“This was my great awakening, and dreams were no longer dreams; they became my divining rod. I was an idealistic misfit, empowered by the audacity of faith and a reckless determination to do it my way. Punk rock became my professor in a school with no rules, only teaching the lesson that you need no lessons and that every person has a voice to be heard, no matter the sound. I have built a life on this notion and blindly followed it with undying conviction.”
That passage sums up the fire that Dave Grohl just lit under my ass. For years, I have always felt that music is what drove me. Every life memory, every challenging time, every major moment of my life had music. It’s almost as if my entire life had a soundtrack built-in.
As a child, I loved music and I loved to write. I wrote about the songs that moved me, the concerts I attended, and I enjoyed talking to other people that lived in a bubble similar to mine. It’s always comforting to find another person who – regardless of the profession – relates to having the same feelings I do. That music is everything.
Now, let’s be honest for a moment. I can’t be the only person who thought this entire life would be about Nirvana, am I? Of course, every memoir/autobiography starts out with the same cookie-cutter this is how I was born, this is my family’s story, this is how I started, blah, blah. It’s a given. But if you’re thinking that this book is all about Grohl’s time in Nirvana you are wrong.
I learned a lot about Grohl in this book. I knew that he had been in the band Scream before he joined the undoubtedly memorialized band that is Nirvana. I just didn’t know how famous they were, or that he was an actual professional touring musician before he joined the band.
As a Nirvana fan, I just thought he was a young kid that met the other two bandmates and they formed a band that eventually blew up and took over the world. It was really cool to hear the stories of how he taught himself drums, lied about his age so that he could join Scream, and all the tales from the road as a kid who finally “makes it” as his music journey begins to unfold.
I caught myself looking up a lot of these punk rock bands that he grew up listening to and discovered an array of music that I never knew existed. Thanks to his stories and incredible description of the effect these bands had on his teenage years, he was able to teach me bands and a hole-type of music that to me was untapped. Minor Threat, the Misfits, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Germs, Naked Raygun, Black Flag, Wire, GBH, Discharge, the Effigies, and many more.
Scream took over my playlist for the entirety of reading the first half of this book. To me, listening to the band that shaped him while reading his story really made the story come to life. As the music played in the background, the words in the book became moving pictures, and I had my very own soundtrack playing to go along with it.
The mentions of Nirvana were short. There were no stories from the road, no groupie stories, no tantrums, nothing. It simply described the incredible bond that he shared with Cobain as the two roommates (at the time) started to become household names in a world that would eventually swallow them whole.
Now that we know how the story ends, it was actually really sad to hear how fame eventually ate away at Cobain’s soul, and the way Grohl described his internal struggles was really hard to read. You could read, page after page, how fast he started to slip. It was just too much. Too soon.
Did I wish half or at least one-fourth of the book contained all these stories? Sure did. As a teen, the pages of Metal Edge, Rip, or whatever magazine I could get my hands onto was how I learned about Nirvana’s antics. I saw Nirvana play in Brasil months before Cobain died.
MTV Brasil covered their stay in my hometown of Sao Paulo almost 24 hours a day. Kurt was acting up, Courtney went on stage and threw a fit after he broke a guitar she had gifted him in the middle of my concert, Kurt walked up to the cameraman and spit in the camera while the show was broadcasted live.
The anchors from MTV News in Brasil could barely get them to sit down for an interview without Grohl and Novoselic getting up from the chair every 5 minutes dancing, or picking their nose and just being complete goofballs. As a teen, it was fun to watch. That was what Nirvana was all about back in the day. They never took anything too seriously – at least to us. But inside closed doors, no one knew the pain that they were all going through.
The second half of the book talks about the birth of the Foo Fighters. How no one really expected the band to have the longevity that it did (Note to self: I really have to see this band live). Most people don’t really expect that a member from a band that decides to either go solo or form his own band will be as successful or maintain the longevity of their previous band. Some get lucky, some don’t. Grohl has surpassed all expectations.
On a personal note, the bond that he has with his mother Virginia really touched my heart. As a single mom, I struggle with the desire to give my kids whatever they want. Just like her, I work two, three jobs. I eat whatever scrap leftovers I can get so that my kids could have their favorite meal. I cancel whatever thing I wanted to buy so that I can get my kids their favorite video game, or new soccer cleats because that’s their dream.
Virginia did whatever she could to support him. She didn’t pick on him if he wasn’t getting straight A’s in school, she supported his passion and his dream every step of the way. If I learned anything from this book is to just let my kids be. They have dreams just like he did.
They are getting close to the age that he was when he wanted to drop out of school and join a band. My kids have dreams of having a career that may not necessarily require years and years of schooling, and as a mother, it was really heartfelt to hear from Grohl that the love, understanding, and encouragement that he got from his mom is exactly what he needed to be the man he is today.
By the end of the book, I felt I got to know Grohl on a deeper level than I did. No longer was he the 20-something year old that I saw being a goof on TV as a teenager myself. He is this loving, dedicated, giving, and thankful person that has so much more to offer. He has the discipline that I never thought existed. He is focused, sharp, dedicated, and will bend over backward to help anyone that he comes across.
I have so much more respect and admiration for him, for what he has to offer that I just never knew. He taught me the lesson of love, and giving, and supporting your child’s dreams. For me, it was really comforting to hear directly from him, how his mother’s love and encouragement shaped him as a person.
No longer was I reading this to hear about the antics from a grunge band that I grew up listening to. I was now solely reading the book to see what other life lesson I could learn from him and apply it to my own life, to my kids’ life.