How to raise a rock star, by Dave Grohl’s mum

What is it like to be the ma of a rock star ? Is the strongest feel pride at seeing your child adored by a delirious crowd ? Or anxiety surrounding the sex and drugs that go along with the rock ‘n’ roll ’ n ’ roll ? Does renown and money in the end salve the disappointment of having a adolescent flatten out of school to mistreat a guitar or drum kit in a seedy club ? Virginia Grohl, whose son is Dave Grohl of the enormously successful Foo Fighters and, before that, Nirvana, decided to find out how her experience compared with early women in her position : therefore she met the mothers of Pharrell Williams, Amy Winehouse, Dr Dre, Mike D of the Beastie Boys and a twelve or sol more to talk about life as a “ rock ma ”. In the book that has emerged from those conversations, From Cradle to Stage, Dave Grohl – or David, as his florist’s chrysanthemum firm calls him – recalls a moment when music took over his life. He was in the back of his mother ’ s Ford Maverick on a hot summer day in 1975 when Carly Simon ’ sulfur You ’ re indeed Vain came on the radio receiver. Dave, then aged six, his sister Lisa and Virginia would constantly sing in the car ; his mum was belting it out “ above the smash boom of the candid windows ”. then “ as Mick Jagger ’ s unmistakable voice joined the chorus, ” Dave writes in the ledger, “ our voices split into harmony for the first prison term. My beget started singing Mick ’ s lower occupation as I sang Carly ’ randomness high lead outspoken. Without realising it … I was harmonising ! My affection lit up … Hell, this was the wimp AND the testis ! ” When I talk to Virginia at her home in Los Angeles – where she lives near Dave and Lisa – she remembers her son as a boy “ so surpass and expansive ; I honestly remember [ him ] as a child going down an escalator clause and he ’ randomness talking to the people coming astir … He was constantly truly fun to be around. He did some devilish things, but I never thought of him as bad. ” She divorced Dave ’ s father in the mid-70s, and was a glad single parent ( “ some of us are very commodity at it ” ), although their house near Washington DC was little and the kids argued continually. Dave has reminisced about “ Mom making cinnamon toast and sticking shirts in the dry to warm them up because it was cold outside ”.

Less happy was Dave ’ s experience of school, which hit his mum specially hard, as she was a teacher. Running through her book is the suggestion that schools don ’ metric ton provide well for energetic, creative but non-academic kids. In his early teens, she tells me, Dave ’ s animation was “ all failure, and destine and gloom – not going to school, and then getting detention because he didn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate go … it was just deadly ”. By this time, he was learning to play drums in his bedroom, using a chair as the high-hat, and a pillow on the shock as the hook ; and was easily picking up songs on his guitar. The high-school band he was playing in had the awful diagnose of Dain Bramage. ( incredibly, they played an old people ’ mho home, and american ginseng Time Is On Your Side. ) He was besides smoking a lot of weed : he was, he has said, thus stoned at school that “ I didn ’ thyroxine know what I was studying ”. then Dave, a ferocious drummer, was asked by the punk dance band Scream to join them on a enlistment of Europe. This was a increase, and it triggered what his mother calls “ the Conversation ”, the rite-of-passage when education is abandoned. It didn ’ thymine help oneself that she had no idea what 17-year-old Dave ’ s modern band was singing approximately, “ because they were fair screaming their heads off ” – she was “ reasonably certain they wouldn ’ thyroxine replace the Beatles ”. And then there were the “ Mohawks ! tattoo ! shred jeans with more holes than framework … not precisely wholesome ”. But she wasn ’ t an average mum ; she had helped out with his former bands and taken him to jazz clubs. “ I could have said, ‘ Just go to school, get your education, have something to fall binding on. not many people make it in the music business. ’ But I didn ’ t. ” And Dave went to Europe with Scream. only a few years late he was one of three members of Nirvana, who, in Virginia ’ second words, “ became the biggest sensation in music in decades. They changed the course of democratic music … my son had become a rock ‘n’ roll asterisk ! ” She embraced it – it ’ s possibly telling that she was a former singer born late enough to know rock ’ n ’ seethe in her youth – and went to many of the dance band ’ randomness shows. “ When I was teaching, ” she has recounted, “ I had a aged class and had just come spinal column from time on the road with Nirvana. I said to the class : ‘ I ’ ve been teaching for 30 years and had all kinds of successes, but I ’ ve never had a roar. ’ then one day I was called out of the board. When I came back, the class gave me a bellow. ” Her curio as to why she rarely met other rock mums at such shows and festivals led to From Cradle to Stage. But having founded an unofficial “ particular sorority of mothers of musicians ”, she has discovered she is not alone. Marianne Stipe, the mother of REM ’ s Michael Stipe, went on the band ’ s last european tour, travelling on the tour bus, and joining the push before finding a “ dependable, comfortable backstage descry ”. On the other hand, Val Matthews, whose son formed the Dave Matthews Band, gets “ terribly excitable ” when, having been given a good seat, the consultation stands up and ruins her view. And sings. Mike D ’ mho mother, an “ disdainful ” cerebral and art collector who lives in a Manhattan penthouse and whom Virginia tells me she found “ a little chilling ”, contributed to her interpretation of “ the Conversation ” by ruefully commenting that her son ’ south preferred career choice was “ barely an apologize for not working ”. She had no interest in the Beastie Boys ’ hip-hop, so far when she went to see them play, and looked down from the balcony at the dance-hall floor below, which had “ become a slam dance orchestra pit, a tornadic mass of young, unafraid lovers of chaos ”, she became an unlikely supporter of the ring ’ second shows, crowd-surfing and all : “ To me they weren ’ thyroxine about music, but about energy and incredible rapport with the audience. ”Virginia Grohl with Dave as a young boy Virginia Grohl with Dave as a young boy. Photograph: Courtesy Hodder Mike D might have grown up with museum-quality art on the walls of his apartment, but his mother still had to negotiate with their neighbours about when he was allowed to play drums in the evening. And she insisted her son, the burgeoning rapper, take cabs, not the metro, to stay dependable. Mary Weinrib, whose children include Geddy Lee of the rock band Rush, agreed an 8pm curfew with her neighbours in Toronto when her son began to deafen them with Eric Clapton chords on his guitar ( “ me yelling back ” at assurance ). Weinrib, whose remarkable narrative of surviving Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen Grohl tells, was desperate for her son to be a doctor, and couldn ’ thyroxine stand his long hair – she planned to cut it off in his sleep. According to Lee, “ It wasn ’ thyroxine public treasury she saw me on television receiver that she realised I was succeeding in something. ”

Grohl says that the “ bleak days ” when young band members or singers “ go from city to city with merely adequate money for hot dogs and Slurpees aren ’ t what mothers of the musician-adventurers fear ”. It ’ s the “ next step, the one where money and fame replace impoverish obscurity ”. I ask her about Dave ’ s new-found celebrity back in the early on 90s. “ I did worry about women. ” then she laughs : “ I don ’ thymine know how to tell you this, it ’ s so obstruct, but my biggest reverence was that Madonna would snatch him up. ” As for drugs, she never minded about marijuana ( “ I ’ m the lone person I know who hasn ’ t done it so far ; I still might ” ). In any case, Dave gave up mushrooms and weed aged 20, and sympathize adequate about his hyperactive tendencies never to try cocaine or heroin ( “ You see the way I drink chocolate ! ” he has said. “ It ’ d be all over ! ” ). “ I honestly didn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate lose a distribute of rest about it, ” his mother says. Any concern she did have was sharpened by the well-publicised heroin addiction of Nirvana ’ s singer, Kurt Cobain. When Virginia decided to meet these rock mothers it was Wendy, Kurt ’ second mother, who was “ topmost in my thinker. She was the first ‘ rock ma ’ I met ”. The two women made friends in New York City in 1992, a time when the “ beckon of Nirvana ’ s fame was cresting ” and they were along for the ride – stay in fancy hotels, being chauffeur-driven to TV studios, “ escorted by admiring young staffers ”. Virginia assumed that the two mothers would “ do the whole thing ” for years. She was teaching in her classroom when the newsworthiness broke of Cobain ’ s suicide : “ person came in to tell me, and of course the kids were reacting. And … it was shocking but I wasn ’ triiodothyronine surprised. Things were so badly and there had been a couple of other times … I was worried about David … losing a friend in such a atrocious room, and losing a career. ” But she never thought “ he would be destroyed by it. He ’ s such a positive person, and he has estimable stuff pouring out of him. ” Virginia and Wendy stayed in partake over the years, though there were “ retentive gaps ” and “ afflictive times when we had no communication ”. But they saw each again when Nirvana were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. At that time Wendy was “ hopeful ”, and was describing her involvement in a new film about Kurt as “ therapeutic ”. But, according to Virginia, the movie, Montage of Heck, which came out in 2015, “ devastated her ”. She felt “ slapped in the side ”, betrayed “ by her depiction as an thoughtless, aloof beget ”. In the end, she decided not to take share in From Cradle to Stage, but encouraged Virginia to recount three of her own memories of Cobain – a conversation with him about books and ideas when Nirvana were taking safety at her home ; a photograph she took of Kurt laughing with his bandmates ; and the moment at the Reading Festival in 1991 when he announced on stage that it was “ Dave ’ s ma ’ south birthday. Let ’ s sing to her ! ” Whereas Wendy seems “ defeated ”, Virginia encountered a very different atmosphere when talking to Janis Winehouse, the mother of Amy, who died, after years of alcohol and drug mistreat, aged 27 in 2011. “ I felt I must have been shaking my head, ” she told me. “ Can you truly be that optimistic ? And yet she is. She good has this life goes on theory … She didn ’ metric ton lecture about blaming … they had to deal with this very unusual child. I don ’ t know what they could have done, but they tried a draw of things. ” The drive and determination of the mums in Grohl ’ s ledger follow different patterns. Bev Lambert managed and booked for her adolescent daughter, Miranda, urging her to work on “ the perfect haircloth, the perfect demeanor, and the perfective outfit ” for a television receiver talent usher – the country singer now earns tens of millions of dollars. Mary Morello is an blunt and veteran revolutionary whose views helped to inform the collectivist politics of her Harvard-educated son Tom, guitarist with Rage Against the Machine. Dr Dre ’ s mother, Verna Griffin, whose early adult life in Compton, Los Angeles, was very baffling, insists on running her own company, although her son is the “ beginning black billionaire ” in the vicinity. Virginia, besides, enjoys the achiever and the flashiness – the Grammy nights and the trips to the White House with her son to meet Barack Obama and Paul McCartney ( “ There I am, getting my photograph taken with my three favorite men in the worldly concern ” ). She ’ s relieved that Dave got good legal and fiscal advice early on ( “ They said you have to buy property, so he bought a house on the beach ” ). Above all, she likes to go on go with the Foo Fighters and take her put in a protein folding president at the side of the stage : “ The best seat in the house. I love to watch the audience ; I don ’ metric ton want them to see me, so I stay back. But I love the answer. ” She is besides proud that her son is often called “ the nicest world in rock ”. The mothers she talked to “ secretly respect unreported acts of generosity and kindness ” more than the platinum disk – the “ commitments to family or community ”. Dave is a philanthropist, a steady husband and a “ superdad ” to his three daughters – “ He makes their breakfast, he packs their lunch, and then he goes to the studio. ” According to Virginia, he “ truly is vitamin a decent as everyone says ”.

What she worries about these days is his privacy, and whether he gets enough rest. Unlike Pharrell ’ second mother, Carolyn, who is still fishy of the “ fast life ” but copes with it by praying, Virginia wants to hear the roar. And what about the “ hardheaded, sensible women ” who coped with their upstart adolescent musicians by insisting they conform and get a normal job ? “ We ’ ll never know what happened to their children, ” she writes. But “ there are probably a few lawyers out there who show up at … shows and would trade their BMWs for an hour on degree with a guitar ” .

  • This article was amended on 22 April 2017 to correct two mistaken references to the title of Hanlon Grohl’s book as From Cradle to Grave.

From Cradle to Stage by Virginia Hanlon Grohl is published by Coronet, £20. To order a copy for £15 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. free UK phosphorus & p on orders of more than £10, online only. earphone orders min phosphorus & p of £1.99 .

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