David Eric Grohl was the product of a broken home, aimlessly growing up close to Washington, DC. His only passion was music, and he taught himself to play both guitar and drums so well that it eventually made him famous. But it was hard lessons in life that taught him how to be a cool rock star. Here are some surprising facts about the one and only Dave Grohl.
1. Rocker in the Cradle
Following his parents’ divorce, Grohl was raised in Virginia by a single mom, Virginia Hanlon Grohl. He was apparently quite a handful, as Hanlon Grohl wittily recounts in her book, From Cradle to Stage, a masterpiece about raising a rock star kid, with stories from moms of other famous musicians. Disclaimer: the promo video Grohl shot with his mom to promote the book is hilarious.
2. Head Rush
Grohl was just nine years old when his heart was stolen by a drummer. He learned about the rock band Rush through his cousin and got introduced to the landmark album, 2112. Grohl was transfixed by the legendary drumming skills of Neil Peart. In 2013, Grohl inducted Rush into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he got to play live onstage with his idols.
3. Ready to Scream
Grohl’s high school life was tumultuous, to say the least. He was in an out of three high schools before his junior year. His mom even yanked him from one school because his weed use was impacting his grades. But Grohl was never an academic. At 17, he learned that a popular DC punk band, Scream, was looking for a drummer. Grohl was anxious to see the world, so he took a risk.
4. Liar Liar
Grohl approached the punk band Scream, and he lied about his age because they were a decade older. They thought he was an animal on drums, and they asked him to join the band. Grohl dropped out of high school and toured internationally with Scream for several years. Along the way, he befriended a fellow punk musician named Buzz Osborne.
This friendship proved to be monumental.
5. The Buzz Made It to Cobain
Buzz Osborne was buddies with a rising star who was popularizing the grunge-rock genre in the Pacific Northwest: Kurt Cobain. Osborne raved to Cobain about Grohl on drums and backup vocals, so Cobain, along with Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, checked out Grohl at a gig in San Francisco. Cobain and Novoselic were hooked, and Grohl got an invite to jam.
6. Sleepless in Seattle
How many people can say that they’ve crashed on Kurt Cobain’s couch for eight months? Grohl can, after he landed in the Seattle area to sit in on a casual Nirvana session as the drummer. Cobain said Grohl could stay at his one-bedroom apartment, and Grohl made do on the furniture. But the rent-free lifestyle came with hidden costs…
7. Bedlam and Breakfast
Grohl’s happier recollections of rooming with Cobain have made it into his song lyrics, including the times when Cobain strummed away on an old guitar, using a coin as a pick. Sadly, it wasn’t always good times, and it got quite dark. Aside from that misty musical memory, Grohl offers a blunt description of living under Cobain’s roof, revealing "it was chaos".
8. A Working Honeymoon
Grohl might have a soft spot for a certain hotel bathroom in Ireland. The year was 1994, and he was on honeymoon with first wife Jennifer Youngblood when the creative urge hit. Grohl wrote the Foo Fighters’ first single in the lavatory, calling it a "new beginning" following the tragedy of Cobain’s suicide.
9. Stranger Danger
Fame can be scary, and Grohl knows the creepier downside of being a celebrity. In 2005, he received word from the FBI that a woman had been apprehended for stalking him. She had a map of his house, and she intended to do him serious harm. Thankfully, Grohl received assurances that the stalker was safely locked up.
10. Deep Rocker Pockets
Grohl has been a messy-haired, tatted-up, hard-rock musician for decades—but instead of trashing hotel rooms, he’s built up a sweet rep in bars and restaurants. Underneath all that black on black is a softie who leaves gargantuan tips. A prime example is the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia, where he once gave a $1,000 tip to bar staff, two nights in a row.
11. Part of the Rescue Operation
Grohl has a mildly snarky, profanity-ridden wit. So, why the nickname "The Nicest Man in Rock?" When two Tasmanian miners were trapped underground in 2006 and awaiting rescue, they requested Foo Fighters music along with essentials like food and water. Grohl heard about them, and he sent them a handwritten note with the promise of a free night out at a Foo concert.
He also wrote a song about the miners that appeared on the album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.
12. Un-American Idol
Grohl idolized the late, great English rocker David Bowie, who first achieved Stateside success with his 1975 album, Young Americans. Grohl—who’s gleefully performed with many of his musical idols—once got the nerve up to email Bowie, in the hopes of collaborating on a movie soundtrack. Grohl was ecstatic when Bowie replied.
That is, until Grohl clicked the email.
13. From One David to Another
Grohl described what it felt like to get an emailed response from David Bowie: "With the excitement of a hyperactive child on Christmas morning, I held my breath and hastily opened it". But, in a nutshell, Bowie’s response was, "Dear David, No. Love, David". In hindsight, Grohl believes that Bowie may have been hiding a terrible secret.
14. Time's Run Out
Grohl and Bowie exchanged a few more pleasant emails, and Grohl hinted that they could jam together someday…at a birthday party, perhaps? Bowie replied with an ominous statement: "No more birthdays, I've run out of them". No one outside of Bowie’s immediate circle knew he had terminal cancer before his untimely demise. Grohl now wonders if Bowie wanted to spare him the painful truth.
15. My Three Daughters
Grohl’s life before kids was a purely rock ‘n roll existence of touring nine months a year. Three kids later, he’s now a minivan-driving, lunch-packing dad to daughters Violet, Harper, and Ophelia. Grohl is never away from them for longer than 12 days. But that’s Grohl’s least-shocking confession about fatherhood.
16. How to Torment Your Rock Daddy
The classic rock genre wasn’t inherited by Grohl’s kids, who have zero interest in legends like The Beatles or the Rolling Stones. He jokes that their music is a "real test in terms of loyalty," specifically mentioning Katy Perry as "the worst thing". But when he took his family on tour, he discovered that the worst was yet to come.
17. Backstage Antics
Grohl and Foo Fighters bandmate Taylor Hawkins were interviewed about having their families on tour. They both said their young kids trashed the backstage worse than they ever did. The kids bickered and play-fought too, but Grohl joked, "in 25 years when they're suing each other over our royalties," there would be shared memories.
18. In an Aloha Mood
Grohl has the Hawaiian night sky—and astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson—to thank for a Foo song he wrote called "The Sky Is a Neighborhood". He was vacationing in Hawaii, stargazing as he lay in the grass one night, when he recalled an interview that he’d seen with DeGrasse Tyson. The song’s video is special for another reason: it co-stars Grohl’s kids, and Grohl directed it.
19. Blood Is Thicker Than Music
In 1997, Grohl’s first marriage to Jennifer Youngblood ended in divorce, all for a shocking reason—he hadn’t been faithful to her. But the personal setback also became professional. Foo Fighters guitarist Pat Smear was friends with Youngblood, and he sided with her after the divorce. Smear left the band for years until Grohl coaxed him back.
20. Breaking Up Badly
Following his divorce, Grohl dated alternative rock goddess Louise Post of the band Veruca Salt, and their relationship went A-list. But when Grohl started hooking up with actress Winona Ryder, and he callously dumped Post—via phone call—before one of her concerts. A shocked Post hit the bottle, and she could barely play her show.
21. A Wingman's Destiny
Grohl is now a happily married father of three. So, what changed along the way to turn this rocker jerk into a Romeo? It might sound like a cheesy romance novel meet-cute, but Grohl met the lady who would become his second wife when he played wingman for bandmate Taylor Hawkins, on an evening out in Los Angeles in 2001…
22. Being Wrong Never Felt so Right
Hawkins was going on a date, and Grohl came along to support him. Jordyn Blum was the friend of Hawkins’ date, and she was doing the same thing. But something unexpectedly romantic happened. A tipsy Grohl slipped Blum a note at night’s end, with his phone number and this scrawl: "you’re my future ex-wife".
They got married in 2003, and they’re still going strong.
23. Drum If You Dare
Nirvana’s music remains the epitome of grunge, and they achieved breakout success worldwide. But the drummer gig in the band was fraught with uncertainties. Grohl had achieved tremendous success with his insanely energetic drumming in the band Scream. Cobain wanted Grohl to play with Nirvana…but there was one little problem.
24. Someone’s in the Hotseat Already
Nirvana already had a drummer when Cobain was eying Grohl for the job. In fact, they’d gone through five drummers, with ex-Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters now behind the kit. Peters had zero clue that Cobain was out to replace him, and the band was jointly planning a European tour when Grohl was secretly called in to audition.
25. A Match Made in Grunge Heaven
Grohl barely got through his first song during his private audition with Nirvana—he didn’t have to. Everyone listening knew the maniacally gifted drummer was the band’s missing link. Cobain phoned a shocked Dan Peters and sacked him. And Grohl’s thoughts? Apparently, he was never told he’d gotten the gig: "I don't remember them saying 'you're in the band.' We just continued". Grohl said.
26. The Meaning of Nirvana
Decades after the depression of Cobain’s passing had blindsided him, Grohl can reflect on creating music, and touring with the band. "It wasn't always a bummer," Grohl said. "There were times when it was so outrageously hilarious…a loud, distorted version of Monty Python". Unfortunately, the darker moments prevailed…
27. Shut Your Kit
Cobain might have liked Grohl better than any other Nirvana drummer, but he could be a control freak with a diva fragility underneath his mask of addictions. The band’s legendary appearance on MTV’s Unplugged show was a perfect example. Cobain complained that Grohl’s drumming overpowered the forced intimacy of the setting, and he wanted Grohl yanked off the show.
28. Saved by the Swizzle
Alex Coletti served as producer of the Unplugged show, and he came to Grohl’s rescue when Cobain wanted Grohl out. Coletti asked Grohl to play with swizzle sticks, allowing him to go nuts on the kit while creating a softer sound. Grohl said sure, and the show was outstanding. But the sad, shocking end was closing in.
29. Watching Tragedy Unfold
Grohl had no clue that Munich, Germany would be the last place Nirvana ever played before the tragedy unfolded. It was 1994, and Cobain was battling vocal cord issues, marital problems, and ever-present—but worsening—addictions. Grohl didn’t realize how badly Cobain was spiraling downwards. The unthinkable was on the horizon.
30. It All Went Too Fast
Grohl naively figured that a break in Nirvana’s fast-paced European touring schedule would help matters. He was removed from Cobain’s escalating drug habits, but happy to hear it when Cobain returned to the States to check into an LA rehab facility—until Grohl got an unforgettable and chilling call. Just three days later, Cobain flew back to Seattle and suffered a self-inflicted, fatal wound.
31. Surreal Grief
Cobain’s sudden passing hit Grohl hard and depression quickly set in. Little did Grohl know, that was only the beginning of his nightmare. He found that there was no right way to privately mourn his friend and former bandmate. But grieving in public was made more difficult, and it got surreal.
32. Question Attacks
Nothing in life prepared Grohl for what happened after Kurt Cobain’s passing. For years, he was incessantly probed by journalists—strangers—during interviews, asking him the most personal and emotional questions about Cobain, who had become, in Grohl’s words, "something more than a human being to others".
33. One Man Show
A forlorn Grohl thought his life and career was over after Nirvana. Until his past caught up with him. Grohl had already proved his songwriting skills and musical chops before Nirvana. In 1991, he wrote every song and played every note on a small-label release called Pocketwatch. In 1994, he started thinking about a new band name: Foo Fighters, an old army codename for UFOs.
34. Complications With the Birth
Foo Fighters was more than Grohl’s pet band name—the first album in 1995 was another solo effort. But he wanted to tour the album, and he knew the band name made it sound like it an actual group. He went looking for bandmates, and the roster went through numerous incarnations—and personality clashes—before Foo Fighters was truly born.
35. Going for Gold
Grohl could go toe-to-toe with Cobain in the control freak department, and his quest for musical perfection as the Foo Fighters’ frontman peeved off their first drummer, William Goldsmith. While recording their second album in 1995, Grohl redid Goldsmith’s entire drum section. Goldsmith departed in a huff. The evolution was only beginning.
36. Hard Lessons to Learn
Foo Fighters was an international success after two albums, but Grohl was messed up inside. His first marriage dissolved, and he drowned himself in drinking alone. Grohl needed to leave LA. He bought a house in Virginia and did a basement-soundproofing hack: hanging sleeping bags on the walls. Then Grohl got down with new songs, like "Learn to Fly".
37. Bird Songs
Grohl was joined by Taylor Hawkins on drums, and Nate Mendel on bass (still bandmates today). They laid down tracks in Grohl’s basement, including "Learn to Fly," and Grohl felt a new sense of peace. One day in springtime, while recording vocals with the basement windows open, their mikes picked up singing birds outside.
Grohl calls this one of his fondest recording memories.
38. A Fighter, Not a Lover
The rock battle was also waged when Grohl was a schoolkid. He had a buddy named Jimmy who was equally passionate about playing guitar. But they grew to butt heads musically. One day in class, Grohl teasingly drew a cartoon of Devo (his influence) taking out Loverboy (Jimmy’s influence) with lasers. The artwork got misinterpreted, landing Grohl in a bit of hot water…
39. Mental Checkup
To say Grohl’s Devo versus Loverboy cartoon was taken out of context is an overstatement. His teacher sent him to the school’s psychiatrist to be analyzed. During the session, the shrink asked Grohl an age-old question, posed by many authoritarian figures to teenagers, before and since: what was he going to do with his life?
Go figure…Grohl’s answer also got misconstrued.
40. A Future Misdiagnosed
Grohl had worked a few monotonous manual-labor jobs growing up in Virginia. He knew he wasn’t cut out for an Army job, or a government job in nearby Washington, DC. He told the school shrink that he was good at playing drums, and he figured he could do session work as a musician. The psychiatrist replied that was only because he knew illicit substances would be readily available to him.
41. Oh No, He Didn't
If you take Kurt Cobain’s notorious addictions as an example, the school shrink’s attitude about rockers and substance misuse might have seemed rational. Except it wasn’t. Grohl was a typical teenager who indulged in the light stuff, like weed. But he didn’t like feeling out of control when he played music, so he quit smoking up at 20.
That lasted for decades until Grohl made a shocking announcement.
42. He’ll Take Insomnia
Grohl played music, substance-free, well into his 40s. As cannabis became mainstream, Grohl decided to try it again for a very "un" rocker reason: he wanted to alleviate his insomnia problem. But after he tried it, he got "stuck in front of the Kardashians on TV for 45 minutes". Grohl joked that was bad enough for him to never do it "ever again".
43. A Twenty-Year War
The drama of Kurt Cobain’s life didn’t end with his death or the breakup of Nirvana. Cobain’s widow, hard-rocking Courtney Love, started a feud of accusations and verbal unpleasantries with Grohl that lasted for decades. At first, Love simply alleged that Grohl had stolen royalties. Then, her accusations got cringeworthy.
44. Loving the Child
Love’s accusations took a bizarre, unsavory turn when she said that Grohl was in an inappropriate relationship with Francis Bean, her only daughter with Cobain. Love continually slammed Grohl with lawsuits too, over song rights, and the release of an older, previously unheard Nirvana single. Would the feud ever end?
45. So Long, Acrimony
The bitterness between Grohl and Love seemed to come to an emotional end in 2014 when the former enemies shared a big bearhug during Nirvana’s induction into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame. But—since we’re talking about Grohl here—there had to be some wonky explanation behind their supposed truce.
46. They Finally Agreed on Something
Love provided the wonky explanation on how she made peace with Grohl, during an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live. While the passing years have graced them both with more wisdom and maturity…Love said their friendship was finally renewed after they both agreed on which Hollywood actress has the best cleavage.
47. Break a Leg...Literally
When the Foo Fighters perform, their dedication is so strong it can withstand a serious injury. Grohl proved that during a 2015 concert in Sweden. He was rocking out, and he misjudged the wiggle room onstage. Grohl toppled into a security pit and broke his leg—but as he lay there, he made a promise to the crowd.
48. Finish What We Started
Grohl’s injury happened just two songs into their show in Sweden. He told the crowd that he would return to finish the show, and he handed the reins over to Hawkins on drums. The band played covers until Grohl returned—on a stretcher, aided by medics—and played for 2 ½ more hours.
49. The Throne Must Go On
Foo Fighters completed their 2015 tour with Grohl performing on a custom-made, ergonomic "throne," complete with rocking backrest and built-in guitar slots for his numerous instruments. The throne became legendary, and it’ll probably never die: Grohl has already lent his throne to Axl Rose of Guns ‘N Roses, allowing Rose to tour with a broken foot.
50. Directing Sounds
Grohl has been making heavy sounds since childhood, but 2013 marked a new direction in sound. Grohl released his first documentary, Sound City, as a director and producer. The film is about Sound City Studios in the San Fernando Valley, a secretive place hidden among ramshackle warehouses, where music royalty like Nirvana, Fleetwood Mac, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Neil Young all went to record legendary albums.
51. Nirvana Revisited
In 1994, Seattle Police revisited the case of Kurt Cobain’s passing and revealed that an undeveloped roll of film with photographs of the scene had sat in an evidence locker for years. These tragic new photos were far more clear than the polaroids that had been previously used, but they only confirmed the earlier finding that Cobain had ended his own life.
The department initially refused to make the photos public, wondering what good such painful images could do, but some of them, including one tragically showing the hospital bracelet Cobain still had on his arm from the detox program that he had escaped from just days before his death, were eventually released.