Dave Grohl's Incurable OptimismHistorians in the News
tags: rock and roll, popular culture, Punk Rock, Dave Grohl
THE STORYTELLER: TALES OF LIFE AND MUSIC
By Dave Grohl
Dave Grohl is the last real rock star. His two bands, Nirvana and Foo Fighters, have each sold millions of records; he’s won Grammys, Emmys, and played the Oscars; he’s twice been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; and he’s beloved by music fans across the genre spectrum—one representative video clip from Desus & Mero is titled “Why Black People Really Love Dave Grohl.” Though Americans don’t agree about much, we agree Dave Grohl is one hell of a guy.
The reasons for this enchantment are obvious. Just watch a few minutes of any interview with Grohl and try not to be charmed by the open, charismatic, and friendly rock and roll dad in front of you. Unlike past male front men—the acerbic John Lennon, the mystifying David Bowie, the slinky Axl Rose, the tormented Kurt Cobain—Grohl is just one of the guys, someone who would be as comfortable at his kid’s soccer match as at an underground punk show.
This affable and cool Grohl is precisely the person who comes through in The Storyteller, the rock star’s new memoir. Anyone looking to read about wild tales from the road will be disappointed in the book; Grohl never discusses groupies or trashing hotel rooms, and he recounts no casually vicious stories akin to Led Zeppelin’s infamous “mud shark incident.” Grohl’s all about the music, man, and he wants you to know that it saved him—and it can save you, too.
The Storyteller’s amiable tone is to be expected: Grohl has never been an especially confessional artist. He’s here to rock out and have a good time, and to make sure you have a good time in the process. Thus, there’s very little here about Grohl’s time in Nirvana or his relationship with Kurt Cobain, one of the most bewildering and compelling figures in rock and roll history. There’s also no discussion of the decline and fall of rock and roll, which Grohl witnessed firsthand. He never once addresses the fact that rock music, the genre that he dominates, has been replaced at the top of the charts by rap and hip-hop—an epochal shift worthy of at least a mention. Nor does he reflect upon the music industry’s total evisceration at the hands of Internet pirates and streaming services. The music business Grohl entered in the 1980s is not the one he finds himself in today, but you wouldn’t know that from the book.
Though he moved from behind Nirvana’s drumkit to become Foo Fighters’ front man, The Storyteller makes clear that Grohl still wants to remain, at some fundamental level, unknown. Given what he witnessed Cobain go through, it’s difficult to begrudge him this desire. But Grohl’s reluctance to be exposed leaves his memoir a bit unsurprising and, ultimately, unessential. This is especially frustrating given that the book offers glimmers of introspection that one wishes Grohl expanded upon. To take one tantalizing example, the rock star refers to his “staunch Republican” father, who “officially disown[ed]” him when he was a rebellious teen, but then tells us little else about the man. One hopes that as Grohl ages—he’s a relatively young 53—he’ll write another memoir revealing what he really thinks about his career, his industry, and his life. That’s a book I’d definitely buy.
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