Who Is Dave Grohl?
Musician Dave Grohl formed his first band at age 10. He dropped out of high school to play with the hardcore group Scream before auditioning for Nirvana. Nirvana went on to be an international hit. After singer Kurt Cobain's death, Grohl formed a commercially successful alternative band called the Foo Fighters.
David Eric Grohl was born on January 14, 1969, in Warren, Ohio. First as a drummer in Nirvana and then as the frontman for the Foo Fighters, Grohl has become one of the leading figures in rock today. He moved from Ohio to Virginia when he was three years old. The son of a journalist and an English teacher, he lived with his mother and older sister Lisa after his parents divorced when he was six.
Grohl’s interest in music emerged early. He started out playing guitar and by the age of ten, Grohl formed the H. G. Hancock Band with a friend. Not long after, he was introduced to punk rock by one of his cousins. In high school, he played in a string of punk bands and started smoking pot. After dropping out in his junior year, he joined the Washington, D.C.-based hardcore band, Scream. Grohl appeared on three of the group’s albums and toured with them several times.
During one tour, Grohl met up with members of the Melvins, a punk band. It was backstage at a Melvins gig that he saw Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic from Nirvana for the first time in 1990. Grohl did not talk to his future bandmates that night but thanks to Buzz Osbourne of the Melvins, he did get to audition for Nirvana later that year. Grohl traveled to Seattle, hoping to become Nirvana’s new drummer. As soon as he played for them, both Cobain and Novoselic thought he would be perfect for their band. “He was a hard hitter. . . . so bright, so hot, so vital,” Novoselic said, according to the book Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana by Michael Azerrad.
After joining the group, Grohl lived with Cobain for a time. He also dated Jennifer Finch from the all-female alternative band L7 around this time. Soon the major labels became interested in Nirvana, offering contracts with large advances. They ended up signing with Geffen Records. Their first release with them, 1991’s Nevermind, became a huge hit, driven in part by the single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” While Cobain handled most of the songwriting duties, all three band members had worked on the track, which combined elements of punk, metal and pop.
The video for “Smells like Teen Spirit”—offering a subversive take on a pep rally—got heavy play on MTV. In nearly a year’s time, Nevermind sold more than 4 million copies. Nirvana, with raw, emotional sound, helped launch what was called the grunge movement, which often captured feelings of alienation and frustration. They paved the way for other bands, such as Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, to become well-known national acts.
The pressures that came with all of that success weighed heavily on the group, especially Cobain who sank deeper into drug abuse. Cobain’s relationship with singer Courtney Love also put a strain on band relationships. Outside of the band, Grohl put together a solo project, recording a few tracks for a cassette-only release called Pocketwatch.
The band made one more studio album together, In Utero (1993). Rolling Stone called it “brilliant, corrosive, enraged and thoughtful, most of them all at once.” While Cobain handled the lyrics, Novoselic and Grohl helped write the music for the track, “Scentless Apprentice.” Still, Cobain was increasingly distant and became more depressed. He attempted suicide by taking a drug overdose in March 1994 in Rome while on a break during the band’s European tour. On April 6, 1994, Cobain killed himself at his home. After Cobain’s death, the remaining members of Nirvana won a Grammy Award for their live recording on MTV called Unplugged in New York (1994).
The Foo Fighters
After Nirvana, Grohl formed the Foo Fighters. Initially, he was the entire band for its 1995 self-titled debut album, playing most of the instruments, singing the vocals and using songs he had written while still with Nirvana. The recording earned positive reviews and spawned two modern rock hits, “This Is A Call” and “I’ll Stick Around,” as well as “Big Me,” which also did well on the top charts. When it came time to tour, Grohl brought along bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith (both formerly with Sunny Day Real Estate) and guitarist Pat Smear (who had been part of Nirvana’s final tour).
The first Foo Fighters album as a band, The Colour and the Shape, came out in 1997. By this time, Goldsmith had quit and was replaced by Taylor Hawkins. The album made it to the top ten of the album charts and featured such tracks as “Monkey Wrench,” “Everlong” and “My Hero.” Repeating this feat with 1999’s There Is Nothing Left to Lose, the Foo Fighters won their first Grammy Award for Best Rock Album in 2000. The album had one breakaway single in “Learn to Fly,” and the video for the song won the group their first Grammy Award in 2000 for Best Short Form Music Video.
By 2002, Chris Shiflett was the group’s lead guitarist. For a short time, Franz Stahl from Scream filled in for Smear after he had left the band. Their song, “All My Life” from One by One did well on the pop and rock charts and earned a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance that year. The next year the entire recording won for Best Rock Album.
Their album Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, came out in the fall of 2007. “The band has taken everything it’s done best, from giddy power pop . . . to country-tinged musings . . . to wistful acoustic ballads . . . and brought it to the next level,” according to a review in Entertainment Weekly. The band went on an extensive tour to promote the record.
Over the years, Grohl has recorded with other bands, including Queens of the Stone Age and Tenacious D, but he continues to circle back to the Foo Fighters. The group has since released Wasting Light (2011), Sonic Highways (2014), Concrete and Gold (2017) and Medicine at Midnight (2021). "Run" off Concrete and Gold claimed best rock song at the Grammys in 2018. Medicine at Midnight won best rock album, best song with "Waiting for a War" and best rock performance with "Making a Fire" in 2022.
Outside of music, Grohl is a devoted father and husband. He has been married to television producer Jordyn Blum since 2003. The couple welcomed their first child, a daughter named Violet, in 2006. They went on to have two more daughters, Harper (b. 2009) and Ophelia (b. 2014). He was previously married to photographer Jennifer Youngblood.
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