It’s not much of a secret that I LOVE the Foo Fighters. To me, they represent a lot of the raw energy and drive that is missing in music today. In short, they rock!
In particular, I am a Dave Grohl fan. Honestly, I wasn’t really a Nirvana fan, and would probably list them in the “slightly overrated” category. They were in the right place at the right time, and touched a throbbing nerve among the young and disenchanted. Of course, when the lead singer, Kurt Cobain, died from his own hand at a young age, he joined the ranks of the “too much, too soon legend status.” Many on this list are deserving of legend status, such as Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and to a smaller degree, Amy Winehouse, because she was a great singer, but a walking train wreck. I probably wouldn’t include Janis Joplin (another misdirected Amtrak in fur lined boots), or really any musician not named Winehouse who died before the age of 30 in the past 25 years. To me, Cobain is probably somewhere in between. But I understand why he was influential.
Grohl is different to me for many reasons. First of all, he’s a local guy, hailing from Springfield, VA. In fact, he attended my alma mater, Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, for a year or so, and was in the same class as my brother Jeff. He also played his first gig in Alexandria, an open mike outing at a hole in the wall bar in the Shirley Duke shopping center called Treebeard’s. It was literally just across the Duke St./South Jordan intersection from our neighborhood. I can claim to have attended a couple of those open mikes back in 1983 or so. For the record, the bar made many transformations, to Stoney’s Café, J.J. Mugg’s and Zig’s. A Chipotle is in that spot now, just in case anyone wants to put a plaque on the wall for rock history’s sake.
Here’s a true story from Ireton. Grohl’s English 9 teacher was Brother Rick Wilson. Bro. Rick was a patient man, but not much of a match for the always active Grohl, especially when he delighted classmates with his incessant drumming on the desk. Exasperated one day, Wilson chided his young student. For the record, Grohl neither confirms nor denies this incident; in fact, his response to the recollection was “too funny!”
“David, you’ve got to stop that. You’re never going to amount to anything with all that drumming.”
Seventy million albums later, there are a few people who might disagree with that remark.
Grohl is aware of a lot of these things, and shared his message of hope and music during a brilliant keynote speech at last week’s South by Southwest music convention in Austin, TX. Dressed in his grunge uniform of open flannel shirt and jeans, the 44-year old rocker kept 2,500 listeners in the palm of his hand for 48 minutes while reminiscing on his own path to fame and fortune.
His message -“the musician comes first.”
More specifically, it’s all about finding one’s voice.
“Left to your own devices, you can find your voice,” Grohl exclaimed. “Cherish it, respect it, nurture it, stretch it and scream until it’s gone.” In the end, he adds that it doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad because “it’s yours.”
It may come as a surprise to learn whose voices the head Foo Fighter is following these days.
“I think that Gangnam Style is one of the best f***ing songs of the past decade! It’s not about guilty pleasure. How about just pleasure?”
Looking back at the formation of Nirvana, Grohl admitted the timing piece of their success. “Here’s where music was when we were starting out, rattling off the top ten songs of 1990 to the delight of the audience. Laughing through names such as En Vogue, Phil Collins and Bell Biv DeVoe, he built his thought up, climaxing with the punch line, “do you know what the number one song was in 1990? Wilson F***ing Phillips – Hold ON!!” (Point of note – Grohl loves to drop the F-Bomb).
The speech was brilliant, and worthy of a man with Grohl’s talent. Certainly only three or four years away from Nirvana’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he is now held to a high standard, and delivers with one Foo album after another. Speaking of his band’s name, he called it “a stupid f***ing name – I just didn’t want the record people to know it was one caffeinated guy running from instrument to instrument.”
Most importantly, the message was about finding oneself. Grohl’s instrument of change was “Frankenstein,” the 70’s instrumental anthem from Edgar Winter. His own hope is to be the same inspirational voice for others. In closing, he spoke of introducing his daughters, Harper (3) and Violet (6) to the Beatles, in the form of their vinyl box set.
“I pray that someday that they are left to their own devices, that they realize that the musician comes first, and that THEY find THEIR VOICE, and that THEY become someone’s Edgar Winter, THEY become someone’s Beatles, and that THEY incite a riot, or an emotion, or start a revolution, or save someone’s life.
That THEY become someone’s hero.
But then again… what do I know?”
Well played Mr. Grohl.