I admit, it took me a little longer than usual to get through Storyteller: Stories of Life and Music by Dave Grohl, but it certainly didn’t disappoint. It is one of the best memoirs I’ve read. Considering his current stature in the world of pop rock/alternative, whatever you want to call it, as a drummer, his humble nature shines through. It all started with his pure love of pop rock, namely the Beatles, moving on to the punk scene of the late 70s and early 80s, and making it big with Nirvana and grunge. Today, it seems as though Dave Grohl has settled in as drummer and girl dad extraordinaire. If planning on reading the book, I highly recommend the audiobook version as he reads his own memoir. There is nothing quite like hearing about Nirvana’s early days and the danger of their exploding fan base from the drummer himself. Then there are the well-placed expletives in his internal monologue as he meets his musical heroes and juggles world tours with daddy-daughter dances and musical projects with Joan Jett.
There is so much that stands out that it is hard to know where to even begin. First, the unwavering support of his teacher mother is undoubtedly one of several keys to his success. She supported – or put with – his love of music and his decision to drop out of high school in order to tour the United States with a band. Dave’s description of his discovery of punk rock at the hands of a formerly “preppy” family friend is memorable, as is his realization that she was in a punk band herself. It sets the stage for what is to come.
His description of his life between dropping out of high school and eventually joining Nirvana is as hazy and transient as his life at that time. It’s great and easy to imagine. Opportunities to fill in and drum with his idols Iggy Pop and Tom Petty standout as it is clear that Dave was as star-struck as can be at the time.
Frankly, the section in Seattle with Nirvana is just sad as we all know how it ended. Dave’s descriptions of Nirvana’s meteoric rise to infamy is gut-wrenching to read and full of danger. He describes in spectacular detail playing venues far too small for how big Nirvana had grown in such a short amount of time thanks to MTV and “Smells like Teen Spirit.” After Kurt Cobain’s death, Dave understandably took some time to process everything and ground himself once again.
Given the timeline, it appears that Dave developed Foo Fighters and started his family at roughly the same time, both growing together. For me, the best part of the book involves Dave’s descriptions of juggling life with his three daughters and superstardom. Stories involve things such as Paul McCartney giving his eldest daughter her first piano lesson and Joan Jett reading his daughters bedtime stories.
The Joan Jett story is one of my favorites. It starts with Dave in the Barbie aisle helping his daughters pick out a doll and coming across a Joan Jett doll. His girls didn’t realize that Joan Jett was a real person. Soon, Joan herself was over to their house working on some musical project with Dave, when his oldest daughter asked her if she would read them a bedtime story. She did .. in her pjs.
Then there is the story of the daddy-daughter dance. It involves a whirlwind trip to Australia and back to make the dance, the Australian tour itself, and a horrific bout of food poisoning. Yet, he made it and didn’t break his little girls’ hearts.
Above all, it is a series of stories about following your dreams, hard work, fame (or infamy), family, and music. Dave’s descriptions of conversations with his dad are touching in the end. In the beginning, it seemed as though Dave hated his dad due to his conservative politics and his parents’ divorce. While much of Dave’s relationship with his dad remained complicated prior to his fame, it does seem as though they made up in the years before his father passed away. It also appears that Dave took his dad’s financial and career advice.
While I didn’t outline it here, there are plenty of rock star stories from the road in the book as well. They are just as good. Dave appears to have found a balance between his career and family both in the memoir and in real life. If you love music at all or just enjoy memoir, check it out.