jack: "I guess sometimes it feels a little like that. If we play (Son House's) Death Letter and for example there's a 14 year old girl singing along you think yourself, well, hopefully she's going to be like looking at Son House too and she's going to go buy that album. That would be a good thing."
  • Jack: "When I was 18 or 19, whenever I discovered Son House, I just flipped out. I couldn't believe what I'd been missing. Something just snapped, and I said, 'forget all this other stuff I've been listening to. I don't want to even think about it anymore. This is exactly what's perfect and what's beautiful about music and I want to get as close to it as possible, if I can get away with it.' And the White Stripes became that."
  • Jack: "I'm not black, I'm not form the South, and it's not 1930," he states earnestly. "I'm not interested in copying - at all. I'm interested in re-telling the story. I just believe in singing [Delta bluesman Son House's] "John the Revelator" one more time. It seems like every other kind of music is fooling itself about being original or being the future. Well, it's not. These electronic instruments, these toys… Music has been storytelling and melody for thousands of years, and it's not going to change."
  • Jack: We're at times, ignoring our own music, just because we've gotta keep these songs alive, by all means. If we have the stage, we've gotta play Son House's music, because there's nobody to keep it alive.

Jack White has written liner notes for the album "The Very Best of Son House".

Blind Willie McTell

  • Jack: "I think people have heard the name, but he seems to be really overlooked. He knew a lot about melody, and how melody is so important to a song structure. I don't understand why his songs aren't famous, like "God Bless America.""
  • Jack: "Blind Willie McTell, for one. I like the sense he wasn't just a blues singer. He was a street-corner entertainer who would play in front of Piggly Wiggly markets and stuff. He's from Atlanta. He was a 12-string [guitar] player who had a bunch of great songs. There's one that goes, "I got three women's, yellow, brown and black. Take the governor of Georgia to judge which one I like. One woman's Atlanta yellow, the other Macon brown But the Statesboro blackskin will turn your damper down."

Skip James

Robert Johnson

  • Jack: "Of all the blues artists that we love, our favorites would probably be Son House, Blind Willie McTell and Skip James. But it's Robert Johnson that inspired and influenced us most. A full-ranged, truly beautiful singer. Good and evil are equally presented in his songs. A tag-along to Charlie Patton, Son House and Willie Brown, Johnson in most ways surpassed them all. He out-sung, out-played, and out-performed all of the greats of his time in that area of Mississippi, even if he wasn't as popular as them at the time. If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame made any sense at all (which it doesn't), the building would be named after him." (Jack's essential purchase: The Complete Recordings compilation (Columbia, 1990))
  • Jack: "Yeah, a lot of blues purists say, 'oh, Robert Johnson, whatever.' But there's a reason he's so popular -- he was the best. His technique was so subtle you barely noticed the intricacies of his playing. My favorite thing of his is how he ended his tunes. They almost sound like throw-away endings that he didn't take seriously, but they were so perfect."
  • Jack: "Everybody nowadays, every rock and roll band is directly linked to Robert Johnson whether they know it or not. If a band is influenced by Nirvana, and Nirvana is influenced by the Pixies, and the Pixies are influenced by some 70's punk band, and the punk band is influenced by, er, you know, some band from the 60's, which goes back to Little Richard... if you keep walking down that line, you're going right back to Robert Johnson. And if you keep walking through Robert Johnson, you go right back to Son House, and Willie Brown, back to Charley Patton."
  • Jack: "Son House, you know, was traveling around and playing different juke joints and places like that and barbeques. And Robert Johnson kept coming around and tagging along and trying to play with him and saying, you know.."Let me play...guitar with you." and they kept saying, "No, get out of here, kid", you know... "You don't know how to play." They didn't see him for like 6 months...or that. All of a sudden he came back and he was brilliant, you know, he was an amazing guitar player, and he just blew their minds and they couldn't believe he had learned to play guitar so quickly and so great.”
  • Jack: I want to join that family of songwriters and storytellers, just as Robert Johnson did: all of Robert Johnson's songs were coming from Son House and Charlie Patton and Willie Brown. it's the same thing with us. I just didn't want to reference the bands that came out two years ago before we started, you know, because you're referencing a reference of a reference of a reference. When you're interested in folk music in America--the reality of it--you're forced to go back, way back, in the past to get down to the nitty- gritty of what it's all about and what expression through song is about.

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band

  • "He brought the feeling of Howlin' Wolf into white rock n' roll. Their first single, Diddy Wah Diddy, has a foot-breaking bass line. Safe as Milk, their first album, showed Beefheart's deep interest in the blues, and its track Electricity proves his genius. The album Trout Mask Replica is his masterpiece and is probably one of the most unique records in music history. Great artists to play at a get-together and tell who your friends really are."
  • Essential purchase: "Trout Mask Replica", 1969

Loretta Lynn

  • "The greatest female singer-songwriter of the 20th century. She broke down numerous barriers for women, wrote he own songs in a time when nobody did, let alone women, and tackled subject matter that everyone else was afraid to touch. She was not a fake product of the Nashville system, but made it by herself, along with the help of her husband Doo Little. If you see the movie Coal Miner's Daughter and don't feel anything, or listen to her records and don't hear anything, put down your guitar and take up jigsaw puzzles."
  • Essential purchase: "Honky Tonk Girl", 1994

A couple years ago, after finishing up White Blood Cells in Memphis, Jack and Meg were driving back home when they spotted a road sign for "Loretta Lynn's Dude Ranch". They wound up in Hurricane Mills, parked in front of the same mansion depicted in the film. Recalls White with an embarrassed laugh, "It was closed at the time, so we were sitting there in the rental car, and Meg had a cigarette - and she threw it out the window! 'No! No! Don't throw a cigarette out at Loretta's house!'" Reckoning their unexpected detour to be a good omen, they dedicated the album to Lynn and the rest is history. Lynn wrote a letter of thanks, ultimately inviting them back down to Hurricane Mills for a tour of the museum and a spot of down-home cooking. (Lynn wasn't joking onstage in New York; she really did fix Jack and Meg a biscuits-and-gravy dinner.) Dan Miller: Loretta Lynn invited them to her ranch, and I went with them. It was funny -- her manager was asking, "So, what's Detroit like? Don't you ever want to move anyplace else?" We talked a little bit about the city's shortcomings. It's not the most cosmopolitan place in the world. But as Jack pointed out, we're not leaving -- "Detroit's home."

  • Loretta: "When we met, I noticed her [Meg's] eyes were red and I said "What's wrong with Meg?" and Jack says, "She's so happy to be on the same stage as you." She'd been crying. Isn't that somethin'? I love Meg. But when me and Jack was recording, she was visiting a boyfriend right in Nashville and didn't come by the studio--so I'm gonna whup her!"
  • Meg: "She has written so many songs, saying it like it is, and saying things that people didn't dare to say at the time she did it."

The Monks

  • "American soldiers stationed in Germany who became "anti-Beatles" : a banjo with a microphone in it to make it electric, a fuzz bass in '66, and an amazing singer, not to mention the drummer and organist, both out of this galaxy with what they were doing. I Hate You is probably their masterpiece - "I hate you with a passion, baby... but call me!" True grit. Their melodies were pop destructive and must be played to your younger brother."
  • Essential purchase: "Black Monk Time", 1997

The Rats

  • "They only released one 45. The B-side, Rat's Revenge Part 2 (Black Cat), is my favorite garage rock record. No other record is a better example of being in a group of teenage boys working on something together. It's completely hilarious! And most of it sounds ad-lib. They aren't trying to act cool, or tough, they're just having a blast making a record."
  • Essential purchase: "Back from the Grave, Vol. 1"

Bob Dylan

  • "Impossible for us not to call him an influence. And we imagine the same for any musician who truly loves music. Probably no need to tell you why. Our favorite albums are Nashville Skyline, Blood on the Tracks and Desire. Important: do not trust people who call themselves musicians or record collectors who say that they don't like Bob Dylan or the Beatles. They do not love music if those words come out of their mouths. They love record sleeves and getting attention for their hobby, but they don't love music."
  • Essential purchase: "Nashville Skyline"/"Blood on the Tracks"/"Desire"
  • Jack: (regarding Jack's performance of "Ball & Biscuit" with Bob Dylan on March 17th, 2004 at the State Theatre in Detroit) "There's no topping that, can go on for an hour-and-a-half talking about it, or I can just say: It was splendid."
  • JW: I really can't talk about it. I probably shouldn't talk about it.
  • MW: I was reading his autobiography just recently. I really thought it was a good book, I liked it a lot. I liked the way he writes the book, very stream-of-consciousness, like the last word in the paragraph will be what the next paragraph's about. It just changes all the time. He manages to maintain his personal life, and not talk about what he doesn't want to, but at the same time you get a lot of insight into where he was coming from, and how he was thinking about things. It made me like him even more.
  • JW: I was gonna read it but it doesn't have any pictures in it.
  • MW: But what did it feel like walking onto his stage?
  • JW: I'd rather not say. I'm sorry. Maybe some other day.
  • MW: Yeah, because people are prying into his stuff all of the time, people were trying to make him into something he didn't think he was. He just wanted to do his thing, not to be considered the voice of a generation - like they owned him, you know? They wouldn't leave him alone, he got no privacy.
  • JW: I guess I like that about him. It seems like everybody today is so available - ready, willing and available for anything, and will go on and be part of a reality show at the drop of a hat. It seems like nobody has any sort of dignity any more. Dylan was trying to maintain his dignity, and a lot of people from an era earlier than maybe 40 or 50 years, it was easier to maintain that dignity. But I think something's really been lost world-wide. They don't want you to have dignity, they just don't want you to. It pisses them off. They wanna tear you down if you have dignity. It scares them. They're not jealous. They're just scared I think. It's like what I weas saying before about rules. They don't wanna be told that there's rules. Like, there's no possible way that you could be so dignified, we have to find out something about you that makes you dignified. I mean, you tell me, who's got dignity nowadays that's a celebrity? It's rare, it's very rare!

The Gories

  • "The best garage band in America since the '60s. Very primitive, very good, and not very good. Like many garage bands, The Gories songs were mostly ripped off, but they definitely laid down the low in Detroit and made people with Les Pauls and Marshall amps look like idiots. From the early to late '90s they made three albums and a handful of 45s. Our favorite songs are Feral, View From Here, Trick Bag and Nitro-glycerine."
  • Essential purchase: "I Know You're Fine, But How You Doin'"
  • Ben Blackwell: Jack really looks up to the Gories. He bought "Broad Appeal" and Mick Collins was behind him in line. And Jack was all excited -- "Mick Collins was just behind me in line!"

The Stooges

  • "Their second album, Fun House, is the greatest rock'n'roll record ever made."
  • Essential purchase: "Fun House", 1970

For more information on Jack's love of the Stooges, try to pick up a issue #119 of Mojo magazine where Jack White interviews Iggy Pop. It is the October 2003 edition with Jack and Iggy on the cover.

The Gun Club

  • "Their first album, Fire Of Love (Ruby 1981), is a big influence on us. The songwriting of Kid Congo Powers and Jeffrey Lee Pierce has the freshest white take on the blues of it's time. Sex Beat, She's Like Heroin To Me, and For The Love of Ivy... why are these songs not taught in schools?
  • Essential purchase: "Fire of Love", 2001

Blues music

  • Jack: "Older people started playing it for me. I always had older friends, people who were twice my age when I was a teenager. I was looking for something more mature and away from childish kind of... When I got out of high school, I went to college for one semester, and I was so upset that those kids acted exactly the same way that they did in high school. I thought there was going to be a new thing, where all of a sudden you wouldn't have to deal with that crap anymore, with peer pressure and people judging everyone. I was so upset that it was the same thing all over again. My way to deal with it was to try to relate to older people and get away from that. Their turning me on to the blues made me so happy. It happened when I was about 18, right when I was getting out of high school, and I just felt like I'd left so much behind after getting involved with that."
  • Jack: "Oh, it's the pinnacle of all music. I think everything from the 20th Century goes right back to that [the blues]. It's like the correlation we made with our second album, De Stijl [and the Dutch art movement of the same name]. It was about breaking down visuals into next-to-basic components. The bluesmen have always been doing that, stripping songwriting down to those three components I was talking about earlier: storytelling, melody, and rhythm. I hate the fact that the bluesman has been parodied -- "Oh, I woke up this morning and my baby's gone," Blues Brothers kind of thing -- when those guys are the gods of music. I mean, there should be statues of them everywhere."
  • Jack: "It's never been topped, and I don't think it ever will be. It sort of accidentally broke songwriting down to its three basic components: storytelling, melody, and rhythm. And that's the way I see it. It's so truthful, it can't be glamorized. If people really love music, they're going to start being drawn toward honesty, and if they're drawn to that, it's a direct line right back to Charley Patton and Son House. I'm very skeptical of musicians who say they love music and don't love the blues. It's like someone saying they don't like The Beatles: It makes you think they're in it for the wrong ideas."
  • Jack: "When I heard Son House and Robert Johnson, it blew my mind. It was something I'd been missing my whole life. That music made me discard everything else and just get down to the soul and honesty of the blues. At that point I was like, what have I been doing? Why have I not been paying attention to this music? It was that honesty, bare bones, to the minimum, truth. The more I thought about it, it was the pinnacle of songwriting. Easily accessible because of the repeating lines you could sing along to, very easy to play for the performer, extremely emotional at the same time. You could go to see a glam rock band and say, 'This is really exciting', but that's far from honesty. If a musician listens to Charley Patton and doesn't hear anything at all, I don't think they should call themselves musicians, because they're obviously just looking for fun and kicks and a good time out of it."
  • Jack: "The blues is from such a different time period and culture than where I'm from. Being a white kid from Detroit who was born in the '70s is a long way from being born black in Mississippi in the 20's. I'm always worried that playing the blues is going to be misconstrued as me trying to cultivate an image, or that it's going to come across fake. Jack: "The music in my head and on the radio would be missing a limb, a heart and a soul if the pinnacle of songwriting and storytelling had not come forth from the South," writes Jack White in the liner notes to the just-out "Heroes of the Blues." "I'm sorry I wasn't here to carry their guitars for them."
  • Jack: "If I was only playing music for myself, then I would be playing the blues."
  • Jack: "I was obsessed with blues music and trying to really find a way a white boy like me from Detroit who was born in the '70s could play it, because it felt so right to me in my bedroom. "The blues is the most important musical idea of the last century," he tells me one afternoon. We've been discussing resonance and blues chords and the arc of his life-and he seems genuinely excited by it all. "They should teach it in school. Country, and rock and roll, and punk, and everything else--it's all the blues. But the blues is the purest form of it. It's the pinnacle of a mountain that slopes down into other types of music."
  • Jack: "The moment when that progression (12 bar) was accomplished in the early part of the twentieth century was the most perfect moment in songwriting of all time. There's something about that that's so easily understandable, that repeating line. It translates to the next person so easily. Which is what song-writing is supposed to do: translating an idea, communicating an idea--through melody and storytelling and rhythm."
  • Jack: "Yeah. When I was a teenager I had a cassette tape of some Howlin' Wolf songs and Willie Dixon. But [the blues] really didn't snap with me until later on - somehow Robert Johnson really snapped something in my brain. I really felt like I had to find a way that I could play this music that felt so real and so cathartic for me, and figure out how I could attack that and share it with other people without getting this "white-boy blues" thing labeled on me. Once [Meg and I] started playing rock and roll together, we sort of figured out this way of boxing ourselves in, so tight and so limited that you weren't really thinking about the notions behind it, it just felt more emotional. The whole goal was to get down to wearing the uniform, as in school, where you're just forced to concentrate because you're not distracted by anything else."
  • Jack: “The Blues is holy, a perfect creation; it is everything that music should be. It contains so much that I almost don’t dare to mess with it. But I must. I heard Son House singing “Grinning in your face” and it was as if someone, with a single blow of the axe, had opened up the world to me. After that, my life received meaning. I can lie in bed in the middle of the night and feel an ice-cold wind flowing through my body, which makes me start to shake uncontrollably. Then I have to get up and hear Charley Patton or Robert Johnson. The American South should be regarded as holy land by everyone. Everything which is worth anything comes from there.”
  • Jack: “I want more of a challenge. I want to play non-typical blues within the rules of the blues and its codes. I am highly influenced by blues, as for me blues is synonymous with the truth, and a lot of my heroes are bluesman. But I don’t want to copy or imitate them, but I can sympathize with their attitude.”

Other Influences

  • Led Zeppelin
  • The Rolling Stones (Jack White played with the Stones in the 2008 concert film Shine A Light)
  • Jeff Beck
  • The Troggs
  • Flat Duo Jets (Jack provides (or will provide) a testimonial in a documentary about Flat Duo Jets frontman Dexter Romweber)
  • Cole Porter
  • The Yardbirds
  • Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps
  • Blind Willie Johnson (The Stripes have covered his songs several times, such as "John the Revelator", "Motherless Children", and "Lord, I Just Can't Keep From Cryin'".)
  • Tampa Red
  • Irving Berlin
  • The Velvet Underground (the band has performed "After Hours" on at least one occasion)
  • Hank Williams (the band included a live Hank Williams cover, "Tennessee Border", in the iTunes pre-order edition of Icky Thump)
  • The Cramps
  • Chrome Cranks
  • Soledad Brothers (Soledad Brothers guitarist Johnny Walker taught Jack how to play slide, and he appears on the Stripes' self-titled album.)
  • MC5
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