Nirvana, with the release of “Nevermind” in September of 1991, had become the world’s hottest band. They were the epicenter of Seattle’s grunge movement heralding a renaissance for rock and roll. Partly on the strength of the singles “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come as You Are” Nevermind would eventually go on to sell over 30 million copies.
Two and a half years later, however, Nirvana’s leader Kurt Cobain would kill himself abruptly ending the band.
Drummer Dave Grohl was devastated. Dave’s performance on Nevermind and the tour that followed had musicians saying he was the new “world’s greatest drummer.” What was he to do?
In the excellent Foo Fighters documentary, Back and Forth, Dave recounts the story of how after a year of hanging out after Kurt’s death, he decided to record a few songs he had written over the past couple years. This recording was made, “just for the heck of it.” For the sessions, he’d be doing the singing and guitar playing as well as playing the drums. He liked what he heard.
Then, out of nowhere, he received a call from one of his heroes, Tom Petty, asking him to join the Heartbreaker’s band.
To which, Grohl recollects,
“I really had to choose, was I going to play drums with Tom Petty, or was I going to start over from scratch… and do something I’d never done before that I was terrified doing. Believe me, man, it was not easy to tell Tom Petty I was not going to be his drummer!”
Grohl smashed through his fear, took a risk, and didn’t settle for what could have been a perfect gig. Going on his own was a huge risk. Let’s face it, how many ex-drummers have gone on to great success as a front man? (answer below)
Guess what? It turns out Grohl made the right decision.
Foo Fighters are one of rock’s most respected bands, having sold nearly 15 million records (when records don’t sell) and winning 11 Grammy awards.
It all worked for Dave, despite his genuine and justifiable fear.
The lesson is always the same – don’t be afraid – go for it.
Bonus: Phil Collins was the drummer with Genesis, who then replaced singer Peter Gabriel when Gabriel left. Genesis and Collins both went on to greater worldwide success with Collins as frontman. Collins also won an academy award for his work on Tarzan.