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Jack White’s Best Classic Rock Cover Songs

Jack White
David Wolff-Patrick, Getty Images

Jack White is one of the century’s most magnetic artists, drawing in both classic- and indie-rock fans with his distinct style and wildly diverse guitar heroics. From his work with the White Stripes, as well as in various side projects, to his solo career, White is one of the millennium’s most restless artists. But he’s also a connoisseur of rock, pop and blues music of all shapes and sizes. He’s shown his love and respect over the years, from starting his own record company so he could release some long-neglected favorites to covering his influences on both record and stage. Our list of the Best Jack White Classic Rock Cover Songs merely scratches the surface of his depth.


 

In 2001, before they got super-famous, the White Stripes released a three-song record consisting of Captain Beefheart covers. The best of them is this frenzied take on 1980's 'Ashtray Heart,' from Beefheart's penultimate album, 'Doc at the Radar Station.' The original version is all kinds of messed up howls, grunts and trashcan percussion. White amps up the guitar but retains the weirdness.

 
 

Bob Dylan's original version of 'Isis' (from 1976's 'Desire') is seven minutes of unraveling storytelling, chaotic band shuffling and words that are more spit than sung. The White Stripes (who covered it in concert in 2002) strip it to less than four minutes and pull back on the unwieldiness that makes Dylan's version seem like a tightrope walk. White's guitar stabs are mighty piercing, though.

 

'Looking at You'

Original Artist: The MC5
 
 

The MC5 were noisy proto punks who came out of Detroit in the late '60s; White followed in their Motor City footsteps nearly 30 years later. So it's no surprise that he covered their abrasive 'Looking at You' (from their great second album 'Back in the USA') in concert during the White Stripes' pre-fame days. No surprise either that he gives the song all the dirty, noisy and brutally harsh respect it deserves.

 

'Love Sick'

Original Artist: Bob Dylan
 
 

White is a huge Bob Dylan fan (see 'Isis' elsewhere on our list of the Best Jack White Classic Rock Cover Songs). But he rarely goes for the obvious cuts (again, see 'Isis'). His take on 'Love Sick' (which comes from Dylan's 1997 renaissance album, 'Time Out of Mind') is pretty faithful to the original, right down to the song's slowly shuffling rhythm. The White Stripes' cover comes from the B-side of the 'Fell in Love With a Girl' single.

 

'Rich Kid Blues'

Original Artist: Terry Reid
 
 

Terry Reid was Jimmy Page's first choice of singer for the new group he was putting together after the Yardbirds split up. But Reid had something else going on and suggested a singer whose band once opened for him. So Robert Plant got the Led Zeppelin gig, and Reid became a footnote in rock history. Still, his big pipes earned him tons of fans over the years, including White, who covered Reid's 'Rich Kid Blues' with his side band the Raconteurs.

 

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