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Ranking Jack White's many musical projects

Craig Rosen
Writer
Jack White (Photo: AFX Relax News)’

Since emerging straight outta Detroit in the late ‘90s, Jack White has secured his place as rock’s most interesting and exciting figure since Kurt Cobain. While the Nirvana frontman’s career was sadly cut short, White continues to thrill fans with a slew of projects, whether it’s collaborating with his peers or working with legends and exposing them to a new generation of fans.

To celebrate this week’s release of White’s third solo album, Boarding House Reach, we’ve ranked the various projects White has not only produced but also performed on over the years.

17. Insane Clown Posse, “Leck Mich Im Arsch”

This 2011 single is perhaps the most shocking and bizarre of all of White’s collaborations. The obvious connection is both acts’ Detroit roots, but it’s a head-scratcher beyond that. ICP’s Violent J admitted that he too was shocked after getting the call from White asking to work with the face-painted shock-rap duo. Perhaps even stranger, the song is based on a piece composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Mozart shares songwriting credits with White, Violent J, and his partner, Shaggy 2 Dope.

 

16. Neil Young, Letter Home

In 2014, Neil Young celebrated Record Store Day by heading down to White’s Third Man Records in Nashville and cutting this collection of covers — dedicated to his late mother — in a refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph vinyl recording booth. Aside from co-producing this ultimate DIY recording, White plays guitar and piano and sings a bit. This curiosity has a certain homespun charm but made Young’s claims about the poor quality of streaming audio seem ridiculous in retrospect.

 

15. Beck, “Go It Alone”

White and Beck have both been proclaimed the new face of rock at various points in their careers, so perhaps a collaboration was in the cards. On this track from Beck’s 2005 album, Guero, Mr. Hansen doesn’t go it alone; rather, he had White co-write the song with him and production duo the Dust Brothers. It also features White cranking up some monster bass on the otherwise laid-back track.

 

14. Mark Ronson, “Here Comes the Fuzz”

Long before this British producer scored hits with Bruno Mars and acclaim with Amy Winehouse, he recruited White to lend a hand on the title track of his 2003 debut album, which also features rapper Freeway and singer Nikka Costa.

 

13. The Hentchmen

Before forming the White Stripes, White kicked around in a few other Detroit combos, including Goober & the Peas and Two-Star Tabernacle. White played bass and guitar in this band in 1998, and the evidence was unearthed with the 2007 release of Hentch Forth Five, originally issued on vinyl only. You’ll get a taste of those early White Stripes garage rock influences, but not too many guitar fireworks, because White was mostly relegated to bass.

 

12. The Rolling Stones, “Loving Cup,” Shine a Light

In 2008, director Martin Scorsese documented the Stones’ gig at New York’s Beacon Theatre and invited some special guests to join the party. White collaborated with the Stones on this stirring take of the 1972 album track, trading off vocal lines with Mick Jagger as mutual sign of respect.

 

11. Karen Elson, The Ghost Who Walks

White not only produced this acclaimed debut effort by his one-time wife, singer/model/actress Elson, but he played drums on some tracks.

 

10. Wanda Jackson, The Party Ain’t Over

One of White’s nods to the past was when he lined up with the “Queen of Rockabilly” on this fine 2011 album of covers, with White serving as producer and playing bass, guitar, and tambourine on various songs.

 

9. Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose

This Grammy-winning album from 2004 served as a career renaissance for the country legend, with White producing, providing instrumental support, and dueting with Lynn on the standout tune “Portland, Oregon.”

 

8. Electric Six, “Danger! High Voltage”

A leftfield collaboration with this Detroit combo has White, credited under the pseudonym John S. O’Leary, as co-vocalist on a rocking mashup of rock and disco. To add to the confusion, in the video White’s lines are mimed by a bespectacled blonde in bondage gear.

 

7. Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, Rome

White sang lead and wrote the lyrics on three songs on this 2011 project by the famed producer and the Italian composer. Perhaps most interesting was the pairing of White and Danger Mouse, known for his work with White’s archrivals the Black Keys. As he sings in “Two Against One”: “I keep my enemies closer than my mirror ever gets to me.”

 

6. It Might Get Loud

In this 2008 rock doc, White holds his own alongside Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and U2’s the Edge as they share their musical histories, inspirations, and playing styles.

 

5. The Raconteurs

This indie supergroup assembled in 2005 when White and singer-songwriter pal Brendan Benson reportedly got together in an attic and wrote what’s still their best tune, “Steady, As She Goes,” which memorably starts with a riff borrowed from Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” The quartet, rounded out with the Greenhornes’ rhythm section of bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler, has released two albums to date and cut the bluegrass-inspired single “Old Enough” with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe.

 

5. Alicia Keys, “Another Way to Die”

Perhaps the best part of the 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace was White teaming up with the R&B crooner on a majestic, magical, and rocking track that stands comfortably alongside the best Bond themes. More, please.

 

4. Beyoncé, “Don’t Hurt Yourself”

White helped Bey score an unlikely but deserved Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance with this self-described “bodacious” Lemonade highlight. The ferocious track also contains samples of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks,” tying it to White’s It Might Get Loud cohort Jimmy Page.

3. The Dead Weather

This combo came together in 2009 while the Kills were touring with the Raconteurs. White lost his voice one night in Memphis, so he asked Kills frontwoman Alison Mosshart to step in. Impressed with her performance, White asked Mosshart if she’d like to record together, and Dead Weather was born. Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence is a member. The group also features Dean Fertita, who played guitar on Brendan Benson’s solo albums and keyboards in the Raconteurs and Queens of the Stone Age (and was once seen on Season 1 of MTV’s The Real World!). White is on drums and occasional vocals. The band’s debut single, “Hang You From the Heavens,” melted faces with some of White’s hardest-rockin’ sounds to date. Dead Weather has managed to retain that heat on each subsequent release, including 2015’s Dodge and Burn, which may be their best yet.

 

2. Jack White

His solo career started off relatively quiet on a number of acoustic numbers for the 2003 soundtrack Cold Mountain, back when the White Stripes were still kicking in high gear. Following the dissolution of the Stripes and work on the aforementioned collaborations, White dove full-on into life as a solo artist in 2012 with the release of Blunderbuss. With it and a subsequent tour, White flipped the script on the minimalism of the White Stripes by employing two multimember bands — one female and one male. On Border House Reach, White changes his stripes once again, getting cosmic, funky, and as Rolling Stone put it, “bracingly bonkers.”

1. The White Stripes

They take the top spot because it was in this duo — the other half being drummer and ex-wife, Meg White — that we first fell in love with Jack. Over six albums, they managed to keep us guessing, despite the limitations of the two-person lineup, and produced perhaps the greatest modern rock-jock anthem of the 2000s with “Seven Nation Army.”

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