Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

Meg White, Loose and Free

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

This week’s Free Ride* muses on the artistry of Meg White, who turns 37 today. The iconic drummer gained fame for her work with the Grammy-winning duo, the White Stripes. She gained as much notoriety for the mystery surrounding her relationship with the other half of the band, Jack White, since they were apparently married for four years, but often claimed they were siblings. A strange pair, indeed. But there’s nothing strange about The White Stripes’ music; it’s raw, minimalist, and primitive, blending punk, blues, country and folk into a guitar-drums garage band sound. Part of the simplicity of her playing is due to her only taking up the drums in the late 1990s, just a few short years before their first Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album (Elephant). Jack White speaks of the role Meg played in the sound that became so popular: She’s perfect; she’s the best part of the band, really. Her style is just so simplistic that I can work around it and work with it. . . If we had anybody else onstage it would just get ruined, I think.

There’s bound to be something liberating in having such a simple structure to work with, in a two-person band. But to reflect on the theme of freedom, I’ll turn not to the music, but to the lyrics of one of the rare White Stripes selections where Meg added some vocals. She sang on a handful of songs, and my favorite is their cover of an old Loretta Lynn number, Rated X.

well if you’ve been a married woman
and things didn’t seem to work out
divorce is the key to being loose and free
but you’re gonna be talked about

everybody knows that you loved once
they think you’ll love again

you can’t have a male friend

when you’re a has been

for a woman you’re rated x

well nobody knows where you’re going
but they sure know where you been

all they’re thinking of

is your experience in love

well their minds fill up with sin

the women all look at you like you’re bad

the men all hope you are

but if you go too far

you’re gonna wear the scar

of a women, rated x

Meg White certainly has had her share of being talked about. But she lives in a different era and a different world than Loretta. The scars she wears come from different cultural norms and expectations. The free spirit she demonstrated when sitting behind the drum set in those White Stripes concerts was restricted by ongoing battles with anxiety and panic attacks. Since the dissolution of the band, she has been spending her time working in photography and taxidermy. I hope there’s less panic in that line of work, and that she is truly feeling loose and free.

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