Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

Foo Fighting for Freedom

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

This week’s Free Ride* muses on the songs of the seven-time Grammy winner Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, who turns 43 today. Grohl, the multi-talented drummer for Nirvana, began the Foo Fighters as something of a one-man band after Kurt Cobain’s death. He played all the instruments and sang on the debut recording in ‘95, before eventually recruiting band mates who would free him to focus on songwriting, guitar and vocals. I suspected Grohl would have something to contribute to the songbook of freedom when I saw that he released a cover of the Cream classic, I Feel Free, on the 2005 Best Buy EP Five Songs and a Cover. A couple of Grohl originals allows him to give his own take on the theme.

First we have Free Me from the 2005 full length album, In Your Honor. Grohl told Spin magazine that the inspiration for all the songs on the project came from his time opening up for John Kerry on the presidential campaign trail in 2004. He volunteered to travel with Kerry not so much because of his identification with the issues, but he was offended that George Bush started using a Foo Fighters’ song, Times Like These, at his campaign rallies. The title of the album was intended as a tribute to the audiences of Kerry’s campaign stops who inspired him. They were not Foo Fighter fans. They were WWII veterans, teachers, blue-collar union workers. While the song Free Me might very well be about nothing more than relationships woes, the political context as a backdrop creates undertones of the anger and defiance of these salt of the earth folks he was singing to, people who had experienced the sorrow of broken promises in what was supposed to be the land of the free.

Free me right now
You take me away,
take it from me
Free me right now
You take me away,
take it from me, yeah!

Beautiful prisoner, left here for dead
Promises made and sentences read
Voices and visions
are locked in my head
I could sing for sorrow
All of the words that
we damn never speak
All of our ghosts
and secrets do keep
Gather them all
we’ll bury them deep
I could sing for sorrow

For the second song in Dave Grohl’s freedom repertoire, we turn to the Foo Fighters’ latest release, 2011′s Wasting Light, which was an homage of sorts to Grohl’s Nirvana days. It reunited him with bassist Krist Novoselic as well as superproducer Butch Vig, and it brought Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear back into the studio for the first time since 1997. Wasting Light was also an homage to an old school sound, as it was recorded in Grohl’s garage using only analog equipment. The song of note for our free ride theme is Walk (which you may remember hearing if you saw the movie Thor).

I’m learning to walk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I’m learning to talk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin?

Now for the very first time
Don’t you pay no mind?
Set me free again
You keep alive a moment at a time
But still inside a whisper to a liar
To sacrifice but knowing to survive
The first decline another state of mind
I’m on my knees, I’m praying for a sign
Forever, whenever
I never wanna die
I’m on my knees
I never wanna die
I’m dancing on my grave
I’m running through the fire
Forever, whatever
I never wanna die

While I haven’t seen any interviews with Grohl about the meaning behind the lyrics, it does sound to me like something of a prayer for liberation from the ghosts of his past, including the ghost of Cobain and Nirvana. Or it could be about an Asgardian god being exiled to earth, where he falls in love with an astrophysicist and tries to prevent his brother from ascending to the Asgard throne. You can judge for yourself.


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