Dave Grohl is the archetypal modern rock frontman, taking Foo Fighters to stadium-sized success and worldwide recognition. You’d think that his heroic exploits with Nirvana or the Foo’s would register as his ‘proudest musical achievement’, but, instead, it’s Prince that Grohl has to thank for that.
Grohl has lived a life that would fill about a dozen memoirs and, over the last thirty years, few have etched themselves further into the hearts of millions than the former Nirvana drummer. Even though Grohl has been in and around the inner circle of rock ‘n’ roll royalty for three decades, he still has moments in which he struggles to believe that his life is real.
Over the years, Grohl has shared a stage with the likes of David Bowie and Paul McCartney and, with that, you’d think that after so long at the top he’d have grown accustomed to anything life throws at him. Surprisingly, his proudest musical achievement wasn’t performing alongside any greats, but hearing Prince take on one of his own songs.
When Prince stole the show at the 2007 Super Bowl, The Purple One brought out all the stops to put on a spectacle of the highest order. He ripped through an iconic set, which turned out to be far more entertaining than the match on offer, and proved why nobody else compared to him.
Towards the end of the performance, Prince decided to throw a curveball when he covered ‘Best Of You’ by Foo Fighters, and even over a decade on, it’s still not sunk in for Grohl.
“As my tears hit the keyboard like the Miami rain that night, I realized that this was without a doubt my proudest musical achievement,” he wrote in his Dave’s True Stories. “All of those years spent in my bedroom practising alone to Beatles records, sleeping in cold, infested squats on winter fan tours across Europe, battering my drums until my hands literally bled… it all paid off in this moment.
“I was watching the greatest living performer known to man sing my song to 1000 million people as if it were his own… Volumes have been written about his performance that day, as it truly was the best halftime show in history (sorry, JLO) But to me, I will always remember it as my life’s greatest compliment.”
Four years later, Prince and Grohl finally got the opportunity to meet face to face. The Purple One asked him if he’d like to jam the following Friday at the LA Forum after meeting backstage, and the former Nirvana man didn’t have to think twice before accepting.
Even though he received no confirmation from Prince, Grohl headed down and waited to see if the meeting was taking place or, actually, if his host even remembered sending the invitation. “And then… just like Fred Armisen’s infamous ‘Prince Show’ skit on SNL… he appeared. (This is no exaggeration, folks. I swear the dude moved like a Navy SEAL. He just… materialised),” Grohl wrote.
Grohl then stepped behind the drum kit and got to live out his dream as Prince menacingly started to play before his band slowly joined them on-stage. The moment is one that Grohl will hold tight in his box of precious memories until he draws his final breath, and the afternoon was so perfect that he chose not to return the following Friday for another jam after Prince left the offer on the table.
“In a strange way, I didn’t need to,” Grohl explained. “I had fulfilled a life dream, with no evidence of it to share with anyone, other than a memory that will stay with me forever. I only saw Prince once after that. We just smiled and said hello. And when I heard he had passed, I sat in my car alone, crying, feeling both blessed to have shared these moments with him, and heartbroken that there would be no more. There will never be another like him. We were lucky to have him while we did. I miss him dearly.”
As Grohl notes, Prince was a one-off and to get his stamp of approval on more than one occasion is a life-affirming experience that means more to him than his string of hit records could ever do. When Prince digs your music, you know you’re creating something that’s right, and Grohl will cling tightly to the time they spent together.