Dave Grohl’s Mother Let Him Drop out of High School to Start His Music Career: ‘You Better Be Good’

Dave Grohl’s mother is one of the coolest rock ‘n’ roll moms in music. Right away, she picked up on her son’s musical abilities and let them flourish. She sang with him in the car and took him to jazz clubs when he was a boy. For years, being a teacher, she knew that her son’s relationship with school was not his fault.

So, she couldn’t say no when Grohl asked her if he could drop out of high school to go on the road and start his music career. She wanted to tag along. Although, Virginia Grohl had one warning to her son: he better be good.

Dave Grohl's mother, Virginia Grohl, with some of his awards in 2008.
Dave Grohl’s mother | Gerald Martineau/The The Washington Post via Getty Images

Dave Grohl’s mother knew he’d be an entertainer

Virginia Grohl recalled the moment music took over her son’s life during an interview with the Guardian. A six-year-old Grohl was in the back of her car on a hot summer day in 1975. Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” came on the radio.

They began to harmonize together. “As Mick Jagger’s unmistakable voice joined the chorus,” Grohl wrote in his mother’s book, From Cradle to Stage, “our voices split into harmony for the first time. My mother started singing Mick’s lower line as I sang Carly’s high lead vocal. Without realizing it … I was harmonizing! My heart lit up … Hell, this was the chicken AND the egg!”

On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Virginia explained that she knew Grohl would be an entertainer.

Virginia said, “I didn’t know he was going to be a rock star. I knew he was going to be a musician, I knew really early he was going to be an entertainer; I had the feeling that some of you have it in your blood somewhere that you just start out being goofy, and silly, and making people laugh. That’s the way he was.”

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Grohl’s mother let him drop out of high school because she knew that sometimes schools fail kids

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 began to plummet. Then, he knew he wanted to be a rock after he saw a punk rock band perform.

The punk band 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. His father was a conservative Republican speechwriter on Capitol Hill. Virginia 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.”

Virginia called it “The Conversation.” She told the Guardian, “I could have said, ‘Just go to school, get your education, have something to fall back on. Not many people make it in the music business.’ But I didn’t.”

Grohl knows the real reason why his mother let him go to Europe with Scream. She knew some kids don’t thrive in school.

On The Howard Stern Show, Grohl said, “One of the reasons why my mother was OK with me dropping out of high school is because she was a high school English teacher. So she knew that no two children learn the same. Sometimes it’s not the kid that fails the school; it’s the school that fails the kid.

“She didn’t think I was a complete idiot; she knew that I wasn’t going to make it under the fluorescent lights of this public school.”

Virginia admitted to Colbert that she was a bit nervous about Grohl going off on his own. However, all she knew was that he would be playing music in Europe with a band that she knew and trusted. She was so excited for him and even a bit jealous that she almost went with him. However, Virginia has traveled with Grohl on tour many times since.

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Grohl’s dad had no faith in his music career

Meanwhile, Grohl’s dad did not support him at all, Grohl told Sunday Morning. His father told him it wasn’t going to last when he joined Nirvana. He advised Grohl to save every check like it was the last one.

He told Stern, “We were very conflicted. My father was a classically trained flutist. He was a musician with perfect pitch, and 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.”

How far does the apple fall from the tree? Grohl said it fell down the hill. Grohl and his father had a strained relationship until Grohl’s adulthood. Then, finally, they became friends.

However, Grohl’s father was right about one thing. Nirvana didn’t last, but Foo Fighters have. When things get hairy for Grohl, he always goes home to be with his mother. In the wake of Taylor Hawkins’ death, Virginia is undoubtedly helping her son grieve.

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