There have been five mass extinction events on our planet. Our polar caps are melting, seas are rising, we wear medical masks while grocery shopping but the most worrisome sign of the impending apocalypse is there’s only one true rockstar left in the world. His name is Dave Grohl.
There are many stars in music but recently the rockstar cosmos looks a little empty. Who fits the bill for shooting across the musical universe like a demigod with devil-may-care chutzpah and legions of rabid fans? Lenny Kravitz maybe, but even Lenny is not Dave Fucking Grohl.
Part of our dearth of rockstars comes from their tendency to die young, seemingly in one of three ways: drugs, suicide, or aircraft crashes. Their fame is immortalized by tragic events before time can soften their edges. Those who survive often suffer a mortal death as they outlive their greatness and become your grandpa in comfortable shoes. This is the cruelest way to go, the lust for life that launched their legends whimpering into a greatest hits album as their original fans see them as symbolic of their own faded youth.
The past few years we’ve experienced a rock exodus from our earthly plane, with Bowie, Prince, Petty, Little Richard, and Scott Weiland booking tour dates in the afterlife. Perhaps it’s my onset of ok, boomerness, but it feels we’re living in a wasteland of auto-tune clones and Youtube-famous musicians churning out the same songs over and over. It’s the rock equivalent of The Walking Dead and just when you’re ready to give up and let some lyrically challenged zombie eat your brain, Rick walks up with a machete and says ‘Don’t worry. I got this.’ Except it’s not Rick. It’s Dave Grohl and he’s carrying a guitar.
I was once on a date at Abuelitas, the now-closed Mexican restaurant in Topanga Canyon, just outside Los Angeles. We were sitting on the patio sipping margaritas when the rumbling growl of a motorcycle drowned out our conversation. It parked beyond eyesight and a few minutes later a leather-clad Dave Grohl walked onto the patio with his helmet in hand. All of us stopped what we were doing and marveled at the rock deity gracing our presence. He smiled, nodded, walked back to his bike, and rumbled off into the canyon like a goddamn rockstar. After a long pause, my date turned back to me and said ‘I would have left you here if he had asked me to go with him.’ To be fair, I would have done the same to her.
A few years later I saw the Foo Fighters play at The Forum in Inglewood, CA. They played for over two hours. At one point my date, a different one from the Abuelita’s date, said to no one in particular, “I’d have Dave’s baby.”
People in the crowd started to get restless and head for the doors but Foo kept rocking. That’s when I realized Dave and the boys weren’t playing for us anymore. Sure, they are performers but the look on Grohl’s face said he was enjoying himself. He was living the moment and would have continued even if the only people left were me and my date, who was still hoping to mother his child.
The pure love of rock is why Dave outlasted so many of his peers. It helped that he burst into public consciousness with one of the seminal bands of rock music, Nirvana, leading a grunge movement away from the spandex and hairspray of Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe. Grohl also benefited from his focus on the music, keeping him out of the petty feuds that left Axel and Slash looking less rebel rocker and more petulant brat.
Dave’s need to rock also meant he wasn’t done after Cobain exited the stage. He would pick up the guitar and front the Foo Fighters, selling over 12M albums in the US alone. The Foo had their second #1 album in 2017 yet success couldn’t sate the Grohl beast. While Foo is selling out arenas, Dave also picks up the sticks for Queens of the Stone Age, Mondo Generator, and Them Crooked Vultures. He’s slapping that bass for Teenage Time Killers and forming supergroups like Sound City Players. He is the walking embodiment of Twisted Sister’s claim to fame — I want to rock. He is the last rock star.
Wait, you say, Paul McCartney is still around! What about him? Yes, Sir Paul is still with us but he’s more Colonel Mustard than Sergeant Pepper as of late. Three of the past four Grammy winners for Best Rock Performance are dead. Most of the people you might consider a rockstar are at risk of falling over and breaking a hip but in 2015 Grohl broke his leg on stage in Sweden and finished the damn show. Rock music still brandishes talented acts like Mastodon but twenty years into their run are they rock stars? While you finish googling ‘Mastodon’ I will let you know their drummer, Brann Dailor, referred to Dave as “the face of rock right now.” He is the face, the voice, and the star of rock.
The term ‘rockstar’ may summon different imagery to different generations but we can all agree on the general rockstar aura regardless of whether we envision Chrissie Hynde or Elvis Presley. But when you look around for the next legendary act there’s little promise. In five years will I eat my words and proclaim Quaker City Night Hawks as rockstars? Maybe? Is Billie Eilish destined for the rock pantheon? Maybe. For now, articles such as Ranker’s recent list of 2020’s best rock bands suggest fossils litter the strata of rock music. However, there’s at least one beating, thrashing heart in this musical wilderness and it is pounding out a rhythm in Dave Grohl’s chest. He’s the last rock star and he won’t stop until you say when.
Originally published in Sir and Sport