One of the few musicians to achieve massive success with multiple instruments and bands, Dave Grohl went from Nirvana drummer to Foo Fighters frontman-guitarist-songwriter. Emerging from the fading punk scene of the late-1980s, Grohl joined Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic as their band's latest drummer just prior the recording of Nirvana's Nevermind, an era-defining smash hit that transformed the music industry landscape. In the aftermath of Cobain's tragic suicide in 1994, Grohl made headlines in a very public feud with Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, while privately struggling with his own future as a musician. Finally unleashing his long-gestating aspirations as a singer-songwriter, Grohl picked up the guitar and formed the Foo Fighters, a band that quickly established itself as a hard rock staple and enjoyed a lengthy Grammy-winning run with such albums as The Colour and the Shape and There is Nothing Left to Lose, featuring hits like "Everlong," "Learning to Fly" and "My Hero." Never one to sit on his laurels, Grohl enjoyed a myriad of side projects and musical collaborations, including work with the bands Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures and rock icon Paul McCartney. The accomplished musician even ventured into filmmaking with the L.A. recording scene documentary "Sound City" (2013). Highly respected and immensely liked within the music industry and revered by fans for his part in two of rock's most dynamic bands, Dave Grohl built a long-lasting and influential music career on his own terms, proving that nice guys could indeed finish first.
Born Jan. 14, 1969 in Warren, OH, David Eric Grohl eventually moved with his family to Springfield, VA, a suburb of Washington, DC. He started guitar lessons at age 12 but soon quit, with his natural talent and dislike of authority leading him to become a self-taught talent. A summer in Illinois at his cousin's house opened Grohl's eyes to the world of punk, and he became a passionately devoted fan of the genre, playing snippets of the music over the school's intercom during his tenure as freshman class vice president. As his devotion to music increased, so did his usage of drugs, and his mother had him transferred to a different high school. After joining the band Freak Baby as a guitarist, Grohl became interested in drums, and taught himself how to play them by practicing on pillows. As Freak Baby morphed into Mission Impossible and then Fast, Grohl switched to drums and moved on to a new, hardcore punk band, Dain Bramage.
The budding teen musician had begun to make a name for himself on the local scene where he became a fixture at clubs, and successfully auditioned to become the new drummer for DC-based band Scream. He dropped out of high school at 17 and spent the next four years touring the world and recording with the band. Blessed with a warm, winning personality, the goofy Grohl made many friends and valuable connections in the music world; enough that when Scream broke up, his friend Buzz Osborne of The Melvins connected him with Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, members of a band called Nirvana. Grohl went to Seattle and successfully auditioned to become Nirvana's new drummer. The band already had the album Bleach under their belts, and were being courted by major labels for their follow-up. It was at that time that Grohl jumped aboard the speeding train and joined his new bandmates as they went into the studio to record 1991's Nevermind.
From the moment the anthemic insta-classic "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was released, the album proved successful beyond anyone's wildest dreams, spearheading the societal and musical grunge movement and wowing critics and fans alike, who viewed the band - especially Cobain - as the definitive voice of a disaffected, alienated Generation X. Largely powered by the doomed charisma of Kurt Cobain, the awe-inspiring Nirvana simultaneously offered Grohl fantastic opportunities and limitations. While a member of Scream, Grohl had made tentative steps with songwriting and singing, but despite the fact that Cobain could be very generous, it was impossible for the frontman not to overshadow and intimidate his bandmates. Instead of offering them to Nirvana, Grohl collected his initial efforts and under the name "Late!" solo recorded an indie-label cassette in 1992 called Pocketwatch.
With Cobain's blessing and help, Grohl rerecorded one of his Pocketwatch compositions, transforming "Color Pictures of a Marigold" into "Marigold," which was released as a B-side on the "Heart-Shaped Box" single, and he also wrote the main guitar riff on "Scentless Apprentice." Despite their progress, Cobain was unhappy with Grohl's contributions to the band, and considered firing him, a decision supported by his wife, Courtney Love. Nevertheless, Grohl and bandmate Novoselic found themselves shouldering more solo studio time as Cobain missed work to struggle with his personal demons. The two odd men out laid down demos of several Grohl originals that would enjoy a second life, including "Big Me" in 1994. When Cobain committed suicide in April of that year, Grohl found himself at a professional crossroads as he struggled with the guilt and sadness over the loss of his friend and bandmate.
After brief flirtations with offers of joining Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Pearl Jam as a drummer, Grohl decided to take a big chance. With the exception of one guitar part, Grohl wrote every song and played every instrument (vocal, guitar, bass and drum), completing the demo as Foo Fighters, a name inspired by World War II UFO sightings. Signed by Capitol Records, he assembled a touring band with himself on guitar and vocals, and the demo (after a professional gloss) became 1995's Foo Fighters. The album and Grohl's subsequent touring won over critics and fans and, in a low-key, hardworking way, he began to build a reputation outside of anyone else's shadow - even the formidable Cobain's. The band guested on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) and released a string of singles, with a reworked "Big Me" (and its purposely-cheesy, Mentos Mint-inspired, MTV Music Video Music Award-winning clip) making the biggest mainstream impression.
Adding to his cool factor, Grohl and his then-wife Jennifer Youngblood made cameos on "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002) as both were hardcore fans of the show, and he wrote the score/soundtrack to the indie "Touch" (1997), again handling the majority of the instruments and vocals. Foo Fighters began recording their second album, but tensions between drummer William Goldsmith and Grohl came to a head when Grohl took over the drumming and edged Goldsmith out. The set, 1997's The Colour and the Shape, became the group's seminal work, launching them into superstardom and cementing their status in the eyes of critics and fans alike. With eye-catching, bizarre videos and undeniably catchy, powerful songs such as "Monkey Wrench," "My Hero" and "Everlong" - arguably Grohl's masterpiece - the Foos settled into long-term success.
Touring constantly and collaborating with a variety of impressive musicians of every era, Grohl's sunny disposition helped earn him the reputation of being the so-called nicest guy in rock, as well as a hard-rocking idol of millions. Critics were impressed with the growth shown on Foo Fighters's 1999 album, the softer, melody-driven There is Nothing Left to Lose which won a Grammy for Best Rock Album. The dumb-fun music video for the pop-inspired "Learn to Fly" also took home a Grammy, showcasing band members playing a variety of people aboard an airplane, including Grohl as an effeminate flight attendant and a pigtailed teenager lusting after Grohl the rock singer. The happy-go-lucky Foo Fighters vibe was hit by a hurricane, however, in 2001, when Courtney Love blocked the release of a box set of Nirvana rarities assembled by Grohl and Novoselic. Love and Grohl's relationship had always been strained, and the long-simmering bad blood between them boiled into a full-fledged, messy press feud over Cobain and Nirvana's legacy. During the ensuing legal battles, Grohl and Love held nothing back, and although the matter was eventually settled, the two remained lifelong enemies. While public opinion tended to side with the nice guy (Grohl) who actually helped create the music that was being disputed, over the perceived merry widow (Love) who had inherited her rights to it, the brouhaha helped put a dent in Grohl's sweetheart persona.
Returning to the studio, Foo Fighters began work on a fourth album but progress was slow. Inspired by a time-off stint drumming for Queens of the Stone Age, Grohl reunited with the Foos to rerecord the 2002 album, One by One. Although Grohl himself deemed the collection uneven, it took home the Grammy for Best Rock album, as well as launching the hard-driving hit single "All My Life." From fall 2002 to spring 2003, Grohl achieved a never-to-be-repeated chart feat, remaining at the number one Modern Rock position as a member of three different groups, when the last recorded Nirvana single "You Know You're Right" was replaced by "All My Life," which ceded the penthouse to "No One Knows" by Queens of the Stone Age. The Foos continued to tour, supporting John Kerry's 2004 White House bid, an experience that deeply affected Grohl. Including an acoustic disc, Foo Fighters released their fifth album, 2005's In Your Honor, which proved modestly successful and spawned the hits "DOA" and the yearning "Best Of You."
The reception for 2007's Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace was even stronger, winning a Grammy for Best Rock Album and spinning off a string of hits, including the Grammy-winning "The Pretender," "Long Road to Ruin" and "Let It Die," which Grohl teased was about the rocky relationship between Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, which, unsurprisingly, lit Love's notoriously short and litigious fuse. Grohl grew calmer with the passing of time, and seemed to take a much more laidback response to Love's tongue-lashings - probably due in some part to pity, as her public unraveling seemed to get worse as the years went by. He continued to channel his considerable energies into multiple side projects over the years, collaborating with Tenacious D, Killing Joke, Cat Power, Nine Inch Nails, Juliette and the Licks, Pete Yorn, David Bowie and a slew of heavy metal royalty for a superband called Probot. One of his most impressive collaborations, however, came when he appeared as Sir Paul McCartney's special guest at a 2008 concert, singing backup and playing guitar and drums. The two repeated their collaboration at the Grammys, and Grohl would go on to perform "Maybe I'm Amazed" for McCartney's 2010 Kennedy Center Honor.
In 2009, Grohl formed a buzz-worthy new band, Them Crooked Vultures, and they appeared as musical guests in an episode of "SNL," which included a skit where Grohl played an over-the-hill drummer. That same year, Grohl earned the key to his hometown as well as "David Grohl Alley," a downtown street dedicated with murals honoring his success. With his music a movie mainstay - most memorably "My Hero" serving as the theme of the James Van Der Beek 1999 hit "Varsity Blues" - fans were charmed to hear Grohl would cameo as himself in the feature film reboot, "The Muppets" (2011) alongside Animal, everyone's favorite red-felt drummer. That same year, Foo Fighters released both the feature-length documentary of the band "Back and Forth," and the back-to-basics Wasting Light, the band's seventh studio album and its first to reach No. 1 on the U.S. charts. Supervised by Nevermind producer Butch Vig, the all-analog excursion gave life to the hits "These Days" and the Grammy-winning "Walk," as well as brought Novoselic on board for the first time in 20 years on the possible Cobain-inspired "I Should Have Known." The sales milestone was not without at price, however. After months of endless touring in support of the effort, an exhausted Grohl indicated during several live performances that the band would most likely be taking an immediate and lengthy break for an indeterminate period once the touring schedule wrapped.
In the meantime, Grohl kept his visibility high with a number of televised appearances. In the spring, Foo Fighters performed a pair of Rolling Stones standards with Mick Jagger when the British icon hosted a 2012 episode of "SNL," then Grohl returned near the end of the year to drum for musical guest Paul McCartney and two other gentlemen of some renown. Three days prior, Grohl, McCartney, Novoselic and Pat Smear had performed on stage together at the monumental Hurricane Sandy relief concert, 12-12-12 for the show's closing set. Billing themselves as "Dave Grohl and Friends" and performing "Cut Me Some Slack" - an original song penned by the foursome - the new makeshift band drove generations of music fans into a frenzy, due in part to the fact that it marked the first time the surviving members of Nirvana had played together live on stage in 18 years, and with McCartney as frontman, no less. Continuing to broaden his creative horizons, Grohl made his filmmaking debut as the producer-director of the documentary "Sound City" (2013), a loving homage to the legendary Los Angeles recording studio where classic albums from such rock acts as Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - as well as Nirvana's Nevermind - were produced throughout its 40-plus year existence. Foo Fighter fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when while premiering "Sound City" at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Grohl offhandedly announced that a new Foo Fighters album would be forthcoming. In fact, it became a multimedia event: Grohl and the band traveled to several different American cities to explore the local music history and record new songs. A miniseries, "Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways" (HBO 2014) was accompanied by the completed album of the same title.
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Joined Nirvana, replacing original drummer Chad Channing.
Nirvana's second album <i>Nevermind</i> becomes a massive worldwide success.
Releases first album by The Foo Fighters, an almost entirely solo project.
At a Hurricane Sandy benefit, performs a quasi-Nirvana reunion with Krist Novocelic on bass and Pat Smear on guitar, with Paul McCartney replacing deceased frontman Kurt Cobain. The group release a digital single, "Cut Me Some Slack."
Directs first film, the documentary "Sound City."
Creates, directs and stars in the HBO documentary series "Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways," a travelogue of the band exploring and recording in different American cities.