Music News

Happy Birthday, White Stripes' Meg White!

Born December 10, 1974, Megan Martha White, known to White Stripes fans simply as "Meg," isn't your typical rock goddess. Exceedingly shy to the point of paranoia, she forced the duo to cancel a 2007 tour due to her acute anxiety. She gladly ceded the spokesperson role to bandmate Jack White and rarely even shared a vocal; in fact, it wasn't until the White Stripes' fourth album that she opted to sing at all. Likewise, her drumming style is best described as primitive, an adjective both she and Jack readily embraced. "When she started to play drums with me, just on a lark, it felt liberating and refreshing," Jack White told one interviewer. "There was something in it that opened me up." 

By her own admission, Meg never took any drum lessons, and according to some sources, her only warm-up was a shot of whiskey with Red Bull. Yet Jack was consistent in his praise for her. "I never thought, 'God, I wish Neil Peart was in this band,'" he's been quoted as saying. "It's kind of funny; when people critique hip-hop, they're scared to open up for fear of being called racist. But they're not scared to open up on female musicians out of pure sexism. Meg is the best part of this band. It never would have worked with anybody else, because it would have been too complicated... It was my doorway to playing the blues."

"I appreciate other kinds of drummers who play differently, but it's not my style or what works for this band," Meg added. "I get criticism sometimes, and I go through periods where it really bothers me. But then I think about it, and I realize that this is what is really needed for this band. And I just try to have as much fun with it as possible... I just know the way Jack plays so well at this point, that I always know kind of what he's going to do. I can always sense where he's going with things just by the mood he's in or the attitude or how the song is going. Once in a while, he throws me for a loop, but I can usually keep him where I want."

Still, the White Stripes announced their retirement earlier this year -- no surprise really, considering Jack's involvement in his bands Dead Weather and the Raconteurs. The fact is, though, that Jack and Meg seemed bound together by more than their music. Speculation persisted for years as to whether they were really married, a claim the two would consistently deny, claiming instead they were brother and sister. In truth, the two had been married, although they divorced before the White Stripes hit their stride. 

Still, if the stereotypes hold true as Jack White contends, then drumming would seem to be the realm of men, one reason his comments may have some merit. The fact is, there have been a number of fine female drummers. One needs to look no further than the Bangles (Debbi Peterson), the Go-Go's (Gina Schock), or the late great Runways (Sandy West) to bear that out. Or to simply sample the work of Sheila E, a distinguished drummer and percussionist who achieved success both as a solo artist and as a contributor to other people's projects, Prince, George Duke and Ringo Starr's All Starr Band included. It'd also be worth referencing one of the essential bands of the '60s -- the Velvet Underground -- whose drummer, Mo Tucker, proved that a woman could be as edgy and insurgent as her male counterparts. To a great extent, Tucker proved an essential influence for Meg White; her rudimentary style with the Velvets and later with the band Half Japanese proved that attitude can supercede ability and be just as effective.

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Lee Zimmerman