Rock bands come, and rock bands go, but rock n' roll goes on forever!” yelled Ray Davies a thousand times in concert; a cliché, to be sure, but the truth. It’s been a long time – maybe when Cobain died? – since I have felt so personally saddened by the ending of a musical entity. The news from Third Man Records today about an ending was delivered by an online statement from Meg and Jack White: their band, The White Stripes, is and will be no more. No drama, no one is ill, no bitter bickering between the two, nothing like that they said, just wanting to leave the band’s legacy as is. Sigh. This sits uncomfortably rumbling around in my head and chest, and I even feel a little teary-eyed! Why?? Jack White is the current posterboy for Mr. Musical Overachievement – he’s got so many other bands and projects going on at all times, I don’t know how he even schedules time to go to the bathroom. Meg White has been quiet (or quieter, I should say), but reportedly in good spirits, and recently got married to artist-poet-rocker Patti Smith’s son Jackson. So just why am I bumming so hard about the White Stripes’ demise? What difference does it make?

I guess if I want to uncover the real answer, I have to go to the Way-Back Machine to when the Beatles broke up, which for me as a young Beatle-obsessed child was completely unthinkable and rather devastating. I couldn’t even believe it, except for the fact that it was Walter Cronkite telling me on the TV, and Walter would never lie. I didn’t remember a world without the Beatles, and didn’t want to know one. Stunned, I cried in my room. Again, one asks, “Why? The music is still there. Nothing changes that,” but in this case it was never about just the songs. The Beatles represented so very much more to me and millions of others, seen most profoundly in the faces of mourners at Central Park after John Lennon’s death. Sometimes, there is just more there, and the impact is greater.

In the White Stripes case, what I have always felt from them was their absolute commitment to everything they did; that in every song, every performance, every incredibly stylish visual or promo campaign, there was nothing left off the table, and nothing that was fake, forced, or pandering. Every piece was going to be the best that they could make it, and made the way they wanted to make it. Do you know how really rare this is? I am very hard-pressed to think of many artists who haven’t made some major concessions along the way to producers, trend-makers, radio programmers, accountants, or even their fans. Everyone wants the brass ring, and if snared they sure as hell don’t want to lose it. Meg and Jack did it their way, 100%, and sometimes had to take heavy criticisms for it, too. Whether their DIY nerve came from steel-reinforced integrity or sheer stubbornness or a reasonable amount of craziness I don’t know; I suppose all.

When I first heard the White Stripes, I was pretty excited. They sounded so simple yet so interesting, fresh to my ears tired from the death throes of grunge and repetitive fake-gangsta hip-hop. Wow, they sure make a lot of noise for two people, I thought, but hey wait! They also do these cute childlike acoustic numbers? And they don’t use stage gimmicks? And Jack sings and plays guitar like he set himself on fire on purpose, and Meg thumps away relentlessly at her drums without trying to be Neal f-ing Peart? WELL, HELL YES. I also thought, now, this is great stuff but they are NEVER gonna make it. And I am still surprised that they did. Commercial success was theirs, sold-out gigs all over the world, buzz throughout the music industry from their every move. They won, and that resonated with me strongly. You don’t have to be this or that, you don’t have to change to please people. Do what YOU do, do it honestly, put it out there, and keep doing it for as long as you damn well want to.

And that, I guess, brings us to today. Jack and Meg don’t want to play as the White Stripes anymore. There were strong signs earlier in the year that there would be a new White Stripes album and tour, and I was one of their many fans that was eagerly awaiting it all, hopeful. But not only did they say not this year, they said not any year, and not ever. They took the dog behind the woodshed before Rover even got a gray muzzle.

If I were to read between the lines of their press release, my guess would be that songs were started and never finished, energy and purpose never recovered enough to feel right to them, and the thought of putting out something that was not 100% was not acceptable. Life has changed tremendously for both Meg and Jack in the last 13 years since they started the White Stripes in Detroit; hard for us on the outside to understand. We just want more more more of the good stuff and hate to see it go for good. They will go on, separately, to make more excellent music, surely. But the White Stripes are irreplaceable, and this is why I am sad. They are the only band that all of the members of my little family were desperate to see play live, even by Mr12 who is the least-musically inclined of us all.

“‘Seven Nation Army’ is the best song EVER!” he says. “When are they coming to Seattle? I wanna go with you that time!”

“Me too!” pipes up MissEight. “But ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’ is the best song!”

“I want to go but I’m not sitting next to those two,” grumps CouchTeen.

I will tell them in a couple of hours that the White Stripes have broken up, for good. And they are going to be really, really sad.

Thank you Jack and Meg, for the White Stripes. More loved than you can know.