One riff of White's could reasonably be called one of the most widely celebrated. His guitar line on the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" is routinely sung in sports arenas around the world — a remarkable reverberation for a two-piece blues band.
"The part I love about it is people are chanting a melody, not lyrics or a rhythm — which is pretty, pretty amazing" says White. "You don't own it anymore. It's everybody's."
The White Stripes, the duo of White and drummer Meg White that produced six studio albums before officially splitting in 2011, remains a foundational experience to White. He can sound slightly wistful about the group.
"The truth is it's the most challenging thing that ever happened to me," he says. "There was no bigger challenge than that — to try to win people over with just two people. It will be hard for me to ever think of something to challenge myself as much as that because of its simplicity."
One might expect a solo record to be a more direct line into White, and perhaps if you add up the ingredients — the Rhodes piano, the mirrored effect on a drum beat, the howl of rebellion — it is. But don't go reading the tea leaves for song meanings. He writes, he says, as he always has: in the guise of a bluesman singing about "some kind of stories, some kind of struggle."
"I never look at any of my songs as being first person, 'This is about me,'" says White. "I've never written in that style, and if even if I did, I probably would never tell people that I was. It would be too close to home to give that away."
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