The White Stripes preserve a legacy

Jack and Meg announced Wednesday the band has officially broken up.

By John Gehringer | Feb. 4, 2011

Tags: Music

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I still remember when they played music videos on MTV. Every morning, having dragged myself out of bed at some ungodly hour, I put obscene amounts of glue in my hair and sprayed volumes of cologne across my adolescent chest. Seventh grade was a strange time in my life, as it is for most people; struggling with my identity and chasing girls who wanted nothing to do with me. All of this was fueled by MTV’s early morning music block.

Although I was happy with the music of the time, hoping for a new Sum 41 or Blink 182 tune to hit the airwaves, I was completely blindsided one cold December morning. The song was called “The Hardest Button to Button,” from the album Elephant.

It was crunchy, dark and volcanic. This, my single exposure to a rather minimalistic music video on MTV’s morning block, was the beginning of my love affair with Jack and Meg White and The White Stripes.

After a 14-year run, six studio albums and a vast number of brilliant collaborations and side projects, The White Stripes finally called it quits Wednesday.

In a statement made by the band on its website, Jack and Meg attribute their decision to end the band’s longstanding tenure in the world of modern rock to a desire to “preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way.”

Rising from humble beginnings in Detroit, singer and multi-instrumentalist Jack Gillis took the first steps toward his big break in the music industry with his marriage to bartender and drummer Meg White, from which he took the surname of his new spouse.

Forming The White Stripes, the duo extensively toured the Michigan underground scene and eventually released a self-titled debut album in 1999.

The White Stripes continued touring and recording, releasing a follow-up album, titled De Stijl, in 2000. In this same year, Jack and Meg divorced, creating the myth of their sibling relationship which is still widely believed today.

De Stijl reached #38 on Billboard’s independent album chart, opening the door for the band’s widely enjoyed mainstream success.

The band's later releases, most notably White Blood Cells and Elephant, became staples for the generation of alt-rockers coming of age in the early 2000s, providing a stark and energetic alternative to the lad-punk and Madonna-holdover pop that dominated the airwaves at the time. Widely considered one of the decade’s most influential acts, Jack and Meg will surely be remembered fondly for years to come.

It’s a shame to see them go, I know this as much as anyone else. In all my time following the world of alternative music, I’ve never seen a more dynamic, genre-defying act.

On the bright side, however, we can be sure that there will be no bloated Elvis downward spirals, no Vegas acts or Christmas albums. Jack and Meg have gracefully taken a bow at their peak, leaving their legacy to shine brightly into the unknown future of rock ‘n roll.

I believe the band said it best themselves at the conclusion of their farewell letter: “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.”

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