Dave Grohl makes a strong claim for being the last true rockstar. As the drummer of Nirvana, Grohl helped to take the band from cult status in the Pacific Northwest to the major leagues by virtue of his thunderous playing and acute understanding of the craft of songwriting. He never over did it, never showed off, just did his best to serve the song, and in the process created a form of rhythmic riffing that followed the same ideas as John Bonham and Neil Peart.
He didn’t just make his name in Nirvana, though. After the band broke up in 1994, Grohl went on to front alt-rock titans, Foo Fighters. Aside from this main gig, he’s also given desert rockers Queens of the Stone Age some of their best moments, as well as playing with Tom Petty and forming the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures alongside Josh Homme and John Paul Jones. In short, he’s done it all, and we’re sure he’ll continue to be a mainstay of musical discourse until the very end.
Whilst we could concentrate on Grohl’s status as a songwriter for hours, it is his drumming that he’s most respected for, and every group he has played the drums in has greatfly benefitted from the holy racket he creates. Unsurprisingly, for a man of his age, Grohl was first galvanised by music when he heard The Beatles for the first time, and this childish obsession with the Fab Four would provide him with his earliest lessons in all things rhythmical. Without hearing the game-changing sounds of John Lennon and Co., Grohl would not be where he is today.
Although his tastes developed as he grew older and became fully immersed within the local hardcore punk scene, his love for The Beatles never wained, and it’s something that he’s always been keen to stress. Over his 30+ year career, we’ve seen him gush over The Beatles on numerous occasions.
Crucially, you’d expect Grohl to name one of the icons of heavy rock as his ultimate hero, such as Bonham or Peart, but this isn’t the case. His favourite drummer of all time is the perpetually affable Ringo Starr, the musician who completed The Beatles’ stellar lineup.
In a 2006 interview with Uncut, Grohl explained his love for Ringo. He revealed that it was the Liverpudlian’s humble and good-hearted nature that captivated his young self, as he felt that Starr’s character permeated The Beatles’ records, giving them the distinct character we all know and love today. He also drew a parallel between the way he approaches writing drum parts and Starr’s.
Grohl said: “I’m not a technical drummer by any means – I like listening to drummers who make you wanna air-drum or dance – and Ringo was a songwriter in regards to his drumming. And that’s important to me. With those immediately catchy early Beatles songs, it was Ringo’s job to carry that, dictating dynamic and feel. Warts and all, you want to hear a drummer that sounds like a human being. I think his playing mirrored his personality. It made you feel good. You can hear he was a good guy, just by listening to his playing. And thank fucking God for not doing drum solos.”
Thank God for Ringo Starr. Not only does his good-guy persona colour all of The Beatles’ work, but he also set an example for Dave Grohl, something we cannot overlook. When you listen to any of Grohl’s work behind the kit, you hear his own good-hearted nature shining, and this passion is what has given it the edge to stand out from the crowd and be hailed by three different generations.
Listen to Dave Grohl discuss the influence of Ringo Starr below.