After Years of Being a Rocker, Jack White Has Added Diversity to His Sound

Jack White's Career Graphic by Bobby Nicholas
Jack White’s Career Graphic by Bobby Nicholas

– By Owen Murray –

Jack White is one of the most influential songwriters and guitar players of the 21st century. Along with The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol and others, White dominated 2000s rock as the frontman of the White Stripes. With Meg White on drums, and Jack on lead vocals and guitar, the band mixed blues and punk in an truly new and exciting way.

Jack White has been a major voice on alternative radio, especially WERS, for almost two decades: now as a part of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and his solo albums. In honor of his latest solo album Boarding House Reach, which was released March 23, here’s a timeline of significant events in Jack White’s prolific career.

Early 90s: Pre-White Stripes

While apprenticing in an upholstery shop in his hometown of Detroit, a teenaged Jack White started a band with Brian Muldoon, the master of the shop.

Muldoon was the drummer and the only other member of the band. White took lead vocals and guitar, like he would in the White Stripes. Until White and Muldoon and formed The Upholsterers, White had been primarily a drummer. But had changed his focus to fit the band.

1997-2000: White Stripes Early Years

Jack and Meg White formed the White Stripes in Detroit. They released a few singles including “Lafayette Blues” and “The Big Three Killed My Baby” in the years leading up to their debut self titled album in 1999.

They quickly followed up their debut with De Stijl just over a year later. White Stripes and De Stijl established the band’s blues/punk sound with simplistic drums and erratic vocals and guitar which they would refine and perfect on later albums. These releases had a lo-fi, almost DIY sound. Nearly every song included no instrumentation other than Jack’s guitar and Meg’s drums.

With their first two albums, The White Stripes made a stir on the Detroit music scene. This firmly established their intentionally goofy visual aesthetic. In the documentary It Might Get Loud, Jack White said the childish red-and-white presentation of the band was inspired by peppermint candies and a desire to not be thought of as a “white-boy blues band.”

2001: White Blood Cells and Third Man Records

In another quick turn around, The White Stripes released their breakthrough record in the summer of 2001.

White Blood Cells remains a fan favorite and includes unforgettable cuts like the high energy and punk influenced “Fell In Love With a Girl” and the innocent and earnest “We’re Going To Be Friends” which would fit just as well on a compilation of children’s songs as it does on one of the best rock albums of the 2000s.

Also in 2001, Jack White founded Third Man Records. He has released all his albums from all his acts since it was he founded it.


2003: Elephant

Elephant was a truly massive album. It peaked at number six on the U.S. charts and hit number one in the UK. The album’s impact has only grown more significant with each passing year.

“Seven Nation Army” has been proven to have more staying power than almost any rock song from the 2000s. Its iconic riff has become a staple at American sporting events and for beginner guitarists.

The band drifted away from–but didn’t completely abandon–their lo-fi roots. There are clear moments of imperfection in the recording on Elephant but listening to the roaring, distorted, electric guitar, it’s clear that the album shouldn’t sound any other way.

Elephant also features some of White’s greatest guitar work. The seven-minute “Ball and Biscuit” will always be one of his most iconic guitar performances and was a career defining moment for him as a guitarist.

2005: Get Behind Me Satan

The Stripes rode their success from Elephant with another well received album. Get Behind Me Satan. The album’s hit “Blue Orchid,” was a more refined and less distorted sound sound for the Stripes.

2006: The Raconteurs’ Broken Boy Soldiers

The Raconteurs are Jack White’s other band. Though they are not nearly as influential as the White Stripes, they had a huge hit with “Steady As She Goes.” The song has a simple tune and layered guitars and an undeniably catchy riff and chorus. This was Jack White’s first major hit with a full band.

2007: Icky Thump: The White Stripes final album

The White Stripes went out with a band on their sixth album. The album’s lead single and title track remains one of Jack’s wildest guitar and vocal performances. Just as memorable is the song’s cynical political commentary.

Jack and Meg White seperated when the White Stripes broke up after years of keeping their relationship status ambiguous.

2012: Blunderbuss

Jack White’s first solo album Blunderbuss wasn’t to much of a change in tone from the White Stripes. Recorded in the same style as his previous work, the album and his roaring guitar was still front and center.

While touring behind this album White had two alternating bands, the all-female Peacocks and the all-male Buzzards.

2014: Lazaretto and the discovery of Upholsterers singles

On Lazaretto, Jack White recorded digitally for the first time in his entire career. This was something White had actively resisted for years.

The title track from Lazaretto was the biggest hit from White’s solo career up to this point.

There is a mysterious Jack White legend that 100 copies of the Upholsterers single “Makers of High Grade Suites” laid hidden in couches in Detroit. Sure enough, in 2014 two separate people reported finding copies of these singles in their couches. The other 98 are still unaccounted for.

2018: Boarding House Reach

Jack White threw a curveball with this one. For the first time in his career, White drifted significantly from the traditional rock formula that he has been practicing for years in various acts.  The album is still heavily blues influenced. But to the surprise of White’s fans, the album is heavily electronic and experimental.

After years of being a rocker and guitar hero through and through, White has added diversity to his sound.

The White Stripes made some of the 2000s definitie albums by taking old sounds and making them his own and now with Boarding House Reach he is starting to combine his old sound with experimental elements.

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