Not only is Dave Grohl a bombastic frontman capable of serenading an audience through charm, wit and guile in his role as lead singer for Foo Fighters, but he also happens to be one of the finest drummers the rock world has ever known. As one member of Nirvana, Grohl came to define the grunge spirit and what it meant to be a rock drummer in the modern world.
Like any great musician, Grohl has often cited some of the figures of the past as his biggest influences. Noting artists such as The Beatles and David Bowie as vital components to his eventual songwriting prowess, the first moments he connected to music as a drummer came from two different icons of the rock and roll world: Neil Peart and John Bonham.
Ask any rock critic worth their weight in words who is the greatest rock drummer of all time is, and we’d bet these two names make it into the top five for every single one of them. Peart, with prog-rock heroes Rush and Bonham as the powerhouse percussionist for Led Zeppelin, not only defined what the archetypal rock drummer was but also continuously redefined it as their careers progressed. For Grohl, the two stars would be pivotal in his development as a drummer.
In fact, Grohl didn’t even have a drum kit the first time he felt Peart’s influence sway him. Speaking to Ultimate Guitar, Grohl confessed his love for Peart and Rush as a band. Talking about the moment he first heard Rush’s seminal album 2112; he said: “First of all, I didn’t have a (drum) set, so it was just pillows in my bedroom. And I put a record on this pillow, that was my hi-hat, and this pillow was my snare. The first album that I really noticed the drums on was 2112 by Rush; someone gave it to me.”
It was a lightbulb moment for Grohl, who had previously heard the percussion in a song as background noise. “That was the first time when I really listened to the drums,” he continued. “I couldn’t play what was being played on the record, but it was the first time I thought, ‘Wow, drummers do that? Oh my god!'” Peart would become a leading light in Grohl’s life and, after he decided to call time with Rush, was even suggested as a suitable replacement for him.
For someone like Grohl, who had been inspired by Peart all his life, it was too much to take in. What would he do if provided a serious offer to replace Peart? “I’d say ‘I’m not physically or musically capable, but thanks for the offer.’ Neil Peart, that’s a whole other animal, another species of drummer.”
During the same conversation with Ultimate Guitar, Grohl also paid tribute to the other inspirational drummer in his life, John Bonham. The Foos man continued: “And then over time I think my biggest epiphany was when I discovered Led Zeppelin, and then that’s when I really started listening to Bonham, and that’s when I discovered how drumming can be not only powerful, but poetic, and that’s what I got into.”
He went even further when speaking to Mojo about Bonham: “John Bonham is the greatest rock drummer of all time. Bonham played directly from the heart. His drumming was by no means perfect, but when he hit a groove, it was so deep it was like a heartbeat. He had this manic sense of cacophony, but he also had the ultimate feel. He could swing, he could get on top, or he could pull back. Led Zeppelin, and John Bonham’s drumming especially, opened up my ears.”
The crux of Nirvana’s iconic sound, what Grohl has done for music, is largely unparalleled. Unless, of course, you’re speaking of his two iconic influences. Without a shadow of a doubt, if there was no Neil Peart or John Bonham, you can bet your house on the being no Dave Grohl either.
Below watch as Dave Grohl take his place behind the kit and welcomes Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones to perform Led Zeppelin song ‘Rock and Roll’.