Yesterday, The White Stripes sent die-hard fans like me into a state of shock and depression with the unexpected announcement that they will record and perform no more.
A news bulletin on Jack White’s Third Man Records website said that the main reason for the split is a mutual desire “to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band.”
This announcement comes only months after Jack hinted the band would soon record again, a tantalizing morsel that sent White Stripes fans into a series of ecstasy-induced shivers. The ecstasy has now turned to disbelief as we prepare to kiss one of our generation’s greatest rock bands goodbye forever.
Although they’ve been putting out records since 1999, the band hadn’t released a new album since 2007′s Icky Thump. The formerly-married twosome also hadn’t played in public since reuniting for the final episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 2009. As time dragged on, a reunion seemed less and less likely, but then again, it’s not like Jack White wasn’t busy.
Jack has become prolific during The White Stripes “break,” branching out into super-groups The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs. He’s also focused more on his record label, recently producing rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson’s latest record, The Party Ain’t Over. But for The White Stripes, it seems the party has come to an end.
A part of me (a part I tried desperately to stifle), has been worried that The White Stripes were over ever since I first saw 2009′s Under Great White Northern Lights, the documentary depicting what will now forever be known as The White Stripes’ final tour. The 2007 tour was canceled halfway through due to Meg White’s nervous breakdown, a potential cause for the break-up that the statement specifically addressed:
“The reason is not due to artistic differences or lack of wanting to continue, nor any health issues as both Meg and Jack are feeling fine and in good health.”
The statement continues: “Both Meg and Jack hope this decision isn’t met with sorrow by their fans but that it is seen as a positive move done out of respect for the art and music that the band has created. It is also done with the utmost respect to those fans who’ve shared in those creations, with their feelings considered greatly.”
But some fans’ feelings are definitely hurt. Surfing YouTube videos, I encountered a lot of fan-angst over the duo’s split (check out the anger in the comments section of their cover of Tegan and Sara’s “Walking With a Ghost“). I know we’re all upset, but venting at the Whites won’t release the blood cells to cure the disease.
The White Stripes came as close as is humanly possible to creating something perfect. Their sound and their songs were a much-needed shock to modern rock, bringing back the blues and reminding us what powerful lyrics (and emotion) really sound like in the age of wimpy three-word pop hooks and giggling dance beats.
As the shock washes over White Stripes fans around the world (I still can’t believe I won’t be able to see the only band I ever wanted to see), a moment of silence isn’t appropriate for these heavy-weight rock stars. Instead, it’s time to celebrate and mourn the passing of The White Stripes by remembering and playing their music, tunes that stretched from the early, upbeat and simple stomach-punch rhythms of “You’re Pretty Good Looking” and “Hello Operator” off of De Stijl (2000) to the lyrically complex melancholia and suspense of Icky Thump’s “300 M.P.H. Outpour Blues.” And all that’s in-between.
Remember what it felt like the first time you heard and saw “Fell in Love With A Girl” — back when you still saw music videos on MTV? Remember how their subsequent hit, “Seven Nation Army,” sent out heavy ripples heard around the world, bringing rockers and “football” fans together? Remember the goofy faces you made while singing along to the playful “Denial Twist?” The naughty daydreams you had while listening to “Ball And Biscuit?” (Or was that just me?)
I remember learning and loving with the Stripes as my jaw dropped watching the Whites tear through covers of songs I would never otherwise know, like “Boll Weevil” and “John the Revelator.” I thank The White Stripes for sending me back into the blues/rock cannon, for developing my thirst for music history to a level I may have otherwise never acquired.
And finally (or really, just to begin with), I remember that poignant last scene from Under Great White Northern Lights. I remember tearing up and wondering…feeling the pit of something ending in my stomach.
Jack and Meg, your partnership will be sorely missed. You’ve truly moved us. Now that you’re through, I just don’t know what to do with myself. But we’ll keep going — White Stripes fans and I will carry your music through the rest of our lives. Keep rocking, Jack. And Meg, come back to give us another dose of your pretty voice and powerful drumming! Until then, we’ll remember, as you instructed:
“The White Stripes do not belong to Meg and Jack anymore. The White Stripes belong to you now and you can do with it whatever you want. The beauty of art and music is that it can last forever if people want it to.”
Here’s hoping The White Stripes will last forever.300 M.P.H. Outpour Blues, Ball and Biscuit, Boll Weevil, break up, chant, De Stijl, Denial Twist, fell in love with a girl, health, Hello Operator, I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself, Icky Thump, Jack White, John the Revelator, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Meg White, MTV, Nervous Breakdown, Seven Nation Army, Tegan and Sara, The Dead Weather, The Party Ain't Over, The Raconteurs, The White Stripes, Third Man Records, Under Great White Northern Lights, Walking With a Ghost, Wanda Jackson, White Moon, You're Pretty Good Looking, YouTube