Jack White

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

Comments (69)
  1. “Adele selling 20 million records? That would not have happened if Amy Winehouse was alive.”

    Because it would’ve been 20,000,001 because Winehouse would’ve picked up a copy? The fuck kind of point is that?

  2. GodDammit Jack! don’t be an Asshole!

  3. Also, anyone else notice how Rolling stone is behind all this?

  4. When Black Keys first started making waves, around 2002 or so, I thought the same thing: poor man’s White Stripes (the band name sure didn’t help). But by now, the two groups have barely anything in common, other than being a two-person outfit. If Jack White had made these comments a decade ago, I’d say sure, but at this point it seems more like Liam Gallagher-flavored press baiting than a legitimate complaint.

    Of course, anybody capable of making Detriot “rise from the ashes” strictly on the strength of his name may be beyond criticism at this point. Dan Auerbach never did THAT, now did he?

    • I would argue the other way around, they sound more alike now than they did then. I would say the black keys debut ‘the big come up’ sounds less like the white stripes than anything else they’ve done.

  5. Jack killin two birds with one stone taking down The Black Keys AND Adele in one Rolling Stone article quote! YOU SHOW THOSE PEOPLE WHO HAVE DONE NOTHING TO PROVOKE YOU!

  6. It’s cool someone remembered Duffy.

  7. I like the White Stripes more than the Black Keys, but damn this sounds insecure. If he’s so convinced of his legacy, why does he feel the need to knock the Black Keys’ popularity? The Rolling Stones were never going around taking shots at any number of crappy blues-rock bands for watering down their sound and selling tons of records. Anyway, play Blunderbuss and El Camino back to back and I doubt you’ll hear Auerbach and Carney just “watering down” what Jack White does.

    • Sure they don’t sound alike anymore, but they definitely used White’s sound as a springboard to achieve a certain level of success; that’s the dirty part of it. It’s kind of a “fake it til you make it” situation. I definitely think Dan Auerbach has immense talent for sure (I love that Dr. John record to death!) but fair is fair.

  8. drizzt  |   Posted on May 30th +21

    Maybe Jack White really does think he’s the first person to play the blues.

    • guess you completely skipped the part where he said “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. “

  9. Chris  |   Posted on May 30th +12

    “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…The White Stripes did the same thing, and in our absence, you’re gonna find someone to fill that.”

    So, like how White Stripes filled the void created by the absence of Led Zeppelin?

  10. Is anyone else here on Jack’s side? Rude…..sure. Also accurate. Why are we demanding our rock stars be polite? I’m glad Jack is rude and doesn’t hold back his thoughts in interviews. Furthermore, the Black keys are absolutely Stripes rip offs. I remember the first time I heard them in a bar years ago, I asked “is this the new Stripes record?” The bartender replied “No it’s the newest rip off band, the Black Keys” I agreed with him. All you offended commenters are the reason we have so few real rockstars left. The rock audience wants rival bands to eat cupcakes and hug each other.

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    • Gotta kind of agree. If the White Stripes are now classic then the Black Crowes should have their likenesses carved out on Mount Rockmore.

  12. White calling the kettle Black.

  13. I think the point he is making is valid, but he’s articulating it like a condescending asshole, it doesn’t help that he uses his own band as an example of “the act that opened up a style” but eh it’s Jack White

  14. i like the white stripes but they were a watered down classic rock act.

  15. I understand why Jack White feels that way. I also understand why Anthony Kiedis would feel that way after hearing the first minute of “Lazaretto”. (awesome song, don’t get me wrong… just saying. we all borrow styles here.)

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  17. I really didn’t have anything against Jack White until he started publicly hating the Black Keys. I hate the Black Keys, but if Jack White really thinks they’re stealing something from him, I have a collection of a century of American music that makes Jack White sound like “watered-down” Mother Goose rhymes.

  18. I’m off topic but…. Tv On The Radio just played 3 new songs at Bottlerock in Napa tonight and all 3 were as badass as Mercy. New album this year it it will be fucking amazing.

  19. Yes, but worse.

  20. I think White might be giving himself a bit too much credit anyway. I seem to remember The Strokes having just a little something to do with the garage rock revival.

  21. Nirvana weren’t innovators. Nevermind was an amalgam of Black Sabbath, Pixies, The Beatles etc.

    That doesn’t take away from the fact that they brought their own sound and style to mainstream rock music and a few years later there were watered down/second rate version of Nirvana everywhere.

    The same thing with Bends-era Radiohead. They had their obvious influences but it was still their own sound. Of course the hundreds of bands were ripping that off and selling lots of records once Radiohead went in a difference direction.

    Even a band that wore their influences on their sleeve as much as Interpol was still unique relative to their time period. Then a year later every other indie rock band was playing some type of post-punk revival music.

    I have listened to The Black Keys music enough to say if Jack White is right about them, but the general concept he’s talking about seems valid to me

    • I remember when they first came out and were on Conan, i figured they musta been Jack White buddies since their name was such an obvious homage/ripoff, as well as their 2-man drum ‘n guitar minimal sound. Plus, White Stripes-Michigan, Keys-Ohio. BUT clearly i was wrong about that haha, it was 100% ripoff all the way, pitiful. You wanna BORROW a sound and like, add to it? Change it up? Fine. But these direct ripoff acts are just fucking sad.

  22. c_e  |   Posted on May 31st 0

    Yeah, they both play a sort of bluesy, garage rock, but they sound vastly different. Black Keys are more stadium, and could never pull something like Icky Thump. You can’t say everyone in the genre is copying you. What about Alabama Shakes?

  23. He’s right, i’ve heard the White Stripes wannabes on commercials too. One of them pretty recently, must be really annoying.

  24. I thought Jack’s apology was classy and right-on and I also noticed he took the opportunity to throw some more deep shade the Black Keys’ way.

    “their producer and songwriter Danger Mouse” = They need some other dude to help write their songs.

    “I hope their record stays in the top ten for many months” = They’re really more of a pop band, not sure why I’m paying attention.

    “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” = If Dan Auerbach wants to completely copy my life, I’ll just take it as flattery and try not to be annoyed.

    • i think you’re reading way too much into those statements

      • “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”

  25. This is a classic Seinfeld/Bania scenario…

    But seriously has anyone heard Adele’s cover (actually her singing over the Raconteurs instrumental track) of the Raconteurs “Many Shades of Black”? Oddly enough, it was actually a Raconteurs B-Side, so I’m assuming Jack White doesn’t really have a problem with Adele.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwHomaPk0kw

  26. I wonder what Billy Childish has to say about all this Jack?

  27. Jack be ego trippin.

  28. Is Jack White going to become the next permament musician-troll / Wayne Coyne? At least, in his defense, he knows how to apologize sincerely. And to his credit as well, he is not the first interviewed person whose answers are squeezed out and sensationalized by Rolling Stone (cf. Warpaint guitarist / Beyoncé controversy).

  29. The Black Keys are obvious White Stripes knockoffs. All of those overripe English melisma-niacs are obvious Amy Winehouse imitators. What’s the controversy?

    If anything, he should keep going and acknowledge that the Stripes and Ms. Winehouse were overly-stylized emulators of late-sixties English blues-rock bands (sans competent drumming) and Dusty Springfield, who ,in turn, were heavily influenced by Robert Johnson and Billie Holiday, who got their sounds from the devil and God respectively.

  30. Apology accepted, because that’s so much more than he needed to do, or than what most people would have done. Now stop talking about it, Jack.

  31. wg  |   Posted on Jun 2nd +1

    Comparing the White Stripes to the Black Keys is so so so goddamned lazy. Apart from the blues rock duo thing, they don’t and never did sound alike. Totally different vocal and guitar styles. It’s like pitting Zeppelin against the Stones. Similar artists, similar influences, similar musical eras – executing in slightly different ways. Why argue about it?

    In an era where rock music is dying and blues is a relic, these idiots should get some perspective. Then again nothing brings attention to musicians, and whole genres better than a feud. . .case in point, hip-hop in the mid to late 90′s, east vs. west, tupac vs. biggie etc. Maybe White will challenge Auerbach to an old-timey duel.

  32. Jack White and The Black Keys. Time to make up with a collaboration!

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