Jack White vs. the Black Keys: A Beef History - Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

Jack White vs. the Black Keys: A Beef History

As feud between rival blues-rock camps makes headlines again, we look back at story so far

The Black Keys and Jack White

The Black Keys and Jack White

Sacha Lecca; Rick Diamond/Getty

'Tis the season of the beef. Just as the dust was settling from the Meek Mill–Drake feud, Nicki Minaj took an "oh, no, she didn't" swipe at Miley Cyrus during her VMA acceptance speech. And last night, not to be outdone, the Black Keys and Jack White reignited their ongoing neo-blues-rock squabble.

Keys drummer Patrick Carney claimed on Twitter that White "tried to fight me" in an NYC bar. "Quit whining to the Internet and speak face to face like a human being," sniped back White. The two parties have since posted tweets indicating that all is now copacetic, but it remains to be seen whether the detente will last. Here's our look back at the history of this epic feud.

Jack White

US singer and guitarist Jack White performs on stage on the third day of the Eurockeennes' festival on July 1, 2012, in the French eastern city of Belfort. AFP PHOTO / SEBASTIEN BOZON (Photo credit should read SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/GettyImages)

Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty

January 19th, 2012: White Bars Dan Auerbach From Nashville Studio

The roots of the conflict date back to 2010, when Jack White told Rolling Stone, "I'm a lot more to do with Jay-Z than the Black Keys." And when we interviewed the Keys for our 2012 cover story, we found out that White had recently barred Dan Auerbach from entering his Nashville studio — though Auerbach declined to discuss the incident on the record. "Anything you've ever heard anyone say about me is 100 percent accurate," White quipped when we reached out to him for a comment.

Jack White and Karen Elson

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE, 1 Attending The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song Celebrating the music of Paul McCartney, Jack White and wife Karen Elson on June 1, 2010. (Photo by Tracy A Woodward/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Tracy A Woodward/The Washington Post/Getty

August 1st, 2013: White Slams Auerbach in Leaked Divorce Emails

As the dissolution of White's marriage to musician and model Karen Elson grew nastier — with Elson filing a restraining order against White following allegations of harassment — the rocker's feud with the Black Keys just began to heat up. One of the first signs of tension between the duo and White kicked off with entries from emails Elson used in court when filing for the restraining order. In the messages, White relayed how furious he was that his children were attending the same school as the children of Keys frontman Dan Auerbach. "That's a possible twelve fucking years I'm going to have to be sitting in kids chairs next to that asshole with other people trying to lump us in together," White wrote. "He gets yet another free reign to follow me around and copy me and push himself into my world."

Black Keys

Griffin Lotz

May 20th, 2014: Keys Take High Road

The Keys never took White's bait. In an interview for a Rolling Stone feature last year, drummer Patrick Carney even expressed sympathy with White regarding his nasty comments: "As fucked up as that shit is, that was a private conversation. We've all said real fucked-up shit in private. You know how horrifying it would be if all of our private shit was aired? Divorce is hard. It should be kept private, and people go sniffing around looking for this shit. And ultimately, it's no one's business. He obviously sounds like an asshole. And I actually feel embarrassed for him. But, no, I don't hold grudges, man. I really don't." Auerbach added, "I don't know him, so it's extra unexpected."

Jack White

NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 13: Singer and record producer Jack White receives the 2015 Innovators Award at the Music Business Association Breakfast on May 13, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)

Terry Wyatt/Getty

May 30th, 2014: White Takes It There

In his May 2014 Rolling Stone cover story, White doubled down on his criticism of the Keys: "There are kids at school who dress like everybody else, because they don't know what to do, and there are musicians like that too. I'll hear TV commercials where the music's ripping off sounds of mine, to the point I think it's me. Half the time, it's the Black Keys," White said. "The other half, it's a sound-alike song because they couldn't license one of mine. There's a whole world that's totally fine with the watered-down version of the original."

White tried to distinguish between the difference between the originality of his sound — which borrows heavily from bluesmen from Blind Willie McTell to Led Zeppelin — and the Keys' sound: "Some people will hear that and say, 'Oh, Jack White thinks he's the first person to play the blues.' But certain acts open up a market for a certain style. Amy Winehouse: Did she invent white soul? Wearing a beehive? No. But she did something brand new and fresh, altogether as a package, and you see who's in her wake, from the Duffys to the Lana Del Reys. Adele selling 20 million records? That would not have happened if Amy Winehouse was alive. The White Stripes did the same thing, and in our absence, you're gonna find someone to fill that. And you get a band like the Black Keys, who said they never heard of the White Stripes? Sure."

Jack White

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Musician Jack White attends the MusiCares Double Platinum Talent Gift Lounge with Altec Lansing, RTA Denim, JB Britches and Infinite Love at MusiCares Person of the Year during The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the Los Angeles Convention Center on February 6, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/WireImage)

Jonathan Leibson

May 31st, 2014: White Squashes the Beef

A year after leaked emails showed Jack White referring to Dan Auerbach as a musician who "ripped off" his music and months after badmouthing them in his Rolling Stone cover story last year, the singer coupled a mea culpa to his ex-wife and bandmate, Meg White — whom he also criticized in the story — with an apology to the Black Keys.

"I wish the band the Black Keys all the success that they can get," he wrote in May 2014. "I hope the best for their record label Nonesuch who has such a proud history in music, and in their efforts to bring the Black Keys songs to the world. I hope for massive success also for their producer and songwriter Danger Mouse and for the other musicians that their band employs. Lord knows that I can tell you myself how hard it is to get people to pay attention to a two piece band with a plastic guitar, so any attention that the Black Keys can get in this world I wish it for them, and I hope their record stays in the Top Ten for many months and they have many more successful albums in their career." After that, everything was cool — for about a year.

Patrick Carney

Sacha Lecca

September 14th, 2015: Carney and White Have Words IRL, Make Up Online

Details are scant at this point, but Patrick Carney was at the Lower East Side bar the Cabin Down Below last night after performing at a Neil Young tribute at the Bowery Ballroom. At some point, he finally came face-to-face with White. Carney has since deleted most of his tweets about the incident, but here they are in full: 

"I've never met Jack White. Until last night. He came into a bar in Nyc I go to a lot with a few friends and tried to fight me. I don't fight and don't get fighting but he was mad!!! He is why I play music. The bully assholes who made me feel like nothing. Music was a private non competitive thing. Not sure what he's unhappy with cuz I just liked Zeppelin a lot and wanted to play guitar. Cut my pinky off and ended up being a drummer. Not the best drummer but a passionate one. But any way Jack White. A 40 year old bully tried to fight the 35 year old nerd. It might get loud but it might also get really really sad and pathetic. Jack White is basically Bill Corgan's dumb ass zero t-shirt in human form."

The tweets went super viral on the Internet, and within an hour or so, White released a statement: "Nobody tried to fight you, Patrick. Nobody touched you or 'bullied' you. You were asked a question you couldn't answer so you walked away. So quit whining to the Internet and speak face to face like a human being. End of story."

Not long after that, Carney erased most of his posts and tweeted out, "Talked to Jack for an hour he's cool. All good." Jack White returned the sentiment via Third Man's Twitter account: "From one musician to another, you have my respect Patrick Carney." 

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.