The Storyteller
[Reading Challenge 2024]

The Storyteller

by Dave Grohl
HarperCollins, 2021

Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller is not the usual kind of rock and roll autobiography whose arc most often goes from rags to riches with a side tour into addiction. Instead it’s a series of short vignettes that illustrate his love of music and his gratitude towards the people and circumstances that helped him get where he is. In that is very refreshing to read.

Grohl started out as the drummer for the grunge band Nirvana. Though his career with them lasted only four years (up to the time of Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994) it’s perhaps what he’s best remembered for, even though his later band, the Foo Fighters, lasted eight times longer and garnered more Grammys. I had followed Nirvana’s career since the Bleach days, but neglected to follow up on Dave’s. Most of the 2000s I was immersed in the world of Latino music, Rock en Español, as it seemed to me that with the decay of the Grunge era, and the rise of boy bands, there was nothing new or interesting in the U.S. rock scene anymore. Perhaps I should have. There was no dirt in the book on Kurt (for whom he had the highest respect) or Courtney Love, and I didn’t expect there to be. The Storyteller is not a book about bitterness.

Grohl’s tone is genial and he comes across as the world’s biggest geek, and also the world’s biggest rock and roll fan. That was the main difference I found between him and some other music autobiographies I’ve read — Pete Townsend, Grace Jones, Scott Weiland. He felt more like a peer than a virtuoso. We are six years apart in age but grew up in similar circumstances – middle class East Coast – and experienced the same eras. It was sobering, in fact, to realize that we both lived through decades that are long gone and never coming back, and that the music world itself has inexorably changed from the time Nirvana first released Nevermind.

The book’s design enhanced the text. The front and back inside covers are filled with Grohl’s handwritten notes and notable comments of his in the text are set off in a font based on his handwriting. There are many fine photographs and some of them gave me a bittersweet feeling as well, like the postcards he sent to his mom from the road, which are crowded with innocent text and little drawings, something I, too, did in the late 1980s while traveling and quirky postcards were available everywhere. It’s hard to remember that Grohl was barely 21 when he joined Nirvana, and not even 25 when it disbanded. Even though I was older when they were at their height, I thought they had worlds of experience beyond me. Turns out, I was wrong. The first thing Grohl bought with his first Nirvana check were some air guns and a game system from the Olympia Fred Meyer.

A bittersweet journey overall.


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