Grohl had to deal with the extra pain of his band Nirvana abruptly coming to end (who at the time were literally the biggest band in the world), and the extreme stress of having to grieve his friend as a celebrity himself with the eyes of the whole world watching him.
In the immediate aftermath of Cobain’s suicide, Grohl says he couldn’t even find solace in his one true medicine – music. As he told BBC Radio 4: “After Kurt died, I really couldn’t even turn on the radio, and I put the instruments away – even hearing music hurt, And it was that way for a few months.”
Given the circumstances, Grohl understandably decided to leave the country: “I was still in Seattle, and I just felt, ‘I gotta get out.’ I [had to] go somewhere where I could just disappear and sort through my life, and try to figure out what to do next.”
The Sign From the Universe That Inspired Grohl to Start Foo Fighters:
Grohl’s soul-searching pilgrimage ended up taking him to southwest Ireland. And it was there where he got a sign from the universe that helped him start to begin his healing process, and the spark was lit to form what would ultimately become Foo Fighters. As transcribed by Ultimate Classic Rock:
“I was winding around these country roads – so beautiful – and I was finding peace… and I come upon this hitchhiker, and I was considering picking him up, and I saw that he had a Kurt Cobain T-shirt. And to me that meant: ‘You can’t outrun this thing, so it’s time … to push through and find some sort of continuation.’ So I flew home and I immediately started recording those Foo Fighter songs.”
Before Cobain’s death, Grohl had been trying his own had at songwriting, giving the world a preview of his immense writing talent with the Nirvana song ‘Marigold’. It was more of a fun side project that he said he mostly did for himself and his close friends.
But now with the weight of Cobain’s death bearing down on him, songwriting was starting to become an absolute necessity for healing: “I had to do it to survive, to get on with life. And I’m glad I did.”
How The First Few Years Of Foo Fighters Helped Dave Grohl Work Through His Grief:
Of course, Grohl’s healing process didn’t happen overnight, as dealing with grief is almost always a journey. In an interview with Taylor Hawkins after Foo Fighters were now established, Grohl explains what happened in the few years since seeing the hitchhiker and deciding to start Foo Fighters.
“I didn’t talk about Nirvana for the first two or three years of being a band [Foo Fighters]… for lots of reasons.
The biggest reason is that a good friend of mine died and I didn’t want to just go and talk about it to everybody because I was still trying to work that out on my own.”
When asked if he could confide in his Foo Fighters bandmates during this time, the late Taylor Hawkins said:
“We didn’t talk about it [Cobain’s death] all the time, and not in a dark way really, more in like just telling me fun stories and anecdotes and I’d ask him [Grohl] about stuff because I was obviously a major fan [of Nirvana] and thought he [Cobain] was brilliant.”
Dave continued: “but it was also tough, too, because one of the things about starting this band was that it was time to keep moving, you know?
After something like that happens, you don’t know how to recover from something like that. There’s no text book to help you through something as tragic and horrific as that. So it was just time to keep playing.
I’d been in bands a long time before that and I wasn’t ready to give up music. And there were times were I really felt like it [giving up]. It was hard to listen to music because I’d just associate it with the death of a good friend of mine.
It’s [Nirvana] is a huge part of my life. I wouldn’t be here now if not for that. And personally it was an enormous part of my life. Those experiences changed my life forever.
Fore the longest time I wouldn’t talk about it. And then I started talking about it a little bit and now I’m open to talking about it. Whatever you need to know… within limits.”
Dave and Foo Fighters of course went on to become one of the biggest rock acts in the world, even to this day. We know that despite the tragic loss of Hawkins, the band will soldier on. But we’ll need to wait for Dave to attempt to heal from his latest devastating loss at his own pace. If history is any indication, though, continuing with music is the one true healing medicine for Dave.