Game Changers: Dave Grohl

With the return of the Foo Fighters, let’s celebrate the man himself, Dave Grohl.

It’s been a busy few weeks for the Foo Fighters. Recently, they celebrated the 20th anniversary of the album, The Colour and the Shape, which solidified them as more than just the “drummer from Nirvana.” Additionally, they announced a new album and tour. With all the recent happenings, I began to think about Dave Grohl and the legacy he’s built in the music world over the last 25+ years.

From his origins as one of the best rock drummers, to leader of one of the biggest bands in the world, Grohl has really done it all. Born in Ohio and raised in Virginia, Grohl fell in love with music at an early age. While visiting his cousin in Illinois, Grohl attended his first concert, Naked Raygun. Seeing this performance changed the 13-year-old's life, and from that moment forward, music was everything to him.

He later dropped out of high school to tour with the punk band Scream, who hired him as their drummer after he lied about his age. While on tour, Grohl befriended Buzz Osborne from the Melvins who eventually introduced him to a couple of guys from Aberdeen Washington... Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic.

Shortly after, Scream broke up and Grohl called upon his friend Buzz Osborne for advice. During the call, Osborne mentioned that Cobain and Novoselic were looking for a new drummer. Grohl auditioned and got the job. At the time Grohl joined, Nirvana was in the process of recording a follow-up to their debut, Bleach.

As Grohl entered Sound City with the band, they recorded the legendary album, Nevermind. I don’t think I need to tell you what happened upon the album’s release, but for the full story, check out my 25th anniversary tribute to the album that changed music forever. For the next three years, Grohl was the drummer for the biggest band in the world.

Photo Credit: NPR

Sadly, with the death of Cobain in April of 1994, Nirvana would soon cease to exist, leaving Grohl in a sort of limbo. Rather than fading away, Grohl took some solo songs he was working on at the time and continued to work on them as part of his grieving process. Playing every instrument himself, Grohl recorded and released the first album under the name “Foo Fighters.”

Around the same time, Grohl was offered the role of drummer for Tom Petty and was also rumored to have been asked to be the new drummer for Pearl Jam. Instead, Grohl decided to step away from the drum kit and front his new band. After recruiting a touring band that included former Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear, the Foo Fighters hit the road in support of their debut album.

With great songs right out of the gate like This Is A Call and I’ll Stick Around, rock fans found out that Grohl had some chops of his own. The sound was different from the grunge scene Grohl had formerly been a part of, and was more of a straightforward rock sound with slight traces of Grohl’s past. Needless to say, the Foo Fighters’ sound struck a chord with fans, and quickly started to gain a following.

Once it came time for the follow-up record, the Foo Fighters released one of the best albums in their discography, The Colour and the Shape. This album proved that Grohl belonged front and center, and that the Foo Fighters were the real deal. Inspired by his divorce, Grohl developed the album like a therapy session, moving from fast-paced songs to ballads and slower songs.

Right from lead single, Monkey Wrench, The Colour and the Shape showed the true ferocity of the Foo Fighters. Furthermore, it demonstrated how they could generate a pop following, as songs like Everlong and My Hero have become anthems, with Everlong being one of the band's most beloved songs.

From there, the band became one of the leaders in rock, with Grohl as the face of it all. The band has since recorded and released several hit albums featuring countless hit songs. From tracks like rockers All My Life and The Pretender, to anthems like Times Like These and Best of You, the Foo Fighters have been consistently great with each release.

For me personally, it all came to a head with Wasting Light. I felt like that album in particular is one of their high points. For the album, Grohl built a recording studio in his garage so he could be close to his family during the recording process. From there, the band recorded a song a week for eleven weeks, all on tape (which was an old relic to record on at this point).

The end result was the incredible Wasting Light. Accompanying the album’s release was the even more incredible documentary, Foo Fighters: Back and Forth.

It captured the history of the band, and featured Grohl opening up for the first time in his life about Nirvana and the death of Kurt Cobain. It’s worth checking out, even if you’re not a fan of the band. Wasting Light produced some of the Foo Fighters’ best tracks. From the metal of Rope, to two of my all-time favorites; Walk and These Days.

During his off time from the band, Grohl got back behind the drum kit for side project, Them Crooked Vultures, along with Josh Homme and John Paul Jones. Fans are still waiting for a follow-up, as the first album was a killer rock record by three of the best in the business. Grohl also decided to enlist some of his favorite 80s metal singers for his Probot project, with Grohl again taking on the drums.

It was another memorable moment where Grohl got to make a record with his idols. No matter which one you prefer, both projects prove that Grohl is still one of the best rock drummers out there.

A true renaissance man, Grohl directed the documentary on one of the most important recording studios of all-time, Sound City. The Sound City Documentary shared the history of the now closed studio and all the albums recorded there, like Nevermind.

Grohl took things one step further by purchasing the one of a kind Neve console that Sound City had used for all these historical recordings and recorded new songs on the console with fellow artists that had recorded at the studio.

Grohl combined his love of music with his newfound love for filmmaking for the Foo Fighters next record, Sonic Highways.

The HBO series, directed by Grohl, followed the band as they went to different cities to record in famous studios in cities known for their deep musical history. It blew my mind on both the documentary and musical side. Go out of your way to see this if you haven’t, as it’s a must-see just for the historical side of the show.

The concept of the album with each song being recorded in a different city was such an outside the box idea, and songs like Outside showed the payoff. In 2015, I came full circle from seeing the Foo Fighters in clubs early in their career, to getting to see the band play to sold-out crowds at Citi Field in New York and Fenway Park in Boston.

At these shows, the band's epic 3-hour (and a bit more) set had everyone on their feet singing along to every word, all while Grohl who broke his leg earlier in the year was on a giant rock throne. After conquering the world, the band took the last year and change off.

Photo Credit: Nick Wass

Then, out of nowhere, they dropped a new single, revealed info about a new album called Concrete and Gold, and announced a tour coming to a city near you this fall. For the upcoming album, the band just went and recorded a record, although secretly. Fans thought the band went on a long hiatus due to some trolling awhile back. Lucky for us, it wasn’t a long one.

Judging by the sound of new single Run, the Foo Fighters are going to rock us once again. Grohl has become the face of rock music all over the world, and his legacy stretching across 25+ years is simply amazing.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 as a member of Nirvana, and I know he’ll become part of a rare group when the Foo Fighters get inducted a few years from now (making him a two-time honoree).

With rock music going up and down over the last 25 years, one constant has been Dave Grohl, and hopefully he’ll remain a constant for another 25 years to come.

For more on Wasting Light, be sure to give it a spin on vinyl. To learn more about the Sound City Documentary, take a look at my review of this great film.