Friday, May 19, 2006

Whoa, It's Jack White!

Those are the words my brother uttered upon Jack White taking the stage at the Modjeska Theater in 2002, just prior to the White Stripes taking off into mainstream popularity. The exact words stick with me to this day because I found it hilarious that he would act surprised that Jack White would show up on stage at a White Stripes concert. On the other hand, I can kind of understand that reaction. While one would never be surprised to see Richard Patrick at a Filter concert, there is something about the mythology of Jack White that makes his appearance as a real person a bit odd. It is the same kind of effect which causes me to be unable to type "Jack" or "White" when discussing him. He can be nothing other than "Jack White."

Obviously, much of the mythology is self-perpetuated. Call me naive, though, but I don't think the self-mythologizing is necessarily an attempt to generate publicity (in the vein of Marilyn Manson's self-mythologizing) but an authentic expression of an eccentric personality. For proof I point to two things. One, and again I must thank my brother for witnessing this, Jack White doesn't jaywalk. Even when there is not a car in sight, he will wait for the "walk" sign. This resonates with me because I have the same type of compulsion myself. I realize that it is not a normal impulse, and I've been accused of putting on an act of some kind when patiently standing at a crosswalk when a group I am with has to wait for me. However, this is not the case. Why do we (myself and Jack White that is) wait at crosswalks? Because in ceratain areas, we like to surrender control. As Jack White (I can't even type a pronoun in place of his name) told this month's "Spin": "I really don't like to be in control."

(Now before I go any further, I realize it is neurotic enough to have such a compulsion, but to claim that one understand's the mind of a celebrity, and to furthermore claim that such celebrity is like oneself, borders on a more severe neurosis. Perhaps it is, and I'll leave that for others to judge. In the spirit of full disclosure, I must point out something else. In "Fargo Rock City" Chuck Klosterman admits to favoring certain alcoholic beverages when he was in college because they were the drinks of choice for rock stars he idolized. I must admit to taking pride in drinking Coca-Cola/Cherry Coke after Jack White called it the greatest drink known to man and recorded a song special for a Coke commercial. In my defense I would argue that I am far from the only person to drink something on the basis of a social or cultural context rather than on taste alone. My reason might be more unique than most, but I don't this that makes it less odd. End personal digression).

The other reason I think Jack White's mythology has a degree of authenticity is because he is an honest to goodness seventh son. Though he brags about this in a song lyric, I don't think enough people realize the importance of this to his persona. Following the pygmalion theory (in which percpetion becomes reality), if one believes oneself to be mystically endowed, well, they just might have enough belief in their inherent powers to become the most talented rock n roller of their generation.

I also wish more people would discuss Jack White's one time status as an altar boy who aspired to priesthood. In general, I think the media overlooks the large number of accomplished secular rock stars who have been linked to Christianity because it doesn't fit in with rock's ethos of rebellion, but the majority of those have been Protestant (Van Morrison is one exception). In the same "Spin" article, Jack White said "Every day God throws a lot of things at you to test you." The author added his observation that "He still sees life as a quasi-biblical battleground between absitence and temptation, good and evil." These principles, particularly the one he expresses himself, are certainly more Catholic than Protestant.

As any reader of this blog knows, I am constantly on the lookout for a Hegelian synthesis. I see Jack White encompassing two of them. He combines the stripped down authenticity of the blues with the artifice of 1970s guitar rock (though you could make the case that this synthesis was so hard to sustain that he had to spin off into two different bands). He also combines the Dionysiun tradition of Rock with a Catholic (almost Manichean) tradition. (You could also argue that this responsbility was so demanding that he necessarily formed the Raconteurs to diffuse some of the pressure off of himself).

Because this seventh son has such a unique position in the rock pantheon, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that he is also a real dude, which is why it might be natural to express surprise when seeing him exactly where you would expect to see him. I think I'm going to go grab a Coke now.


Anonymous nWo 4 life! said...

Jack White is a massive tool. I sayed this knowing nothing about the cracker other than he was included in rolling stone's top 100 guitarists while Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, C.C. Deville, Ted Nugent, Mick Mahrs, etc. were not.

Only 3 things in life are forever. Diamonds, Ric Flair and Paul Stanley. Smoke it.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Azor said...

Maynard James Keenan is a tool.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

"Whoa, it's Jack White."
-- Me

8:48 AM  

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