Where's The Beef?

Jack White Calls Black Keys “Watered-Down” White Stripes, Later Apologizes

By Miles Bowe / May 30, 2014

Earlier this month, the Black Keys discussed their Jack White feud and were pretty sympathetic to the guy — but now White has talked more about the Keys in his new Rolling Stone cover story, and it’s pretty ugly. In the article he says the Black Keys’ success has hinged on filling the void left by the White Stripes, comparing it to Amy Winehouse opening the door to current stars like Lana Del Rey and Adele. You can read the full quote below.

There are kids at school who dress like everybody else, because they don’t know what to do, and there are musicians like that, too. I’ll hear TV commercials where the music’s ripping off sounds of mine, to the point I think it’s me. Half the time, it’s the Black Keys. The other half, it’s a sound-alike song because they couldn’t license one of mine. There’s a whole world that’s totally fine with the watered-down version of the original.

Some people will hear that and say ‘Oh, Jack White thinks he’s the first person to play the blues.’ But certain acts open up a market for a certain style. Amy Winehouse: Did she invent white soul? Wearing a beehive? No. But she did something brand new and fresh, altogether as a package, and you see who’s in her wake, from the Duffys to the Lana Del Reys. Adele selling 20 million records? That would not have happened if Amy Winehouse was alive. The White Stripes did the same thing, and in our absence, you’re gonna find someone to fill that. And you get a band like the Black Keys, who said they never heard of the White Stripes? Sure.

(via Rolling Stone)

UPDATE: Jack White has posted a long apology on his website which addresses his comments in Rolling Stone about both the Black Keys and about his current relationship with Meg. Read the whole apology below:

It seems like it’s becoming obvious that to continue the activities I have planned for the rest of my year as a musician, and not be hounded by nonsense throughout those experiences, I should make a statement to clear up a lot of the negativity surrounding things I’ve said or written, despite the fact that I loathe to bring more attention to these things.

I felt in a way forced into talking about very private opinions of mine that are very much in the realm of “behind the curtain” show business conversations, and things to do with my own family and friends. These are things I never talked about publicly, but through the actions of lawyers trying to villainize me in a private legal scenario, my private letters were made public for reasons I still don’t understand. They contained comments that were part of a much bigger scenario that is difficult to elaborate on, and also one that I really shouldn”t have to explain as it was personal and private in nature.

There are a lot of things that only people around me can know about or understand, but despite all of that I want to say this: I wish the band the Black Keys all the success that they can get. I hope the best for their record label Nonesuch who has such a proud history in music, and in their efforts to bring the Black Keys songs to the world. I hope for massive success also for their producer and songwriter Danger Mouse and for the other musicians that their band employs. Lord knows that I can tell you myself how hard it is to get people to pay attention to a two piece band with a plastic guitar, so any attention that the Black Keys can get in this world I wish it for them, and I hope their record stays in the top ten for many months and they have many more successful albums in their career.

Remarks I’ve made about the state of the music business and about how certain acts create new markets in the minds of music lovers are also very difficult to clarify without exacerbating the issue. In an attempt to not give the music magazine Rolling Stone a “no comment,” because I thought they would use that to convey some sort of pettiness on my part, I decided to try to explain a tiny portion of what they were asking. But, they are the type of comments that are to be made to producers, engineers, and managers who thoroughly understand the behind-the-scenes of what we do all day long. I should’ve been smarter to know that it would be pointless to use comparisons like I did to readers who most likely don’t understand the scenario and that my words would seem very negative in nature. That’s not me trying to sound like I’m above anyone, it was just “shop talk” and it sounded a lot more negative than it was meant to.

I wish no slight to the talents of Winehouse, Duffy, Lana del Rey, and Adele. All of whom are wonderful performers with amazing voices. I have their records and I hope for more success for them all as the years go on. They deserve all they’ve gotten. And, I also would love to state that I personally find it inspiring to have powerful, positive female voices speaking out and creating at all times in the mainstream, and all of those singers do just that, so I thank them.

Meg White, who I also talked about to Rolling Stone about our working conversations, or lack thereof, is, of course, a musician I’ve personally championed for 15 years. She is a strong female presence in rock and roll, and I was not intending to slight her either, only to explain how hard it was for us to communicate with our very different personalities. This got blown out of proportion and made into headlines, and somehow I looked like I was picking on her. I would never publicly do that to someone I love so dearly. And, there are mountains of interviews where my words are very clear on how important I think she is to me and to music.

We live in a sound bite, sensationalized age. The “non apology” has become a lawyer’s dodge for celebrities themselves, given to a public that usually doesn’t want to hear it as it disrupts the tabloid “dirt” that we all want to occur. Because the conversations I’ve had that have been made public and recontextualized are difficult to clarify without making it seem even more petty and strange, this is an apology to anyone I’ve offended with my comments about my creativity, their creativity, and the music business in general. I wish for a long, fruitful, healthy family of creative people to continue to grow around me and the musicians I work with, the city of Nashville, America and the world of listeners that this music can reach.

Anyone who can get people to pay attention for more than a second with musical notes in this age, or any age for that matter, deserves credit and applause. Thank you for reading all of this and I hope that the nonsense started by lawyers and strangers to me and perpetuated by tabloid journalism can be left behind, and all of the musicians can move forward in positivity. So, God bless the Black Keys, Danger Mouse, Adele, Meg White, and anyone else I’ve spoken about, and thank you for understanding. Good fortune to all of them, and I’m sorry for my statements hurting anyone.

Jack White