Dave Grohl is the lead singer from the Foo Fighters. He is also widely considered to be “The Nicest Man in Rock” . Recently he was the keynote speaker at the 2013 SXSW conference and festival. Watch it here or read a transcript here. This is an annual festival held in Austin, Texas, a convergence of emerging technologies along with original and independent music and films. But what Dave Grohl really talked about, was not what he was doing at the moment or about the music industry, but instead was a call for us all to find Our Voice through sharing his story about how he found his.
It was one moment as a child that changed Dave Grohl’s life. He and his sister had convinced his mother to buy them the 1975 Blockbuster compilation record that they played on a public-school turntable that his mother would bring home on weekends from school (she was a teacher ). Dave Grohl would have been 6 years old in 1975. On this record, along with the hits that year like “That’s the way I like it” and “Fly Robin Fly”, there was one piece of music that was entirely instrumental, no vocals at all. It was Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein . For a young Dave it was like he could hear the Voice of each musician expressing themselves. This piece of music was the first clear call of purpose in Dave’s life. This was the first call “that made me want to jump in a van with my friends and leave the world behind for music”.
If our purpose is about being who we are meant to be and bringing our gifts and talents to make the world a better place, a good place to start is at the beginning, when we were children. If we were given the space to explore who we are and what we loved to do as a child, it is likely that we came across something that triggered a deeper yearning, that had the potential to change the course of our lives. If we followed that call. If we had the support to follow that call. These are our threshold moments.
For a young Dave Grohl, he picked up his absent father’s old guitar and in his words “it instantly became my obsession”. His mother supported this, buying him a Beatles songbook and paying for lessons until he gave those up after a year because he wasn’t so keen on lessons or direction. Instead, he was left to his own devices and he devoted everything to making music. He set up pillows in the formation of a drum set and played them to his records. He figured out that with two cassette players, he could multi-track his own songs at 12 years old. It not long after, that his second threshold moment came.
When Dave was 13, his mother took them on a family trip to Chicago. What Dave didn’t know was that his older cousin Tracey, had turned into a punk rocker. They arrived and “I heard her coming down the stairs. The clanking of chains, the stomping of heavy boots, the sound of a fresh leather jacket creaking like an old ship. And then …. I saw her. Shaved head, bondage pants, torn Anti-Pasti T-shirt ….. she was a f**king superhero come to life”.
Tracey introduced Dave to her record collection. He listened to them all. He said “This was the first day of the rest of my life”. She took him to his first concert; a punk rock band in a dingy hole. 13 year old Dave Grohl was in heaven.
But it wasn’t the music itself that inspired Dave, “it was the blissful removal of these bands from any source of conventional, popular corporate structure, and the underground network that supported the music’s independence that was totally inspiring to me…. At 13 years old, I realized that I could start my own band, I could write my own songs, I could record my own record, I could start my own label, I could release my own record, I could book my own shows, I could write and publish my own fanzine, …….I could do all of this myself. There was no right or wrong, because it was all mine”. Dave Grohl had found his Why.
Dave Grohl never lost his voice. Two key moments at different stages of childhood opened up paths of possibility for him. He felt something, was drawn to something become obsessed with it. And he had the support of a parental figure. At age 17 when he was given the option to tour as a drummer with a band, his mother gave him her blessing to drop out of high school. When he was making music and learning to make music in his bedroom, she let him be. Apparently she got so used to the noise that it just didn’t bother her. Dave Grohl was able to develop his voice and how he shared this in the world from childhood. He was left to his own devices and look what happened.
What was your obsession in childhood? Where are your threshold moments? Did you follow them or do what so many of us do, stumble instead down the wide path of accepted planned living instead of following that call and sharing our voice. And if you did, you do know its not too late.