When Dave Grohl joined Nirvana in 1990, he had no idea what the next four years had in store for him. The band’s rise to becoming the biggest group on the planet was unexpected, and Grohl suffered the highest of highs and the lowest of lows during that life-changing period.
The trio put grunge on the map, and Grohl would openly admit that Foo Fighters probably wouldn’t be selling out stadiums today if it wasn’t for the experience he had with Nirvana. Those formative years spent living out his dreams alongside Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic created a tight-knit bond between the three of them.
Nirvana were a proper gang, and when their ringleader departed, Grohl’s life changed immediately forever. The death of Kurt Cobain has left an immovable scar on Grohl that will never dissipate until he draws his final breath. The Foo’s singer still precisely remembers where he was when he heard the fateful news that Cobain had lost his life, and it’s still vivid in his mind.
“I didn’t really have a plan,” he said to the BBC. “When everything’s sort of turned upside down and shaken up like that, you just wake up every day thinking, ‘Who am I, where am I, what am I doing?’… I remember the day after Kurt died, how strange it felt to wake up knowing he wasn’t with us anymore and that I had another day. Like, okay, so what am I going to do with today? I believe it was then that I started to realize, ‘Oh, okay, you have to do everything once again.
“Meaning like, I have to make a pot of coffee, and this is my first pot of coffee since Kurt’s gone. I have to go upstairs and get dressed. This is the first thing I’ll wear since Kurt has been gone. It goes like that. I honestly don’t know what I did. It was months and months and months.”
The band weren’t in a good place before the tragic event took place, and the last few months of Nirvana are full of harrowing memories for Grohl. The final track they recorded, ‘You Know You’re Right’, opens up Pandora’s box for the drummer whenever he hears it, and Grohl can’t help transporting himself back to that torturous place.
“I listened to it for the first time in 10 years [recently],” he told The Guardian in 2019. “Oh God, it’s hard to listen to. It was not a pleasant time for the band. Kurt was unwell. Then he was well. Then he was unwell. The last year of the band was tough. By the time we got to Europe, I remember it being cold. It was the first time I felt depression. There was one day where I couldn’t get out of bed. I started to question why we were even there.”
“You look back on [the song] and you read it through a different lens. Lyrically, it’s heartbreaking,” he pontificated. “He was in a place we may not have recognised. Musically, there’s something cathartic. You know, I miss his voice. I miss him. I don’t think he was comfortable in the place that he was at the time. I don’t know if anybody was. But his experience was much different. I used to think it sounded like he was singing the chorus. Now I listen to it and it’s like he’s wailing.”
The memories attached to this period of his life and understanding the suffering that Cobain was going through, but being helpless to his friend’s struggle evokes emotions that Grohl would rather leave untouched. Those months that followed caused unimaginable pain to everyone who Kurt knew, as they tried to deal with life without him in it. For Grohl, his life has never been the same since that day.