When we were at LAX, coming back to Fiji from our latest return trip to the U.S., I picked up Dave Grohl’s new memoir, “Dave Grohl, The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music.” I read it during Christmas week and absolutely loved it. Such a pleasure. If you like rock autobiographies, this is up there as one of the best, in my opinion. I savored it all: the stories, the insights and the language he uses throughout.
Grohl was the drummer for Nirvana, and he became a star in his own right as the founder and frontman of Foo Fighters. His story resonates with me because he’s from the same town where I grew up–Springfield, Virginia–and he transformed from a shy kid pounding away in the background to the leader of his own band. If you see photos or video of him when he played with Nirvana, he looks like he’s hiding himself. He may have been ultra loud banging furiously on the drums, but he spoke softly in interviews, and his face was partly hidden by his long hair. He did not look like frontman material at all. But after Kurt Cobain died, Grohl wrestled with his grief in the midst of Nirvana’s sudden rockstardom and started to come out with his own material. And the world of rock, music and entertainment in general is richer for his decision to put himself out there.
Grohl could’ve slipped easily into life in the well-oiled machine of rock legend Tom Petty’s band when they asked him to join in the wake of Cobain’s death, but, though he was grateful for the ask, he chose to do his own thing.
Moving out of the shadow of Nirvana, Grohl started showing the world a bolder side of himself: funny, charismatic and in charge of his own band, Foo Fighters.
I remember when the first videos from Foo Fighters came out on MTV. They displayed a lot of humor and had the vibe of bros having a good time making music with each other; a stark contrast to Nirvana’s dark imagery in their videos. Check out the video for “Big Me,” then check out the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and you’ll see what I mean. To me, the spirit of fun and adventure makes Grohl charismatic.
He’s also a thoughtful person, as is evident in his memoir. It bounces around a bit in time as he tells tales of his mischievous youth in a suburb of Washington, D.C., his musical education and evolution, life on the road, and fatherhood and family. He surprises with his humorous wit and wisdom, and he reveals himself as a seeker and a joker, always looking for a good time and ways to make others laugh.
I think it’s this focus on the light, despite the darkness, that has enabled Grohl to survive and thrive in music and in life, unlike his dear friend Cobain, who, although he captured the attention of a generation, went down with his ship of darkness too soon.
Grohl has lived to tell the tales of his struggles and joys thus far, and he shares the ride in his wonderful book.