Wide-Eyed Wonder: Dave Grohl’s Rocking Stories

Grohl and Hawkins rock (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Tim Van Schmidt  |. New SCENE


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Witness the risks and rewards of devoting your life to rock and roll — according to Dave Grohl. That’s Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters. That’s Dave Grohl, “that guy from Nirvana”. That’s Dave Grohl, “author”?

Yes, Grohl recently published a book — “The Storyteller” — bringing together a lot of his fondest memories from a life that started with humble beginnings as a suburban teenager in Virginia and blazed toward international rock stardom.

In “The Storyteller”, the risks of devoting your life to rock and roll are many including chronic substance abuse, malnutrition, lack of sleep, over-caffeination, and bodily harm at the hands of fans, junkies, and various enemies. 

The rewards, for Grohl at least, have also been many, like meeting lifelong musical idols like Little Richard, Paul McCartney, and the band AC/DC; playing with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, and so many more.

There seems to be money too.

What comes through it all, though, is a love for music, music, music. A wide-eyed wonder of music permeates the entirety of “The Storyteller” with all its power to reach the fans and propel the musicians. Grohl loved rock and roll before he became a musician and it only became deeper when he waded into the middle of it.

I can relate. So can a lot of people. And that’s what initially makes Grohl an “everyman” — struggling to survive while staying true to his art by being willing to forgo the relative security of “regular” life to make it happen.

Late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

In the book, Grohl details his early years with DC punk band Scream and this is fascinating stuff — stories that thousands of other rock and roll musicians could totally relate to.

I’m talking about guys going on the road, sleeping in their van, living off of pennies, and blasting to gigs all over the country — and beyond.

Scream was part of a network of bands that played far and wide on a do-it-yourself basis. It wasn’t business; it was a radical alternative lifestyle. They didn’t make any real money, but they rocked and rocked some more.

By happenstance, just by being in the right place at the right time, Grohl even got to meet a hero — punk godfather Iggy Pop — and play a gig with him long before any kind of widespread stardom.

Foo Fighters at Red Rocks (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

But after leaving Scream and living through the killer storm that was Nirvana — going from three corn dogs-a-day poverty to crushing stardom in a relatively short amount of time — things change for Grohl.

As a survivor of intense fame and someone who continued to carry on the never-ending quest to make good rock and roll by founding Foo Fighters, he apparently earned a place at the table.

When he starts talking about playing Saturday Night Live in Tom Petty’s band, he turns from an “everyman” to a “special man”. He gets to play for President Obama, he gets to play at the Academy Awards, he gets to rock out in front of stadiums full of fans on a regular basis.

Dave Grohl (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

These aren’t things that regular people get to do or even imagine themselves doing. These are not “everyman” experiences, despite Grohl’s insistence that he can’t believe his good fortune either.

“The Storyteller” drops plenty of famous names throughout and you have to cheer him on for this — I wouldn’t mind going over to Neil Young’s house for dinner or jamming with Joan Jett — but again, these are “special man” perks.

Grohl also gets real personal with his stories too. Despite the salty rock and roll language, there are quite a few “Hallmark” moments throughout the book. In particular, he often takes the opportunity to profess his love for his mother and for his children.

The personal stuff does get a little heavy-handed at times. I’ll admit, I almost closed the book on the chapter about his first middle school crush, even though it ended up with every jilted teenager boy’s dream — to someday “show up” that girl who walked away.

Beyond those things, though, what’s inspiring here is just the eternal presence of rock and roll — the wide-eyed eternal presence — and Grohl meets it with a positive attitude.

In “The Storyteller”, every step of the way is the best thing that ever happened to him. As he grows, so does his definition of success, and, apparently, what has come to him has far outstripped his dreams all along the way.

Finally, you have to wonder where else this rock and roll ride can take him.

Grohl has already experienced a couple more of the risks and rewards of rock and roll since publishing “The Storyteller”.

One of the rewards has been getting to shoot and star in his own horror movie. In February, Foo Fighters released “Studio 666”, a blood-soaked comedy about haunted houses and murdered musicians.

Risks? The horrible news that Grohl’s longtime Foo Fighters bandmate and buddy, drummer Taylor Hawkins, someone Grohl describes as a “brother from another mother”, died on March 25, just prior to a massive gig in Bogota.

In “The Storyteller”, Grohl writes extensively about loss and grief. He expresses the deep hurt he felt losing Nirvana bandmate Kurt Cobain to suicide. That same hurt returned with the passing of his closest childhood friend, Jimmy.

The news about Hawkins has probably hit Grohl real hard. And like a lot of the stories in his book, the stakes are high for him in 2022. Foo Fighters had just started touring again and they were scheduled for a Denver date at Empower Field at Mile High on August 6. However, the band has canceled all of their upcoming tour dates.

Despite this current loss, if Grohl is true to what he says in “The Storyteller”, he will find a way to someday rock again — not because it’s a good business decision, but rather because he just has to.

Tim Van Schmidt is a writer and photographer based in Fort Collins. Check out his YouTube channel at “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt”.