The Storyteller - by Dave Grohl
Dave Grohl’s unique insider perspective truly illuminated my understanding of the history of Rock ‘N Roll, and I’m incredibly grateful for the journey he shared. I was captivated by his storytelling prowess, enhancing my appreciation for the music and its roots. My personal connection to this genre takes me back to high school, when I first heard Joan Jett’s I hate myself for loving you through Andy Lau’s cover. It’s intriguing how music connects us through time, space, and emotions, all thanks to artists like Grohl who keep the stories alive.
Here are some text that I highlighted in the book:
“Okay . . . first of all . . . you’re holding your sticks backward.” Lesson one. Embarrassed, I quickly flipped them around to their proper direction and apologized for such a rookie move. I had always held them backward because I thought the fat end of the stick would produce a much bigger sound when it hit the drums, which proved effective in my brand of Neanderthal pummeling. I didn’t realize it was practically the antithesis of proper jazz drumming.
Sandi was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Ice-blue eyes, feathered blond hair, and a smile so blinding it could have charged every Tesla from Brentwood to Beijing, had Teslas existed in 1982.
This is perhaps the impetus behind every song that I have ever written. Not to exact revenge on Sandi, of course, but to guard my most vulnerable corners by using heartbreak as fuel. What could be more inspiring than the exposed nerves of a wounded heart?
I never wanted to disappoint her, because aside from being my mother, she was my best friend. I couldn’t let her down. I like to say now that she disciplined me with freedom by allowing me to wander, to find my path, and ultimately find myself. I never wanted to sacrifice her trust, so I respected her and always kept it cool. I knew that my leaving school at such a young age would break her heart, but I also knew that staying would break mine. We sat at her desk, and with my head hung in shame, I explained that I wanted to drop out of high school and tour the world. Her response? “YOU’D BETTER BE GOOD.”
A bit later, there was a knock at the window of the van. “Which one of you is the drummer?” If I’ve learned one thing in my thirty-three years of being a professional touring musician, it’s that nothing good ever comes from this question. More often than not, it’s followed by either handcuffs, a subpoena, or a swift punch in the teeth. Not the type of thing you want to hear when you’re parked in a litter-filled alleyway, eight hundred miles from home, in another country. My head shot up from my musty sleeping bag in the back of the van, eyes widened in fear, awaiting fierce retribution for god only knew what crime I had committed to warrant this damning inquisition. Frozen in shock and mind racing, I immediately began to review all of the regretful possibilities that had brought me to this fate.
I had spent the most important, formative years of my life with them, discovering music, discovering the world, and in turn discovering myself, so to move on and leave them behind in that sinking ship pained my heart in a way I had never felt, even more than saying goodbye to my own father when he disowned me for dropping out of high school.
all for one and one for all
“David . . . I know that you love your friends, but sometimes you have to put your needs ahead of others’. You have to take care of yourself.” Coming from a woman whose entire life was the exact opposite of that, this completely shocked me, but because she was the wisest person I knew, I hung up the phone and decided to follow her guidance, regardless of the consequences.
Unlike the bands I had been in before, Nirvana didn’t play shows often, for fear of burning out the local audience, so most of our energy was directed at being ready to record once we finally decided on a label and producer. Kurt was remarkably prolific, seeming to have a new song idea almost every week, so there was always a feeling of forward motion, never being stuck or stagnant creatively. At night, after he closed his bedroom door, I would hear the quiet strumming of a guitar from his room and would wait to see his light go out from the comfort of my dirty old couch. Every day, I couldn’t wait to hear whether he had something new once we arrived at rehearsal and plugged in. Whether he was writing music or entries in his now-famous journals, his need to create was astonishing, though he was practically secretive about it. His songs would sneak up on you, take you by surprise. And they were never prefaced with “Hey, I wrote something great!” They would just . . . appear.
Much more than me, Kurt found this crossroads deeply troubling. The same guy who had exclaimed, “We want to be the biggest band in the world,” to a record company executive in a New York City high-rise office was now faced with the horrifying prospect of its coming true. Of course, we never actually expected the world to change for us (because we surely weren’t going to change for it), but each day it seemed more and more like it was. And that was overwhelming. Even the most stable can crumble under pressure like that.
“IDLE HANDS ARE THE DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND,”
You cannot predict a person’s sudden passing, but there are certain people in life that you prepare yourself to lose, for whatever reason. You foolishly try to protect yourself by building a wall around your heart as a sort of preemptive defense mechanism so that when you get that call, you are prepared somehow. Like being emotionally vaccinated, you have already built up an immunity to their inevitable passing.
This was more than just a recording session to me—it was deeply therapeutic. A continuation of life. This was what I needed to defibrillate my heart and return it to its normal rhythm, an electric pulse to restore my love and faith in music. Beyond just picking up an instrument and feeling productive or prolific, once again I could see through the windshield rather than look in the rearview mirror.
WE DIDN’T HAVE TO DO THIS ANYMORE. WE WANTED TO DO THIS FOREVER.
Life is just too damn short to let someone else’s opinion steer the wheel
This was a personal invitation to join our first African American president in his backyard to celebrate the men and women who defend our right to have the freedom to celebrate, or protest, or elect our leaders by democratic process. This wasn’t just a barbecue; this was an honor.
As much as I felt indestructible, I was no superman, and I had to take care of myself in order to take care of the ones I love. My passion for life could be a bit much sometimes, so much that I pushed myself a bit too far, but if I wanted to stick around awhile, I needed to be a bit more mindful of my mortal limits.
When the one-dimensional image becomes a living, breathing, three-dimensional human being, it fills your soul with reassurance that even our most cherished heroes are flesh and bone. I believe that people are inspired by people. That is why I feel the need to connect with my fans when they approach me. I’m a fan too.
And as the final notes of “Everlong” still hung in the air, Gus and I jumped into a car and sped off to the nearby regional airport, ready to circle the planet together.
I could go into a detailed culinary lecture about the juxtaposition of taste and mouthfeel that comes with KFC and bubbly. But just take it from me, it’s fucking delicious.
If fatherhood has taught me anything, it’s that I couldn’t pick a Hall of Fame athlete out of a lineup if my life depended on it, though to be honest, I actually relish being the one dude at the party who is always more interested in the Super Bowl halftime show than the game itself.
I have always felt like a bit of an alien, which obviously I learned to embrace over time. When diagnosed with a crooked spine at the age of seven, I had to begin wearing a small lift on my left shoe to slowly correct the problem. I remember feeling a sense of shame and embarrassment at first, as I wasn’t allowed to wear the cool sneakers that all the other kids wore, but at some point that shame and embarrassment turned into a sort of empowerment. I was different from them, even if just because of the shoes that I wore, and I liked it. I didn’t want to be like the other kids. As crooked as I was, I liked the feeling of being strange. Still do. So, here I was once again, doing my best to fit in, forever the kid with the weird sneakers.
Food poisoning is a touring musician’s worst nightmare. If you have a cold, you drink hot tea. If you have a flu, you take medicine. If you have food poisoning, you are absolutely 100 percent fucked. There is no way to keep your body from doing the thing that it’s genetically designed to do: puke and shit the poison out of you.
Would he have moved heaven and earth to be with me on such an important day? Doubtful, I thought. Perhaps I love so fiercely as a father because mine could not. I firmly believe that your understanding or “version” of love is learned by example from day one, and it becomes your divining rod in life, for better or worse. A foundation for all meaningful relationships to stand upon. I surely have my mother to thank for mine. I LOVE MY CHILDREN AS I WAS LOVED AS A CHILD, AND I PRAY THAT THEY WILL DO THE SAME WHEN THEIR TIME COMES. SOME CYCLES ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN. SOME ARE MEANT TO BE REINFORCED.
I saw Violet. I saw her first steps as a baby. I saw her first day of school, waving goodbye to me in the distance. I saw her pedaling away on a bicycle for the first time, no longer needing the assistance of her doting father. And I saw her onstage, singing “Blackbird” in the school gymnasium. I FELT HER COURAGE AND FOUND MY OWN.
When the world closed its doors in March 2020, I was faced with my life’s greatest fear: Nothing to do.
(Insert standing ovation here.)
Over the years I have found inspiration in the strangest places, but having been blessed with so many brilliant friends, all I have to do is turn to them to spark a fire within me.
Without my beautiful family, I would not have made it past go. Jordyn, Violet, Harper, Ophelia, you remind me each day that I am not a “rock star,” I am just a father to this most amazing family, and there is nothing on earth that I love more. You inspire me.