In Memory of the White Stripes: a Reminiscence

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard. But in case you haven’t been anywhere near the internet, you should know that Tuesday morning—2nd February—the White Stripes announced that they will no longer record or perform as the White Stripes, citing ‘a myriad of reasons, but mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way’.

And now, as we cannot help but expect, the ensuing days and weeks will see an abundance of White Stripes retrospectives and ruminations. And it’s only fair. They’ve been hugely influential and significant players in the world of music over the last 13 years. But I doubt it was their influence or musical prowess that won most of us to their side in the first place. I can still remember the first time I heard the White Stripes. It was a performance of something (possibly ‘Fell In Love With a Girl’) on some awards show (possibly the Grammys). In fact, it was what I perceived to be their lack of technical ability that put me off their music in the first place. I wrote them off completely and didn’t give a Meg and Jack a second thought for years.

Then I fell for a girl who loved the band. And I fell hard. For both of them. In my quest to understand the things she loved, I became swept up in everything: the carefully constructed public ethos, the visceral pathos of Jack’s guitar and vocals, and the blistering power of the entire package. Before long, I had more invested in the White Stripes than the retail price of half a dozen CDs. They were a relational touchstone, a social reference point for someone like me who is more apt to disappear into obscurity than engage in small talk. But I think that’s what captivated me most. The power of the White Stripes was not in complexity or lyrical gravitas but in the imperfection and stuttering brokenness of their delivery.

Given Jack’s numerous side projects in recent years and the fact that the band haven’t released a full-length studio album since 2007, I suppose Tuesday’s announcement was not all that surprising. But I think we were all still caught off guard—I suspect we always would have been.

The band concluded their announcement saying:

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. Thank you for sharing this experience. Your involvement will never be lost on us and we are truly grateful.

The White Stripes were an experience I am thrilled to have shared and sad to see end, but if, as they say, they belong to me—to us—now, I, for one, am happy to have them.



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