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Nick Hasted - Jack White: How He Built An Empire From The Blues book review

Peeling at the disguises of The White Stripes’ unknowable mainman

You may as well count the stars in the sky or the lies in a Donald Trump speech as try to biograph Jack White. He has created a multi-layered smokescreen around his true character, name and sister/lover relationship with his White Stripes bandmate Meg, like some kind of Willy Wonka And The Unusual Vinyl Factory.

So even Nick Hasted’s obsessively researched book falls at several insurmountable hurdles; little fresh light can be shed on the causes of White’s notorious attack on the Von Bondies’ Jason Stollmeister, his restraining order from second wife Karen Elson, or even the White Stripes’ split. Hasted does, however, deliver a probing and insightful account of this modern blues experimentalist’s public face, and an engrossing study of how one man’s success can tear a tight-knit rock scene apart.

Part road trip diary as Hasted colourfully tours run-down Detroit and new-money Nashville in White’s footsteps, and part deadly drinking game if you neck a finger every time he mentions an old blues act or no-mark Detroit scene band, the book recruits an extensive cast of White’s associates to prise at the mask, exposing intriguing details from his insecure youth as the youngest of 10 to the wedding-cake fight at his marriage to Elson. At the core, Hasted makes an artful sketch of Jack’s unfathomable relationship with Meg, the ex-wife with whom he had a truly sisterly bond. A craftsman tracing an enigma.