Singing the Blues

Last week, Meg and Jack White split up for the second time. In 2000, the couple terminated their four-year marriage but the duo kept going as The White Stripes. The band formed in Michigan in 1997 with Jack on vocals, guitar and keyboards, and Meg on drums and sometimes on vocals. Their back-to-basics musical style was heavily influenced by blues and punk and they developed an equally simple visual style of red, white and black that featured prominently in the marketing of the group. They released six studio albums between 1999 and 2007, with White Blood Cells (2001) and Elephant (2003) being my own particular favourites. It’s not a complete surprise that they’ve split up as Jack, who writes most of the songs, has been busy recently as both a producer of numerous acts and as a member of The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. Many of the band’s originals have been covered over the last decade and the Whites also put out their own versions of blues and country numbers

Jack White has covered Bob Dylan a few times and even sang with him on stage. Outlaw Blues appeared on Dylan’s first electric album, Bringing It All Back Home, and The Stripes performed it on their live concert film from 2004, Under Blackpool Lights. As well as singing about the blues, Dylan also wrote a great song about the bluesman Blind Willie McTell. Your Southern Can is Mine is my favourite track from McTell and The White Stripes do a good version of it on their second long player, De Stijl (2000). As well as taking on blues and country songs, the band put out some fine interpretations of pop standards such as their cover of Dolly Parton’s Jolene. I really like their version of a song popularised by Dusty Springfield, I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself. That song appears on Elephant, as does their own most covered song, Seven Nation Army. Alice Russell, CW Stoneking and The Flaming Lips have all sung it, but I’ve chosen a soulful ska version by The Dynamics. The Hardest Button to Button first appeared on Elephant as well and the live version by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is taken from a free NME CD from 2004. One of the band’s simplest songs is We’re Going to Be Friends from White Blood Cells. It’s performed here by Bree Sharp, lead singer with a band called Beautiful Small Machines. Jack and Meg managed to remain friends following their marital break-up and I’ve no doubt that their status as friends will stay the same following their musical split

Outlaw Blues (Bob Dylan cover) – The White Stripes

Your Southern Can Is Mine (Blind Willie McTell cover) – The White Stripes

I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself (Tommy Hunt cover) – The White Stripes

Seven Nation Army (White Stripes cover) – The Dynamics

The Hardest Button To Button (White Stripes cover) – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

We’re Going To Be Friends (White Stripes cover) – Bree Sharp

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