Jack White (born John Anthony Gillis on July 9, 1975) is an American musician, record producer, and occasional actor best known as the guitarist and lead vocalist of the alternative rock musical duo The White Stripes. He is also a member of rock band The Raconteurs. During the 1990s, White was a part-time musician in various underground bands in Detroit, while working by day as an upholsterer.
White formed The White Stripes in 1997 with then-wife Meg White. The band went on to have a string of critically-acclaimed albums, with their third, White Blood Cells, catapulting them to international stardom. Jack was ranked #17 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time." White's popular and critical success with The White Stripes enabled him to collaborate as a solo artist with other renowned musicians, such as Loretta Lynn, whose 2004 album Van Lear Rose he produced and performed on, Beck, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. In 2005, White became a founding member of the rock band The Raconteurs.
White, the youngest of ten children (seven sons, three daughters), was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Teresa and Gorman Gillis. White makes reference to the fact that he is the seventh son in the song "Ball and Biscuit", when singing the line "But it's a fact that I'm the seventh son". His father and mother worked for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, as the maintenance man and the Cardinal's secretary, respectively. Jack, like his six brothers, eventually became an altar boy, which landed him an uncredited role in the 1987 movie The Rosary Murders, filmed mainly at Holy Redeemer parish in southwest Detroit. As a child he was a fan of classical music.
White began playing instruments (a drum) at the age of five. Although White grew up near Mexicantown, a lower-middle-class Hispanic neighborhood in southwest Detroit, his musical preferences were not those of his classmates, who listened to electronica and hip hop. White, as a teenager, was already listening to the blues and 1960s rock that would influence him in the White Stripes, Son House and Blind Willie McTell being among his favorite blues musicians.
In 2005 on 60 Minutes, White told Mike Wallace that his life could have turned out differently. "I'd got accepted to a seminary in Wisconsin, and I was gonna become a priest, but at the last second I thought, 'I’ll just go to public school,'" White said. "I had just gotten a new amplifier in my bedroom, and I didn’t think I was allowed to take it with me." At fifteen, White began a three-year upholstery apprenticeship with a family friend, Brian Muldoon. After working in various shops, White started a one-man business of his own, called Third Man Upholstery. The slogan of his business was "Your Furniture's Not Dead" and the color scheme was yellow and black — including a yellow van, a yellow and black uniform and a yellow clipboard. While Third Man Upholstery never lacked business, White claims that it was not profitable, due to his complacency about money and his business practices that were perceived as unprofessional, including making bills out in crayon and writing poetry inside the furniture.
White also produces a "fake" bass tone by playing the Kay Hollowbody and JB Hutto Montgomery Airline guitars through a Whammy IV set to one octave down for a very thick, low, rumbling sound, which he uses most notably on the songs "Seven Nation Army" and "The Hardest Button to Button".
On occasion, White also plays other instruments, such as a Black Gibson F-4 mandolin ("Little Ghost"), piano (on most tracks from Get Behind Me Satan, and various others), an electric piano on such tracks as "The Air Near My Fingers" and "I'm Finding it Harder to be a Gentleman" in which he used a Rhodes Mark II stage piano. White also plays percussion instruments such as the marimba (as on "The Nurse"), drums and tambourine. On Broken Boy Soldiers, he is credited as playing the album's synths and organ; however, bandmate Brendan Benson also received credit for these instruments and it is unclear who played on which song.
White plays barre chords with a different technique than most musicians. Instead of using his ring finger to fret the higher notes, Jack uses his little finger. This is because of a car accident in which his left index finger was injured and also the fact that his brothers would never teach him the proper way to do so, which he explains in an appearance with the Raconteurs on the show In the Attic.
On December 13, 2003, White was involved in an altercation with Jason Stollsteimer (lead singer of The Von Bondies) at the Magic Stick, a Detroit club. White was charged with misdemeanor aggravated assault. He pled guilty to the charge, and was fined $750 (including court costs), and was sentenced to take anger management classes.
White had a brief but highly publicized romantic relationship with actress Renée Zellweger, whom he met during the filming of Cold Mountain in 2003. That summer, the couple were in a car accident in which White broke his left index finger and was forced to reschedule much of the summer tour. He posted the footage of his finger surgery on the web for fans. White and Zellweger's breakup became public in December 2004.
White married model Karen Elson (who appeared in the music video for the White Stripes song "Blue Orchid") on June 1, 2005 in Manaus, Brazil. Manager Ian Montone was the best man and Meg White was the maid of honor. Official wedding announcements stated that it was the first marriage for both. On May 2, 2006, the couple had a daughter, named Scarlett Teresa White. In 2006, it was revealed in the Sunday Times Rich List that White and Elson had a joint fortune of at least £20 million GBP (US$37 million). This ranked them at seventh place in the list of entertainers under age 30 who were born or live in the United Kingdom, ahead of the likes of Orlando Bloom and Kate Winslet. Their second child, Henry Lee White, was born on August 7, 2007. In the announcement, White's publicist confirmed that the children's last name was White, a topic that had caused a minor stir in the media, considering the origin of the last name is his ex-wife.
White gives few interviews and reveals few details of his private life. He states that he does not consider it relevant to his art, saying "It's the same thing as asking Michelangelo, 'What kind of shoes do you wear?'...In the end, it doesn't really matter ... the only thing that's going to be left is our records and photos."
White resides in Brentwood, Tennessee with his wife and 2 children, Scarlett Teresa and Henry Lee.
As one of the White Stripes, White has also created some sensation on and off the stage. The band (when on official duty) dresses only in red, white, and black, which Jack believes are "the most powerful color combination of all time, from a Coca-Cola can to a Nazi banner. A topic of intrigue has been the actual relationship between Jack and Meg. In early interviews, the pair presented themselves as siblings, two of ten. The Flaming Lips touch on this in their song "Thank You Jack White (for the Fiber-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)" released on their 2003 EP Fight Test. However, the Detroit Free Press produced copies of both a marriage licence and divorce certificate, confirming Jack and Meg's history as a married couple. Neither addresses the truth officially; however, over time, they have become less vocal about the origins of their relationship. Jack White has said, though, that siblings are "mated for life", and thus such relationships distract less from the music. Also in July 2007, The White Stripes made history by playing the shortest ever concert by only playing one note (F), in St John's, Newfoundland. They played a full show later that night at the Mile One Centre in downtown St. John's.
It was rumored that in 2003 White was featured on Electric Six's song "Danger! High Voltage." Initially both he and the Electric Six denied this, and the vocal work was credited officially to the unknown John S O'Leary. However, a recent radio interview with Tim Shaw on Kerrang! 105.2 in the UK had Electric Six lead singer Dick Valentine talking openly about White singing on this song as well as speculating on the amount of money he was paid ($60,000). Also, in Q magazine in an article specific to The White Stripes it stated that Jack White did in fact work with Electric 6 and the vocals in the song "Gay Bar".