Thursday, March 31, 2022

Book Review: The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music
by Dave Grohl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What do you even say when the man whose bio/storybook your reading looses his best friend whose in a great many of the stories told in the book? I was just past halfway when Taylor Hawkins (drummer of the Foo Fighters, and best friend to Dave Grohl, lead singer of the Foo Fighters) was announced as having passed at the age of 50.

Because of this death announcement, I nearly didn't finish the book. Never mind that if I die at 50 then I'm only 10 years away from having no more time (which terrifies me); but I truly believe the death of Hawkins is the end of one of my favourite bands of all time. The Foo Fighters cannot just replace their drummer. Grohl may be the soul of the band; but Hawkins carries the spirit. Adding to that, in Storyteller, Grohl talks about being drummer of Nirvana and the loss of bandmate Kurt Cobain. There are passages that, even without Hawkins death, are heartbreaking in these stories. Intimate moments Grohl shares of not being able to sit at a drum kit without seeing Cobain out of the corner of his eye. Things that brought me (a non-cryer) to tears. And so I believe that there is very little hope that Foo Fighters will exist without Taylor Hawkins.

It could be that Storyteller is the beginning of the end of an era. After reading Storyteller you will know (what I now do) that Grohl will persevere beyond it. If there is one thing to take from the intertwined stories in The Storyteller it's that Grohl could have given up many times; but he didn't. He struggled off $10 a day per diem's on tour (not near enough for food and lodging; needless to say they slept in the tour van, a lot) and could easily have drifted into history having never left Cobain's shadow. But instead he got back up and wrote an album, for a band that he called the Foo Fighters.
The loss of Kurt, the loss of his childhood best friend Jimmy, and so many others he's encountered along the way have clearly shaped him into the man he is today. This discussion of loss is why it's so poignant and heartbreaking that Hawkins died as I was reading these stories.

Now before you go thinking this book is depressing there are some really bright points. Grohl tells stories two at a time in each chapter. One of the stories will be 'older' and another will be 'newer'. For example, the opening chapter talks about his daughter Harper asking to learn drums. Simultaneously we then get Grohl talking about being a dad and teaching drums; alongside a sotry about the one and only 'official' drum lesson he ever received as a teen. The genius of telling the stories in these distant pairs is that there is no 'boring stuff' to get through before you get to the nitty gritty you really want to know (like when Nirvana exploded on the music scene, or when Foo Fighters released their first album). Unlike some biographies that have lags in time, we get snippets that go together and really enhance our understand of Grohl and the things he's overcome or encountered in his life.

For me the highlights of the book are the stories Grohl talks about being a Dad; they are genuine, loving, and absolutely adorable. Although I truly appreciated him discussing grieving over his lost friends and giving us a window into how it feels to know that your entire career (and life) wouldn't be what it is today without a man who never really got to see or appreciate his own celebrity and legacy.

Now, I suppose I should have started this review with the info that I was born in 1983. Thus I was 11 years old when Kurt Cobain died. This is the first celebrity death (of significance to me) I can remember. They brought in grief counsellors at my junior high (middle) school for students when teachers realized no one was learning or paying attention in the days that followed Cobain's suicide. We were all just kind of zombies because our generations idol was gone; and not just randomly, but of his own hand. There were 3 suicides at my school within 6 months (in older years by kids I didn't know). Which was many more than there ever had been before in such a short timeframe. Nirvana spoke to so many of us and we embraced it. Needless to say Dave Grohl has been a significant part of my entire life; especially given how important music is to me. It's second only to reading (lol). Not only do I love Grohl's music, but also his demeanor and general rock god status (in a good way, not in the arrogant I'm so good Billy Corgan way). Therefore, I may be slightly, okay... very... biased in my review of this book.

At the end of the day there are a lot of great stories in The Storyteller, and I think Grohl could write thousands of pages for us. It's clear that this is just a tiny snippet of a crazy, unbelievable life. Yet, he's just a guy who was a regular kid, from a regular household who was crazy talented, and in the right place at the right time to fall into an insane celebrity status. He worked hard and gave up a lot to get there; and I'm proud to say, based on this book, that he's loving his life and appreciating every minute of it.

Although, living that high also means coming down hard. My heart breaks, not just because I may never hear another new Foo song again or that I won't see them a fifth time this year (as they cancelled their tour), or that I will never see them again with Hawkins on drums; but because after reading Storyteller, I better understand how hard Dave Grohl is likely taking this loss. He will persevere; but nothing will be the same again.
No matter when or where in my life I have been the below lyrics (that Grohl, Hawkins, Chris Shifflet and Nate Mendel wrote) have always spoken to me:
"It's times like these you learn to live again
It's times like these you give and give again
It's times like these you learn to love again
It's times like these time and time again"
These words and this song (Times Like These) have had significant meaning for me over the years. Not the least of which is that I have always thought of my husband when I hear this song; even over the years we weren't together. These words are immortal, they will always be relevant no matter the good or bad in my own (or anyone else's) life. If you don't know the Foo Fighters and listen to only one song listen to this one (and then immediately play Everlong as it's just as poignant and beloved by everyone).

I would say if you have any interest in music, Grohl's projects or bands, or want to have a genuine perspective on being a father, grieving, or hard work then this book is for you. In fact, I can't think of a single person I wouldn't recommend it too. There is something here for everyone, even if you've never heard of Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, or the Foo Fighters. One of the many stories here will resonate with you; because they are all genuine, truthful, and being told from a man who could be an arrogant, asshole celeb; and instead is a kind, thoughtful, and loving: Dad to his kids, friend to his bandmates, and icon for so many (including myself) in the world. May we all strive to be as grateful, honest, and thankful as Dave Grohl is for the life we have; even for the times that are joyful, heartbreaking, or those that burn off and on again.

RIP Taylor Hawkins
1972 - 2022