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I have to admit I am a bit spoiled when it comes to rock star greatness. Having been in front of (behind, upside down, sideways and beside) many brilliant innovators, it takes a WHOLE LOT of genius to turn my flaming red head and perk up my rocked-out, jaded ears. Before Jack White came along, the last important rock god for me was Kurt Cobain, a tortured fellow who reflected the angst of his discontented young audience to raging perfection. Likewise, Eminem does that for his pissed-off, young followers. But as winningly dangerous as it is, I don’t quite classify his music as rock & roll.

jack white's bands

I have interacted with most of my musical heroes, and truth be told, there are very few in the last couple ofdecades who have intrigued me enough to dash out and make their acquaintance. Jack White of the White Stripes being the Magnificent Exception. (Or is that ‘Obsession'?)

It took quite awhile to pin him down, because Mr. White is just about the busiest man in show business. But a few months ago, I was finally winging my way to Nashville for a meet-and-greet with what my goddaughter, Polly Parsons (Gram’s daughter), calls ‘an audience with the modern Elvis.’

Besides acting, producing and running a company, Jack White has three bands – the White Stripes with his “sister” ex-wife, Meg, the Raconteurs (love ‘em!) and most recently, moody The Dead Weather, in which he play drums.

Dressed all in black (he only wears red, white & black) the modern Elvis welcomes this bedraggled visiting journalist into his inner sanctum and we settle in on a cozy couch to chat. His charisma is massive, but surprisingly, his spirit is gentle, centered and serene. I am thrilled to hear he is reading my first book, I’m With the Band.

“I remembered when I first saw it in the bookstore when I was a kid. I was scared of you when I saw that book and I’d actually flip through and look at the photos every time I went to the bookstore. I don’t know why, but you scared me, like this girl’s too much!  She’s like, over the top, outrageous!”

Jack is the seventh son in a religious family of nine children, (a born-again father and a Catholic mother) and I try to picture him at 12, feeling naughty for peeking into my life. “But redheads have always attracted and repelled me magnetically at the same time,” he adds, “That’s in line with Ginger from Gilligan’s Island.” (For those of you who may have been living in a cave, or are too young to remember that wacky 60s sitcom, it featured a scantily clad, red-haired, B-feature “movie star.”)

Jack White SmilingI suggest that perhaps the fiery depictions of the Lord’s muse, Mary Magdalene may have engaged his youthful fascination. “Maybe so,” he ponders, “but she wasn't a whore.” Aaahhh, a man after my own heart! I knew we were kindred spirits. When he tells me he’s read one of my favorites, The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene, we revel in the discussion between a disciple and Jesus: “Why do you kiss her on the mouth?” Christ responds, “Because I kiss her on the mouth.” We agree that the Lord was very Zen. Jack then tells me something that totally blows my mind because it’s a brand new way of hearing a certain biblical quote. “I named one of my albums “Get Behind Me Satan,” my favorite phrase Jesus said, because the triple meaning behind that is so powerful:  The idea that the devil could ‘get behind me’ as in back me up. The idea of Satan not as just some evil figure, but the idea beneath all, is get behind me, man, get with me on it.”

Wow. Jack White’s psyche is obviously open extra wide.

Despite growing up in a “Christian battleground,” Jack is pleased with the outcome. “I’ve taken a lot of things from it, most importantly God. I’m just glad I got God out of all of that because I would hate to have waited until I was in my 30s to have discovered God, in whatever aspect.” Jack pauses, very thoughtful. “I have sort of a… I default to Jesus. Do you know what I mean? I listen to all kinds of spirituality and respect all of it, and if I’d grown up in China, I would have had a different path. So I don’t believe this one’s better than the rest, but I default to Jesus because that’s the one I know.”

I tell Jack that my belief is that we all are a part of God, that the all and everything, every person, creature atom and guitar lick make up the entirety of God. “My main focus on God is that he’s creating from nothing and we’re creating from the pre-existing materials, especially as artists,” he insists, “We can only take the wood that he put here and make something out of it.  We can’t create from nothing.  That’s what divides him from everything, not only from people, because we are all a part of him, like you said.  But it divides it all because it’s the one thing he has that we can’t touch, and we could never come close.  I mean, the greatest thing we could ever create, be it the Empire State Building or a Pyramid, it’s laughable compared to a planet or a solar system.”

For this redhead, rock & roll is an ideal way to get way inside Great God Almighty, and the raucous, masterful, multi-level music Jack White creates is its own unique solar system.jack white at the salute

For all you rock aficionados, I highly recommend The White Stripes live cd/dvd “Under Great White Northern Lights…” if you want to get your thrill on and your heart beating faster than Meg White’s innocent, thrashing bomp bomp drum beat. If you want to hear God speak to you through scalding, shredding guitar shrieks, and this seventh son’s fierce, piercing, full-fledged free-throated wail, settle onto your cozy couch, open your psyche extra wide and turn the sound up very, very loud.

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 117 - September 2504
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