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"Great bands deserve greatest hits": Third Man Records co-founder breaks down new White Stripes compilation

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Third Man Records/Columbia Records; Photo by Pieter M. van Hattem

In the age of streaming instant on-demand music, greatest hits compilations don’t seem quite as necessary anymore.  But that kind of thing’s never stopped Jack White‘s Third Man Records.

The label has released The White Stripes Greatest Hits, which collects 26 of the now-defunct band’s most beloved songs. TMR co-founder Ben Blackwell could list a litany of reasons why best-of records are still important nowadays, but, as he tells ABC Audio, he really only needed one: “Great bands deserve greatest hits.”

“The White Stripes are a great band, full stop,” Blackwell says.

Though Greatest Hits is out today, you could’ve technically been listening to it once the track list was revealed in November, since it doesn’t include anything that hasn’t already been released.

“People have already put on Spotify, ‘Hey, here’s a playlist of The White Stripes Greatest Hits,'” Blackwell says. “But it gives me solace that people seem to understand it’s a little bit bigger than that.”

In putting together Greatest Hits, Blackwell wanted to consider selections outside of the usual suspects instead of just repackaging a list of the Stripes’ most-played and streamed songs. And aside from album opener “Let’s Shake Hands” — the first song Jack and Meg White ever released together — the track list isn’t in chronological order.

“Each side has, I think, at least one song from each [studio] album,” Blackwell explains. “So the sides themselves kind of exist as these mini case studies in greatest hits.”

As for Jack and Meg’s participation, Blackwell says they were “tangentially” involved. “They didn’t protest,” he shares, but he felt it was more appropriate as a label project.

“It was, like, ‘Here’s what we think,’ and kind of got a thumbs-up from there,” he says.

By Josh Johnson
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