Dave Grohl’s Father Didn’t Expect His Music Career to Last More Than a Year

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl knew he wanted to make music and perform in a rock band from an early age, but Grohl’s father was not impressed. James Harper Grohl was an award-winning journalist and a Capitol Hill speechwriter by day and a classically trained musician by night. His love of music came after his successful day job, and he wanted Grohl to do the same.

However, that was impossible for the drummer. He didn’t want to put his love of music second to anything. He forfeited his relationship with his father in the process.

Dave Grohl and Nirvana in Germany, 1991.
Dave Grohl and Nirvana | Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty Images

Dave Grohl’s father disowned him after he dropped out of high school to pursue his music career

During an appearance on The Gramham Norton Show, Grohl explained that he started playing music when he was a kid but never had a lesson. It was all he could think about, and his grades started plummeting. He knew he wanted to be in a rock band after seeing a punk rock band perform.

Eventually, Grohl got good on the drums. A punk band called Scream asked him to join them on a tour of Europe when he was only 18 years old. His parents had conflicting views about him dropping out of high school. Grohl’s father was a conservative Republican speechwriter on Capitol Hill. His mother was a public school teacher who taught creative writing and public speaking.

“So my father was like, ‘That’s it, I’m disowning you,'” Grohl said. “My mother was like, ‘You better be good.’ So she said, ‘Go ahead, go out and do it.’ And I f***ing did it.”

Grohl’s mother let him go to Europe with Scream because, as a teacher, she knew some kids don’t thrive in school. So, Grohl went off with Scream and had a great time. However, Grohl’s relationship with his father became strained in the process.

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Grohl’s father had no faith in his music career

Unlike Grohl’s mother, his father did not support him at all. Grohl told Sunday Morning that his father told him it wouldn’t last when he joined Nirvana. He advised Grohl to save every check like it was the last one.

It’s interesting because Grohl’s father was musical too.

On The Howard Stern Show, Grohl said, “We were very conflicted. My father was a classically trained flutist. He was a musician with perfect pitch. He had the ear, and he had the musical mind. I’m sure that he had his own weird sense of synesthesia where he could see music.”

Despite their creative similarities, Grohl and his father had very different tastes in music. In an article for The Atlantic, Grohl wrote, “How far does the apple fall from the tree? In my case, it not only ripped off the branch; it rolled all the way down the f***in’ hill.

“I mean, you can’t really blame the guy for feeling terminally frustrated throughout my adolescent years. I’ve had feral pets that were easier to tame than me in my prepubescence. To put it mildly, Dad and I just didn’t see eye to eye.

“Nevertheless, DNA is a funny thing, and I don’t need a 23andMe kit to prove that my genetic code is candied with some of his more paradoxical qualities. And no matter how hard I tried to rebel, his hand always seemed to focus the lens through which I see the world (blurred as it may be).

“Beyond all our differences, if there is one gene that I am most thankful for, it is the one that fueled my love of music.”

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The Foo Fighters frontman reconciled with his father

Before Grohl went off with Scream, he disobeyed his father and performed with his high school garage band. He was prohibited from playing because his grades had fallen low. When Grohl’s father found out, he took his son to his apartment and made him study.

However, Grohl ran away. When his father found out, he called Grohl and warned him against doing it again.

“Fortunately, I never had to, because from that moment on he recognized that I knew in my heart who I was and who I wanted to be, and that nothing could stop me from becoming that person no matter what,” Grohl wrote.

“From that day forward, my father and I formed a new dynamic in our relationship, and over the years we developed a friendship based on mutual respect. It was if I had stepped out of his shadow, and my love for him was now allowed to grow.

“I learned to appreciate his wonderful eccentricities and puzzling idiosyncrasies (finding glimpses of myself in more than a few of them) and reconciled many of our past differences.

“As the years passed and my dreams of becoming a musician came true, he was always there to impart little gems of insight and wisdom, often steering me clear of the clichéd occupational hazards that typically clutter life in the music business.”

Grohl spent much of the lockdown writing, which made him think of his father. It was through him that Grohl found his love of writing. Grohl contemplated writing a book and calling it “kicking the apple back up the hill a bit.” He just wished his father could have read it.

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