Origin: Detroit, Michigan
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White Stripes were an American rock duo formed in 1997 in Detroit, Michigan. The duo consisted of Jack White (songwriter, vocals, guitar, piano and mandolin) and Meg White (drums and vocals). The White Stripes rose to prominence in 2002 as part of the garage rock revival scene. The duo released several critically acclaimed albums including White Blood Cells and Elephant. Their single “Seven Nation Army” which used a guitar whammy to create the iconic opening riff became their signature song and is ubiquitous at sporting events. White Stripes recorded two more albums, Get Behind Me Satan (2005) and Icky Thump (2007) before dissolving in 2011 after a lengthy hiatus from performing and recording.
The band’s discography consists of six studio albums, two live albums, one extended play (EP), one concert film, one tour documentary and 26 singles. The White Stripes’ last three albums each won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album.
The White Stripes used a low-fidelity approach to writing and recording. Their music melded garage rock and blues influences with a raw simplicity of composition, arrangement and performance. The duo were also noted for their fashion and design aesthetic which featured a simple color scheme of red, white, and black—which was used on every album and single cover the band released—as well as the band’s fascination with the number three.
Jack White’s voice is a singular, evocative combination of punk, metal, blues, while his guitar work is grand and banging with just enough lyrical touches of slide and subtle solo work balanced out by Meg’s fretwork with methodical, spare, and booming cymbal, bass drum and snare.
As a high school senior Jack Gillis (as he was then known) met Meg White at the Memphis Smoke restaurant where she worked and where he would read poetry on open mic nights. Their friendship blossomed and after a courtship the two married in 1996 and Gillis took his wife’s surname. Jack White played drums before switching to lead guitar in several local Detroit bands. Meg White took up the drums as a lark and shortly thereafter the duo became a band.
The couple originally considered calling themselves Bazooka and Soda Powder and were close to calling themselves The Peppermints due to Meg’s fondness for the candies, but settled on their last names and thus the White Stripes were born.
The White Stripes first live performance was August 1997 and the duo quickly became part of the Michigan underground garage rock scene. They recorded a couple local area singles before releasing their major label debut single “The Big Three Killed My Baby,” followed by their debut album, The White Stripes released in June 1999. The album was dedicated to the seminal Delta blues musician Son House; an artist who greatly influenced Jack White.
It was the White Stripes’ fourth album, Elephant (2003) that brought them mainstream success. Jack White self-produced the album with antiquated equipment and pre-1960’s recording gear. The album’s first single, “Seven Nation Army,” was the band’s most successful and included other hit singles “The Hardest Button to Button,” and “There’s No Home for You Here.” In 2004 Elephant won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album, while “Seven Nation Army” won the Grammy for Best Rock Song.
Beginning work on songs for the next album Jack White began experimenting with different techniques from their previous albums. Out were the electric guitars and his trademark riff-based lead guitar style to be replaced by an acoustic guitar with a predominantly rhythmic approach on all but a few tracks. The resulting album 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan with its reliance on piano-driven melodies and experimentation garnered positive reactions from fans and critics going on to win the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 2006.
The White Stripes’ sixth and final album 2007’s Icky Thump certified gold in America and once again received the Grammy award for Best Alternative Music Album in February 2008. Icky Thump marked a return to the punk, garage rock and blues influences for which the band was known. The album’s release came on the heels of a series of European and North American concerts. The single “Icky Thump” became the band’s first Top 40 single.
In April 2007 the duo announced a Canadian tour in all ten provinces. Upon its conclusion a brief American tour followed with more fall dates lined up. On September 11, 2007, the band announced the cancellation of all future tour dates citing Meg’s acute anxiety struggles. The White Stripes last live performance took place on the final episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien where they performed a version of “We’re Going to Be Friends.”
In February 2011, the duo announced that they had officially ceased recording and performing as the White Stripes.
The musical and stylistic elements of the White Stripes were grounded and rooted in blues, garage rock and early punk. The band’s most prominent influences included Robert Johnson, garage rock, the MC5, The Stooges and The Velvet Underground among many others. Heavy blues bands such as the Rolling Stones and particularly Led Zeppelin were heavy influences. Traditional country music such as Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn also influenced the band’s sound. The White Stripes were notable for having only two musicians, limiting the instruments they could play live.
White Stripes discography
The White Stripes (1999)
De Stijl (2000)
White Blood Cells (2001)
Get Behind Me Satan (2005)
Icky Thump (2007)
Sacramento’s K-ZAP 93.3 FM plays the White Stripes. All part of 50 years of Rock, Blues and More, 24-7 on our station’s stream at K-ZAP.ORG/LISTEN/
Check out the White Stripes performing “Seven Nation Army.”