Friday Night with Guitar George: Jack White – Not Fade Away

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: Jack White is an extremely talented but very eccentric musician who is at times surprisingly charming and at times annoyingly aloof or self-indulgent. That’s fine. Know who else was extremely talented but very eccentric and at times surprisingly charming or annoyingly aloof or self-indulgent?  Isaac Newton. Who else?  Ludwig van Beethoven, Herman Melville, Bob Dylan, Steve Jobs, Sean Penn and pretty much all male musicians who are known by one name: Sting, Prince, Bono, Slash, Kanye.

When my lovely daughter was a senior in high school, she briefly dated a guy named Josh who knew I was a big music fan, especially of blues-based rock music. When he found out that I did not own any White Stripes albums, he burned a CD for me—about 25 tracks culled from De Stijl, White Blood Cells, and Elephant. Shortly thereafter, my daughter broke up with Josh, but I still have that CD he made for me, and I have since acquired copies of Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump. With only a small handful of exceptions, I love every single song on those CDs despite my inability to provide you with a rational explanation. Perhaps it is because beneath all that eccentricity, all the histrionics, all the vacillations between the extremes of the musical spectrum, there is a nugget of blues purity and simplicity from which Jack White’s art emerges.

The only problem in featuring Jack White on FNWGG is trying to choose among the bajillion videos on the interwebs of Jack White performing live—with White Stripes, with The Raconteurs, with Dead Weather, and by himself. At one extreme, there is a particularly wicked performance of “Ball in a Biscuit” in which Jack comes perilously close to completely flying off the rails. At the other extreme there is a tastefully understated cover of “Mother Nature’s Son” at a White House ceremony honoring Paul McCartney. I ended up choosing this clip of Jack performing the Buddy Holly classic “Not Fade Away” for a number of reasons which I won’t bore you with, but mostly because it embodies the aforementioned nugget of blues purity and simplicity.

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