It has been nearly a year since March 27th, 2012, when I posted my “interpretation” of the song “Love Interruption” by Jack White. I decided recently to try to look into other interpretations offered from the general public , and more importantly to see if I could find any words of explanation from Jack White himself. When I posted my interpretation I did not search for other interpretations first, and I had been curious since that time if my interpretation was anywhere near his meaning. (I was busy with other things and did not even blog any new posts from April through December.)
I did find out a few things of interest, and thought they may be of interest to others. So I decided to post them here as a “part 2.” I will not interact in detail with the song or my interpretation again. Instead I merely present some additional thoughts regarding the song and its composer.
A review of my interpretation (in brief).
My overall view of the significance of “love” in the song, was that although “love” is portrayed in ways that first appear as negative in the extreme, “love” is actually a positive force that the singer wants to act upon him in a dominating and transforming manner.
Interpretations from others in the “public at large.”
A current survey of the twenty or so “interpretations” of “Love Interruption” at SongMeanings showed that others also saw Jack White’s view of “love” in the song as positive. More than a few also pointed out the use of irony in the song, so that the statements would be saying the opposite of what they actually mean (although some of these did not specify whether love was ironically bad and therefore good, or ironically good and therefore bad). About a third believed that Jack White may have been presenting a negative or cynical view of love, perhaps based on negative past relationships/experiences. Sadly, it seemed like some of these “interpreters” had themselves “given up” on love due to their own relationships/experiences, and thought they were in cynical agreement with Jack White regarding the prospects for “love” in the future.
Hints from Jack White himself.
On March 21st, “Johnny Firecloud,” commenting at the site “Antiquiet” on an interview with White from March 20th wrote:
Jack set a hard bar for himself this time around, for the mere fact that he titled one of his new songs with a word that’s been worn threatbare in music – particularly the blues: “It’s hard to put love in a song because it’s been used for so long, thousands of times in plays, paintings, poems and if you’re going to say that word I think you have to really put a twist on it for yourself,” he explained, referring to the album’s first single “Love Interruption”. “If you’re going to use the word ‘love’, I wanted to provoke some kind of thought. That’s what I wanted it to do for me.”
If I had read this, which was written only a week before my original post, I may not have had to wonder for nearly a year whether what I had written was on track. Although his statement was brief, Jack White seems to shed quite a bit of light on the song. First of all, he explains that the song is rooted in “blues”, which means that a subject like “love” may need to have a “twist” put on it, not only to fit the genre of the blues, but to redeem the word itself. I think he is saying that the word has become to common, and “love” in a sense should never be considered as merely “common.” He also said he “wanted to provoke some kind of thought” meaning that he wanted his listeners to really think about “love” and what it means. (Do I hear an AMEN out there?) In summary, based on this brief statement, it seems that Jack White has not given up on “love,” and is portraying it in the song as something not only positive, but so positive that it should “interrupt” us because it is not “common” or trivial.
Jack White, the gospel-blues, and guitar evangelists.
In the first post I brought up the question of whether Jack White was casting himself as a sort of “guitar evangelist” in “Love Interruption.” In regard to that question in particular I still have no verification, but I did find that Jack White certainly has a strong affinity for the old gospel-blues men. In fact he says that his “favorite song” is “Grinnin’ in Your Face” by Son House who although he was not a guitar evangelist like Blind Willie Johnson, he certainly was a gospel-blues man.
What is intriguing to me in this video is something perhaps of even deeper significance than what Jack White may or may not be portraying himself as. I find this deeper question about 1 minute into the short video, where he explains what moved him when he first heard “Grinnin’ in Your Face” and obviously still greatly inspires him. He says the song shows,
“one man against the world… in one song…“
I also watched the entire interview of Jack white with Conan O’Brien on his “Serious Jibber-jabber” show, which gives some insight into what Jack White say’s is driving him. In that interview it is interesting that White and O’Brien both agree that their Catholic upbringing plays a large part in their “work ethic.” But I think the drive goes even deeper than that, perhaps for both of them. The deeper drive I perceived seems to be the quest for authenticity and individuality. The significance of the song by Son House, of “one man against the world” evokes the challenge to all people that Soren Kierkegaard called the need to be “the individual,” over against the collective (or “the herd,” – “the masses”).
In conclusion, I see in Jack White, the quest for “love” to be a powerful, transforming, and “uncommon” thing. I see the quest for authenticity and individuality as the existential quest of “the individual” best set forth by Soren Kierkegaard, who is generally regarded as the first “existentialist.” Fortunately, Kierkegaard was able to find both quests answered in the true God, even though his historical context was within a “Christendom” that he sought to destroy precisely because it removed the necessity for each and every person to be “the individual.” Kierkegaard in more ways than one epitomized “one man against the world.” Most “existential” philosophers following Kierkegaard were agnostics or atheists and had no such ability (or freedom?) to harmonize “the individual” and “love.”
If the reader is interested in the interview with Conan O’Brien, it is here: Interview
If the reader is interested in “the individual” a la Jack White/Son House/Soren Kierkegaard, here is a link to a post I recently blogged that contains an video excerpt from a BBC documentary on Kierkegaard that is extremely interesting to say the least.
I have also begun a series of posts on love a la Soren Kierkegaard, so if Jack White has “provoked some kind of thought” about “love” and you would like to know how “the individual” and “love” cohered in the thought of Kierkegaard, you may want to check them out.
Here is the first post in the series.
More posts on Individuality
Comments, questions, criticisms, are always welcome, as long as they are civil!
If you want to hear the entire song by Son House here it is:
Original Content © Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.