THE SEVENTH SON Jack White

In the confession booth with the White
Stripes/Raconteurs/Dead Weather mainman.

 

BY PAMELA DES
BARRES

 

I have to admit
I am a bit spoiled when it comes to rock star greatness. Having been in front
of (behind, upside down, sideways and beside) many brilliant innovators, it
takes a whole lot of genius to turn
my flaming red head and perk up my jaded, rocked out ears. Before the White
Stripes came along, the last important rock god for me, was Kurt Cobain, an
obviously tortured fellow who reflected the angst of his discontent young
audience to raging perfection. I believe Eminem does that for his pissed-off
young followers, but as winningly dangerous as it is, I don’t quite classify
his music as rock ‘n’ roll.

 

I have
interacted with most of my musical heroes, and truth be told, there are very
few in the last couple of decades who have intrigued me enough to dash out and
make their acquaintance.  Jack White of
the White Stripes being the Magnificent Exception. (Or is that “Obsession”?)

 

It took a few
months to pin him down, because Mr. White is just about the busiest man in show
business, but I am finally winging my way to Nashville for a meet-and-greet with what my
Goddaughter Polly Parsons (Gram’s daughter) calls “An audience with the modern
Elvis.”

 

Besides acting,
producing and running a company, Jack White has three bands – the White Stripes
with his “sister” ex-wife, Meg, the Raconteurs (love ‘em!) and most recently,
moody the Dead Weather, in which he play drums. Their debut album is out July
16.

 

The sun pours
down like blazing honey today in the sweaty south, and as I wend my rental car
through the maze up and down hilly streets, I soon realize most of them are
blocked off, and thousands of Nike-clad runners have taken the place of all the
vehicles. I am in the middle of an annual marathon and cannot get anywhere near
my all-important destination – Jack White’s new studio/office/complex where our
interview is taking place. Not even sure where I am, I park under a shady tree
and start hiking in the 90 degree heat, wearing my favorite strappy snakeskin
high heels, purchased in Roma, of course. Ouch. But despite the probable
sunburn and blisters, the show must go on. I will meet Jack White today. I will. I will. Feeling like a thief, I
snatch someone’s Wall Street Journal to shade my eyes, and at 20 minutes past
our designated meet time, my cell phone rings. It’s Jack’s assistant wondering
where I am.  I explain about being lost
in the massive marathon and she promises to come fetch me for her master.  

 

Dressed all in
black (as I am sure you know, he only wears red, white & black) the modern
Elvis welcomes the bedraggled visiting journalist into his inner sanctum within
his shimmering gothic lair and we settle in on a cozy couch to chat. His
charisma is bombastic, but surprisingly, his spirit is gentle, centered and
serene. I am thrilled to hear he is reading my first book, I’m With the Band.

 

“I remembered
when I first saw it in the bookstore when I was a kid,” he confesses. “I was
scared of you when I saw that book and I’d actually flip through and look at
the photos every time I went to the bookstore. 
I don’t know why, but you scared me, like this girl’s too much!  She’s like, over the top, outrageous!”

 

 Jack is the seventh son in a religious family
of nine children, (Born Again Dad, Catholic Mom) and I try to picture him at
12, feeling naughty for peeking into my life. “But redheads have always
attracted and repelled me magnetically at the same time,” he adds, “That’s in
line with Ginger from Gilligan’s Island.”
(For those few who aren’t familiar with that wacky ‘60s sitcom, it featured a
scantily clad red-haired B-feature “Movie Star.”)

 

I suggest that
perhaps the fiery depictions of the Lord’s muse, Mary Magdalene may have engaged
his youthful fascination. “Maybe so,” he ponders, “but she wasn’t a whore.”
Aaahhh, a man after my own heart! I knew we were kindred spirits.

 

I hope you’re
not expecting the typical rock talk here, dolls. This is where I like to go
with my interview subjects: deep. When he tells me he’s read one of my faves, The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene,
we revel in the discussion between a disciple and Jesus: “Why do you kiss her
on the mouth?” The answer? “Because I kiss her on the mouth.” We agree that the
Lord was very Zen indeed. Jack then tells me something that totally blows my
mind because it’s a brand new way of hearing a certain biblical quote. “I named
one of my albums Get Behind Me Satan,
my favorite phrase Jesus said, because the triple meaning behind that is so
powerful:  The idea that the devil could
‘get behind me’ as in back me up. The
idea of Satan not as just some evil figure, but the idea beneath all, is get
behind me, man, get with me on it.”

 

Wow. I have to
fan myself after that one.

 

Despite growing
up in a “Christian battleground,” Jack is pleased with the outcome. “I’ve taken
a lot of things from it, most importantly God. 
I’m just glad I got God out of all of that because I would hate to have
waited until I was in my thirties to have discovered God, in whatever aspect.”
Jack pauses, very thoughtful. “I sort of default to Jesus.  Do you know what I mean?  I listen to all kinds of spirituality and
respect all of it, and if I’d grown up in China, I would have had a different
path.  So I don’t believe this one’s
better than the rest, but I default to Jesus because that’s the one I know.”

 

I tell Jack that
my belief is that we all are a part of God, that the all and everything, every
person, creature and atom make up the entirety of God. “My main focus on God is
that he’s creating from nothing and we’re creating from the pre-existing
materials, especially as artists,” he insists, “We can only take the wood that
he put here and make something out of it. 
We can’t create from nothing. 
That’s what divides him from everything, not only from people, because
we are all a part of him, like you said. 
But it divides it all because it’s the one thing he has that we can’t
touch, and we could never come close.  I
mean, the greatest thing we could ever create, be it the Empire State
Building or a pyramid,
it’s laughable compared to a planet or a solar system.”

 

For this
particular redhead, rock ‘n’ roll is an ideal way to get way inside Great God
Almighty, and the raucous, masterful, multi-level music Jack White creates is
its own unique solar system.

 

 

 

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