Arts Desk

New Rock Doc Declares Jack White This Generation’s Guitar God

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Jimmy Page has a stronghold on the '70s, The Edge has the '80s cornered, and Jack White holds the title of the 21st century's definitive guitar god? Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim's (An Inconvenient Truth) latest doc, It Might Get Loud, chronicles each musician's work and climaxes in a perfect storm of guitar masters on a Warner Bros. soundstage, shredding and talking shop. (Via The film, set to be released August 14, received a standing ovation at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 19.

I wasn't conscious for any of the '80s or much of the '90s, so I can't speak to the Edge's inclusion. But White? Now, I love everything about Jack White—his twist on Bo Diddley, the Stripes' dirty Detroit grooves, and most recently his backbeats for the Dead Weather. And after watching the film's trailer, I especially love the insouciant saltiness that the heretofore laconic axman lends the otherwise sappy nostalgiafest. Affirmations like "Technology is the big destroyer of emotion and truth" get my Twitterview-hating panties in a twist.

But is White really this generation's guitar god? The documentary exhibits White holding his own among the greats, but did Guggenheim single out the sometime Stripe? According to Rolling Stone:

"You could find other guitarists that were virtuosos, and you could find other guitarists that are legends, but you may not find three that are all searchers," Guggenheim said of his subjects. "Each one of them is still searching and still trying to figure out what it means to make music."

Right, well then. I agree White is certainly searching for something with his various side projects. But there are also plenty of other guitarists toiling under a similar burden, without the help of constant trumpeting by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and now Guggenheim. Marnie Stern and PJ Harvey come to mind. And the fact that women are never honored with "Guitar God" status.

So, BPB readers, a modest appeal for an informal poll: Who do you consider this generation's guitar god? And why no love for the female virtuosos?

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  • Steve Kiviat

    Vieux Farka Toure

  • 5th PROJEKT

    Bonnie Rait

  • Mike Riggs

    Steve Vai, Steve Morse, Al di Meola, Randy Rhoads, and Alex Lifeson were all performing in the 80s and all had individually massive impacts on musicians performing today, and Guggenheim picked the Edge?

    I almost want to watch this to see how he manages to justify his terrible taste.

  • Mike Riggs

    Forgot John Jorgenson, Jerry Donahue, and Will Ray (the Hellecasters), and Albert Fucking Lee.

    This is a travesty.

  • mhp

    Jack White, without question, deserves to be considered this generation's guitar god...I don't think people fully get it even by listening to White Stripes or Raconteurs really need to see the live performances (check YouTube for Death Letter by the WS or Blue Veins by the RAC...). Modern rock is plagued by boring, "Nickelbackesque," bands where they guitar has become part of the rhythm section rather than a meaningful addition to the the WS and RAC live stuff and you will see someone who actually "feels" what he is playing...

  • Mike Riggs

    MHP: I think there's a problem with deeming one musician the guitar god for an entire generation, when White and the Edge (not Page, though) are guitar gods for people who like a certain type of music.

    As funky as White is, he's not my guitar god, or that of any of the technical guitarists I know. I'm thinking more of John Petrucci and Mark Morton and Willie Adler from LoG.

    Just sayin'

  • Steve

    Has everyone let all these Rolling Stone "top 100 whatever" lists go to their heads? Why be so offended that Guggenheim picked the Edge and White? He never claimed to be picking the "best" guitarists. He was after three interesting stories. Page is a no brainer, and frankly the Edge is an inspired choice because he's kind of an "anti" guitar hero who has made his own sound.

    Give the film a chance and stop worrying that he didn't pick your personal favorite.

  • Hilary

    i will absolutely see this film, steve, and i'm not "worrying" about his choices. as with most decisions made by those who shape popular opinion via media production, i think it's at least worth interrogating and considering rather than just accepting it.

  • Doug

    The Edge is a master of electronics, not the guitar. My dead cat can outplay him. Page is very good but overrated, though he was certainly an explorer. Jack White is very good, but there are far better blues rock guitar players. And Orianthi plays circles around them all.