The thing that always struck me the most about them, was their ability to sound raw and edgy, and still to be incredibly endearing. So rather than trot out a list of reasons why they were important, or innovative, or relentlessly cool (which have all been done before,) here's a list of some of their most endearing moments as a band. Keep in mind, it's by no means meant to be exhaustive. So please -- add your own reasons, memories, and clips in the comments section.
In this way, we all grieve together.
They Re-invented the Phrase "Stripped-Down"
The White Stripes were really good at having reverence for music of the past, and making it new and relevant for this generation. They were often carefully, intentionally simple. "Fell in Love with a Girl" is an amazing aural and visual representation of this. While the video filled with Legos and pixelated images, it's done in a purposeful and sophisticated way. And it melted peoples' faces. A colleague of mine observed, "What 'Clint Eastwood' was for Gorillaz, 'Fell in Love with a Girl' was for the White Stripes." It cracked it wide open.
Their Live Performances
Nearly everyone who saw the White Stripes live felt like there was something truly special about their concerts. People talked about them for months, sometimes years afterward. And they put on their shows without a lot of flash or glitz. Their concerts, like their music, were simple, striking, and didn't leave you quickly. They're one of those bands you'll be telling your kids and grandkids you saw. (And they'll actually care to know what it was like.)
In case you weren't that lucky (and even if you were) here's an NPR live recording of them from Maryland's Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2005.
Coffee and Cigarettes
It's been said that the White Stripes simultaneously take themselves incredibly seriously, and not seriously at all. It's fun to see both sides. For the lighthearted version, watch Jack show Meg his Tesla's coil.
The Ability to Be Edgy and Innocent At the Same Time
"My Doorbell" is the perfect example of this. It starts out with raw, heavy drums, and mounts to crashing cymbals, loud vocals, and sharp, deliberate piano. It's a great rock song, that's coupled with playful lyrics. And of course, the video features a myriad of children in a carnival-like atmosphere. The interaction is just adorable.
Being the Last Musical Guest on Late Night with Conan O'Brien
This was such a bittersweet moment, wasn't it? What you see is a man who had to say goodbye to something he loved. Yes, he was getting ready for the next big thing. But little did he know how his stint with The Tonight Show would turn out. So right in the middle of all of this, Jack and Meg do this incredibly sweet, tender, drawn out version of "We're Going to Be Friends." It wound up being a bit iconic, and of course set the stage for later collaborations between Conan and Jack's Third Man Records.
Under Great White Northern Lights
This film was full of moments that just made your heart melt. It goes behind the scenes of their Canadian tour, during which they played every province. It includes a one note concert, as well as a performance at a nursing home in northern Canada where the band has a musical exchange with its indigenous residents.
Perhaps nothing is more tender than the final scene of the movie, where Jack plays "White Moon" for Meg, just after their tenth anniversary show. Meg becomes engulfed in the music, and slowly you see her face change as a wave of emotions floods over her. She begins to cry (and you probably do too.) As it's over, they embrace one another in the most caring, loving way. It's sweet and beautiful.
If this be their legacy, then it makes the breakup a little less painful.