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Article Otis Redding

April 19th, 1965: Jack White performs Otis Redding classic for it's 50th anniversary.

Jack White performs Otis Redding classic for it's 50th anniversary.

The events we write about at Gaslight Records happened in some form or another 50 years ago to the day. Roll along with us and imagine you are back in 1969.

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On the 11th April 2015, Jack White performed at the Coachella Music Festival in California. This event alone doesn't warrant an article on gaslightrecords.com given the '50 years ago' premise of our website, but we're reporting on it because something happened during the show that is worth mentioning here. That is, White and his band covered Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long", a song that turns 50 on April 19th.

Although White didn't mention the anniversary during the show, it seems unlikely that he wouldn't have been aware of such a significant song's imminent golden jubilee.

Jack White performs Otis Redding classic for it's 50th anniversary.
Jack White performed Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long" for it's 50th anniversary this year.

White's career has been built upon reinterpretations of blues, country, and to a lesser extent, soul stylings that date almost exclusively back to the pre-Beatles era. There'd be no White Stripes without the influence of those like Hank Williams and Leadbelly, a notion affirmed not only by White's own songwriting style but also through his consistent reinvigoration of songs that might otherwise have been lost to history. Without Jack White what would've happened to Son House's "Death Letter Blues" or Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene" besides being confined to the guts of pretentiously large record collections?

And it's not just songs that Jack White has plucked from the bowels of history. See his recent restoration and use of a 1947 voice-o-graph recording booth to make a Neil Young Record; or his insistence on the use of analog recording methods and equipment.

White's nods to the past are often far more subtle. On his 2014 album Lazaretto, for example, he sang the line (during a song titled "Three Women"), "I got three women, red, blonde and brunette. I took a digital photograph to pick which one I like". Many years earlier (1933) a strikingly similar line was voiced in Blind Willie McTell's "Lord Send Me An Angel": "I got three women yellow, brown and black. Take the Governor of Georgia to pick which one I like."

What's made Jack White perhaps the greatest benefactor of music traditionalism working today, is that he has successfully lifted a vintage aesthetic in terms of sound, image and technology from his heroes of the past, and moulded it to suit his own purposes. Such calculated anachronism is often interpreted as a crude marketing ploy, but in White's case it has never come off that way. He's a student of history, and all he's doing, all he's ever been doing, is simply owning that fact. It started before the world was aware of Jack White the musician, back when he ran a furniture restoration and re-upholstery company. From there he took a similar ethos into making music, one that has continued until the present day: respect what has gone before you, learn from it, then reconfigure it into something of your own.

Jack White performs Otis Redding classic for it's 50th anniversary.
Otis Redding released "I've Been Loving You Too Long" on April 19th 1965

White has never overlooked his debt to the past, and that being the case, I for one find it hard to believe that he didn't know he was marking an important birthday last weekend. He repeatedly shouted "music is sacred" into the microphone during the show, and such a timely performance of Redding's song is testament not only to the notion of White as traditional music man, but to the idea that he really believes in what he's saying.

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