Cancer: Jack White

jack_whiteThe Sensitive Artist

birth 9 July 1975

Like their totem creature, the Crab, Cancerians come tough on the outside, soft on the inside. The White Stripes’ main man is a prime example. The world sees Jack as a hard man, a Detroit bruiser who has fought his way to the top with a muscular brand of rhythm and blues, and who is still not averse to an occasional bout of fisticuffs. Look at the beating he handed to his home town rival, the Von Blondies’ Jason Stollheimer, 18 months ago.

Yet behind Jack’s shell lies a moody, emotional artist. Jack’s not keen on parading his sensitivity, but anyone watching him play the innocent minstrel in Cold Mountain will have glimpsed his capacity for tenderness. Heck, he even fell in love with his co-star, Renee Zellweger, just like in the movie.

A glimpse, however, is all you will ever get of the real Jack White. His birth chart reveals a complex but deeply secretive individual, whose identity is accurately described by the sign of the Crab, which contains not just the Sun (essential self), but the Moon (emotional life) and Saturn (the need and ability to be in control). When these three planets are grouped tightly together, they give an individual tremendous drive and self-confidence from an early age, but a self-centred outlook that makes understanding other people very difficult.

Here’s one reason why The White Stripes are, in fact, just two people. It would be hard for Jack to co-exist with several group members. This is a man who needs to be in control at all times, a man who doesn’t drink, hasn’t signed to corporate labels, and who produces his own records.  You do things his way.

Meg White may be a co-Stripe, but her role is to back Jack the singer, writer, player and producer. Confusingly, this is not the usual case of a man expecting a woman to play the subservient role. Since the Moon (the female principle) is so strong in his birth chart, Jack is unusually attuned to the feminine side of life.  On his album, Get Behind Me Satan, he even wrote a song from a woman’s perspective (‘Passive Manipulation’) and had Meg sing it. (1*) In person, too, Jack’s feminine side is apparent in his moon face and taste for dandy clothes. And let’s not forget that when he married Meg White, he took her surname!

Cancer is the sign of home, family, tradition and the past (Marcel Proust, introvert author of A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, had Sun and three other planets in Cancer (*2)). Jack is obsessed with musical tradition; with folk, country, the blues and Tin Pan Alley. He makes records the old-fashioned way, recording on vintage equipment, editing tapes with tape and a razor blade. Home? He still lives in Detroit. He recorded his first album in his attic, and Get Behind Me on his staircase. Elephant was made in a London studio loaded with 1960s equipment.

Saturn, the control planet means Jack White’s obsession with the past comes mixed with a depressive streak. Those who have spent time with him have found a tense, tortured presence, given to shyness, chain-smoking and chronic worry about the possible pitfalls of success: egomania, artistic decline, a life spent behind smoked glass. Much of his anxiety stems from his sense of dislocation from a world gone mad. ‘The morals of years ago are dying,’ he once famously  commented. ‘It’s not a world welcoming to the idea of sweetness and gentlemanly qualities.’

Jack’s control-freakery is mixed up with Cancer’s taste for secrecy. His insistence that he and Meg were brother and sister was exploded only when their marriage certificate surfaced on the web. Even now he refuses to comment on their relationship or any aspect of his personal life. With capricious Mercury, the writer’s planet, in the double-talk sign of Gemini (like Bob Dylan, his hero) he has two names; Jack White and John Gillis, the name on his birth certificate. Like Dylan, he likes to play games with the media. (*3).

As witnessed in other musicians featured in Astorama, the 29th year of any life is a time of reckoning and growing into adulthood, the so-called ‘Saturn Return’ after which  both Gwen Stefani and Goldie have named albums. So it has proved with Jack over the last long 18 months, as Saturn passed by his Sun/Moon/Saturn conjunction. (*4) 2004 was, according to him, ‘the best year of my life’, the year of the reputation-establishing Elephant, of a serious love affair with Renee Zellweger, and a collaboration with a hallowed elder, Loretta Lynn, which won him a Grammy award. Yet with Saturn, little comes easily; huge work has been called for, while Saturn’s association with authority has seen Jack in court case after his fight with Stollheimer. It was, according to Jack, ‘the year we found out who our friends were’.

Jack’s testing 18 months of Saturn finished with him allegedly getting married to Karen Elson. Looking at the birth charts of the three great loves in Jack’s life – Meg, Renee and Karen – one is struck by their similarities rather than their differences. (*5)

Nonetheless, Sagittarian Meg looks too freewheeling for emotionally needy Jack. Renee Zellweger, a Taurus, was in most respects a good match but all too like Jack in needing to be in control. Elson, a tough, proud Capricorn, looks like a soul mate.

A long, productive stretch now beckons for Jack. Doubtless he will cling to his ‘back to basics’ approach, but already signs of change are in the air. There is his side project with Brendan Benson, the Raconteurs, the new instrumentation (piano, mandolin, berimbau) he used on Get Behind Me. The urge to experiment is intense in 2007, when Jack’s film career looks likely to resume (*6). 2008 sees his relationship with Karen Elston in the spotlight (*7); if the pair are still together, expect the advent of Papa Jack.

1. Moon in its own sign of Cancer emphasises the feminine side of the character.
2. Marcel Proust b. 10/7/1871. Sun/Jupiter/Mercury/Uranus in Cancer.
3. Natal Mercury trine Uranus and sextile Jupiter.
4. Transit Saturn conjunct natal Sun/Moon/Saturn July/August 2004, and again in April 2005.
5. Meg b. 10/12/74. Renee b. 25/4/69. Karen b. 14/1/79. Like Jack, all have romantic Venus in a fire sign. Kjack_whitearen and Renee both have Moon in Leo.
6. Transit Uranus trine Sun/Moon/Saturn
7. Elston’s Saturn returnjack_white