Dave Grohl Emotionally Opens Up About His Mother's Death

By Katrina Nattress

December 21, 2023

Photo: Paramount

Last year was unfathomably hard for Dave Grohl. In March, his Foo Fighters bandmate Taylor Hawkins died, and and just a few months later, in July, his mom Virgina Grohl passed away. In June of 2023, the band regrouped and released a new album called But Here We Are, which features a song called "The Teacher." The 10-minute-long track is dedicated to Virginia, and during a visit to the Song Exploder podcast, Dave emotionally opened up about the personal song and his mom's death.

“I was with her for all of the time leading up to her passing,” he recalled. “Everyday during that period, I would write something on the guitar, because I felt that if I didn’t have that release, I would explode. I would spend the day at the hospital and then try to translate it musically — with no clear intention of what I was trying to achieve. I was finding these chords and progressions that mirrored the way that I felt.”

During that time, Dave wrote two demos that he decided to compile into one long track. “These two ideas were separate to me until I imagined that if I were put them together, it’s more than a three or four minute song. It’s something much bigger," he explained. "I could have a piece of music bigger than anything that we’ve ever done that I could dedicate to my mother.”

“The first half of the song is meant to build to a crescendo, going through the emotion of that experience. The second half of the song is reflection,” Dave explained before discussing the ending. “I imagined the song would collapse in on itself, deconstruct in this massive wash of noise. To me this was the sound of life ending. Your final moments just become this distortion of everything you’ve ever experienced in life — and then it just turns off.”

“But what I now realize is it doesn’t,” he noted. “I don’t believe everything just stops. I truly believe that this is just some sort of transition.

As for the lyrics, Dave revealed that “Where will I wake up?” was something his mother asked near the end of her life. In the chorus, Dave sings "Wake up!" which is something people wish for when they see a loved one in a comatose state. “I think someone’s immediate reaction to seeing someone dying is to wish for them to wake up, but that’s not how it works," he said. "One of my greatest fears in life is that I would be gone when this happened — gone on the road, not present for this. I was there and we were there together.”

“She was the most important person in my entire life,” Dave declared. “So I thought this had to be the most important music I ever made.”

"We were best friends," he added. "I felt like I had to honor her, pay tribute to her with this piece of music. So that’s when it turned into something other than a song. It’s the most important thing I’ve ever written because I wrote it for such a gigantic reason.”

Virginia was a public school teacher for 35 years. In 2017 she wrote a book called From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars, which was adapted into a docuseries in 2021.

Listen to the full podcast episode above.

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