Foo Fighters Essential Songs: 10 Tracks That Show The Band's Eternal Rock Spirit | GRAMMY.com (2024)

Foo Fighters Essential Songs: 10 Tracks That Show The Band's Eternal Rock Spirit | GRAMMY.com (1)

Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters performs in Cologne, Germany in 2011

Photo: Peter Wafzig/Getty Images

list

On their recently released album, 'But Here We Are,' Dave Grohl and company offer a gripping confessional of both painful loss and blistering resilience. In honor of their 11th album, revisit 10 of the Foo Fighters’ most essential tracks.

Candace McDuffie

|GRAMMYs/Jun 7, 2023 - 05:48 pm

Foo Fighters — one of contemporary rock’s most pivotal mainstays — boasts an almost mythical history. What began as Dave Grohl’s one-man band in 1994 after the devastating end of Nirvana has become a seminal machine with a catalog that spans three decades.

The group currently holds the record for the most GRAMMY wins in the Best Rock Album category, picking up awards in 2000 (There Is Nothing Left to Lose), 2003 (One By One), 2007 (Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace), 2012 (Wasting Light) and 2022 (Medicine at Midnight). At the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, Medicine at Midnight also took home awards for Best Rock Performance ("Making a Fire") and Best Rock Song ("Waiting on a War").

Their recently released 11th studio album, But Here We Are, is the facet’s first project following the death of drummer and vocalist Taylor Hawkins last year. Hawkins, who joined Foo Fighters in 1997 and would become a driving creative force in the group, was mourned by musicians and fans across the world. Tribute concerts in London and Los Angeles presented by the Hawkins family in conjunction with Foo gracefully paid homage to his legacy.

Grohl and company managed to push through their collective grief on But Here We Are. The project serves as a gripping confessional of both painful loss and blistering resilience. In honor of their latest endeavor, GRAMMY.com lists 10 of Foo Fighters’ most essential tracks.

"Big Me," Foo Fighters (1995)

Released one year after Kurt Cobain's death, Foo Fighters’ debut album brimmed with promise. "Losing Kurt was earth-shattering, and I was afraid of music after he died," he told Anderson Cooper during a 2014 episode of "60 Minutes."

Though Grohl insisted that the record was just an outlet for grief, it marked the beginning of his illustrious career. "Big Me," the final saccharine single from the project, proved that the drummer-turned-frontman had a knack for crafting catchy tunes that would become undeniable hits.

The campy nature of the track was the result of Grohl not putting much thought into the album, but that intrinsically simple approach — which trickled down to the song’s video which famously parodied Mentos commercials — was the start of something great.

"Everlong," The Colour and The Shape (1997)

One of Foo Fighters’ most exhilarating moments to date comes in the form of a love song. "Everlong," which was the second single from the band's sophom*ore effort, pulls listeners in with its gentle, melodic chords, keeping their attention with sweltering percussion and heart wrenching lyricism.

"Everlong" is about being so in tune with a romantic partner that the conclusion of that relationship is wholly devastating. "Come down and waste away with me," Grohl serenely sings. "Down with me/Slow, how you wanted it to be/I'm over my head/Out of her head, she sang." He performed it for the first time acoustic in 1998 on "The Howard Stern Show," which Grohl said "gave the song a whole new rebirth" during a performance at Oates Song Fest 7908.

"Breakout," There Is Nothing Left To Lose (1999)

"Breakout" appeared on both the band’s third album, There Is Nothing Left To Lose, and is filled with a frenzied, punk energy that channels Grohl’s grunge roots. While critics praised the album and noted the Foos' notable progression toward more melodic anthems, this quick, fast hit remains worthy of the hype it received over 20 years ago.

The track also appeared in the 2000 comedy film Me, Myself & Irene starring Jim Carrey, and several of its stars appear in its music video. There Is Nothing Left To Lose also spurred the radio hit "Learn To Fly," which won the GRAMMY Award for Best Short Form Music Video in 2000.

"Times Like These," One By One (2002)

The Foo Fighters' fourth studio album marked a turbulent period in the band’s history. Aside from personal issues, Grohl had just recorded drums for Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf, and joined the group for a subsequent tour.

While the fate of Foo remained unknown, a triumphant performance at Coachella in 2002 gave the members a new outlook on their future. "‘Times Like These’ was basically written about the band disappearing for those two or three months and me feeling like I wasn’t entirely myself," Grohl stated in the group’s 2011 documentary Back and Forth. "I just thought, ‘Okay, I’m not done being in the band. I don’t know if they are, but I’m not.’"

With its lyrical simplicity and crippling sincerity ("It’s times like these you learn to live again/It’s times like these you give and give again"), the song has come to embody love, togetherness and hope.

"Best Of You," In Your Honor (2005)

"I’ve got another confession to make/I’m your fool," Dave Grohl howls at the top of lungs on the riveting opening for "Best of You." His declaration is followed by the existential proposition: "Were you born to resist or be abused?"

In Your Honor’s lead single is ripe with emotion, in which the Foo frontman is buoyantly defiant and encourages those listening to his words to be the same. That sentiment was politically driven, as "Best of You" was penned after Grohl made several appearances on the 2004 Democratic presidential campaign for John Kerry.

"It’s not a political record, but what I saw inspired me," he told Rolling Stone in 2005. "It’s about breaking away from the things that confine you." "Best of You" is their only song in the U.S. to reach platinum status.

"The Pretender," Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007)

One of the group’s most highest charting songs was "The Pretender," from 2007’s Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. Grohl’s songwriting on the track is of macabre proportions, as introductory solemn chords give way to the lyrics: "Send in your skeletons/Sing as their bones go marching in again/They need you buried deep/The secrets that you keep are ever ready."

Heavier riffs and pulsating percussion make it quite the auditory experience. Perfectly paced crescendos on the "The Pretender" give it just the right amount of suspense, making it indelible to the Foo discography.

"White Limo", Wasting Light (2011)

In 2012, Wasting Light earned four GRAMMY Awards including Best Rock Album. "White Limo" snagged the accolade for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance — and for good reason.

The second single from Foo Fighters’ seventh studio album is a ferocious number saturated with primal screams and whirlwind rhythms. "White Limo" was one of their most raucous songs to date and the group does their best Motorhead impression (Lemmy Kilmister’s appearance in the music video serves as the ultimate seal of approval). The group was intentional in maximizing their aggression on the heavy-metal track, making "White Limo" the sonic equivalent of a lightning bolt in their immense catalog.

"Make It Right," Concrete & Gold (2017)

2017’s Concrete and Gold wasn’t about redefining the wheel as much as it was perfecting it. The group’s ninth studio album is as rock 'n' roll as it gets.

There were a slew of memorable guest appearances including Paul McCartney on "Sunday Rain," Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman on "Concrete & Gold," and the Kills’ Alison Mosshart on "The Sky Is a Neighborhood" and "La Dee Da."

The album’s best track, "Make It Right," features an uncredited, sonically off-putting cameo from Justin Timberlake . Yet the collaboration’s venture into heavier territory pays off, with Grohl paying respect to Led Zeppelin. The rock legends' influence oozes all over "Make It Right" in the form of ragged taunts and splintering riffs. Timberlake slinks into the background with additional vocals, making sure to not alter Foo’s formula in any way.

"Waiting on a War," Medicine at Midnight (2021)

Foo Fighters’ 10th album, Medicine at Midnight, was a refreshing return to form for the rockers.

Sparked by a conversation by Grohl’s daughter, "Waiting on a War" embodied the group’s pensiveness about America’s ominous future. Over four minutes, Grohl states that he’s "waiting for the sky to fall," though his melancholy thoughts ultimately transform from wistful crooning over acoustic guitar chords to a rumbling, full-throated ferocious outro. Foo’s bold approach snagged them a GRAMMY Award in 2022 for Best Rock Song.

"Rescued," But Here We Are (2023)

The power in "Rescued," the emotionally-charged first single from But Here We Are, relies not only on the lyrics to spell out the feeling of despondency, but on Grohl’s expression of them.

"We’re all free to some degree/To dance under the lights," he sings. "I’m just waiting to be rescued/Bring me back to life." His voice languishes between fatigue and vigor as swirling guitars and ethereal buildups provide catharsis for both the band and the listener. The vulnerability of "Rescued" channels the intriguing self-awareness heard on albums like The Colour and The Shape and In Your Honor. But this song represents a brand new chapter for Foo and it’s one that confronts their pain head on.

Foo Fighters Are An Indestructible Music Juggernaut. But Taylor Hawkins' Death Shows That They're Human Beings, Too.

Foo Fighters Essential Songs: 10 Tracks That Show The Band's Eternal Rock Spirit | GRAMMY.com (2)

Phish perform during night one of their four-night run at Las Vegas' the Sphere

Photo: Rich Fury

list

Not a Phish phan? No worries. Ahead of their 26-date tour and new album, 'Evolve,' dig into this primer on the music and the subculture of the most popular jam band since the Grateful Dead.

David McPherson

|GRAMMYs/Jul 9, 2024 - 01:26 pm

Mainstream rock or pop, Phish are not. While the foursome from Vermont are definitely a jam band, that label does not capture their unique sound and varied influences. Both on record and live, Phish's extended improvisations noodle from reggae and all forms of rock, to bluegrass and funk, with healthy doses of country, blues and jazz.

Like the jam band godfathers the Grateful Dead, Phish built its devoted fanbase not through singles and airplay, but via tireless touring and word of mouth. On some nights — okay most nights — even the band has no clue where their rambling live shows will go. This spontaneity has been Phish's guiding ideology from its earliest days playing college campuses to their annual residency at Madison Square Garden; there is nothing contrived or calculated about a Phish show; instead, the band's filled with surprises and set lists that change more frequently than you change your bedsheets.

For more than 35 years now these four souls have been taking Phish-heads along on this joyous musical ride to unknown soundscapes. Concerts are fueled by passion, not perfection. Ask 10 Phish phans what their favorite live show is from the band’s history and likely each will offer a different answer and argue the reasons for their choice as if it were a thesis defense.

Read more: A Beginner’s Guide To The Grateful Dead: 5 Ways To Get Into The Legendary Jam Band

For Phish, it’s not about awards and accolades. The group has just one GRAMMY nomination and its highest charting single came and record came 30 years ago. In 1994, Billy Breathes peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard 200; its lead single "Free" hit No. 24 on the Billboard Hot Modern Rock charts and No. 11 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

What attracts people to Phish's music and subculture is the mood, the groove and the community; that’s why the band perennially have been one of the highest grossing live acts throughout their career. The band is also part of American pop culture: They have a Ben & Jerry’s flavor (Phish food), have appeared on "The Simpsons" and been parodied on "South Park."

This spring, Phish became only the second band (after U2) to perform at the Sphere in Las Vegas. Over the weekend of April 20, the foursome played four shows with a completely different set each night. The final show on Sunday evening featured an epic second set, even by Phish standards: the band performed for nearly two hours and jammed on for 34-minutes on "Down with Disease."

Surprises like this musical meandering abound at Phish shows and it’s another reason fans shell out a hefty chunk of their pay cheques to see them live again and again and again; it’s also what makes attending one of their concerts a unique experience. The relationship between the band and these devotees is symbiotic. Both inspire and guide the other.

Phish does not take itself too seriously. This is reflected in their songs, their artistic approach and their love of a good prank. Ready to go Phishing? Not the dictionary adjective that conjures negative connotations of scams and identity theft, but rather, a new word we suggest adding to the Urban Dictionary meaning to take a deep dive into the weird and wonderful world of Phish.

In advance of the band’s 26-date tour that starts with a three-night run in Mansfield, Massachusetts to promote Evolve — its 16th studio record that arrives July 12 — GRAMMY.com offers a lowdown on these musical merrymakers. Read on for a guide to appreciating and approaching Phish's lingo, lore, and lengthy discography.

Phish 101

Before the band had a name, a following, or conferences and university courses dedicated to the study of their music, they were just a bunch of college kids jamming in their dorm. The original members of the band met while attending the University of Vermont in Burlington. Initially formed as a trio in 1983 that featured guitarists Trey Anastasio and Jeff Holdsworth, along with drummer Jon Fishman. Bassist Mike Gordon joined that fall. In 1985, keyboardist Page McConnell was added and Holdsworth left. Today, it's these four (Anastasio, Gordon, Fishman and McConnell) that comprise Phish.

Junta, the band’s self-released debut arrived on cassette in 1989, followed by Lawn Boy the next year on Absolute A Go Go Records. The industry buzz created by their live shows then led to a multi-album deal with Elektra Records, who, in 1992, released their major label debut A Picture of Nectar, along with reissues of Junta and Lawn Boy.

What’s with the name? Everyone loves a good band name origin story, and there are often several versions of Phish's. The simplest and most popular one cited is that Fishman was asked at an early gig for the band’s name and thought they were asking for his name, so replied with his college nickname, "Fish." It stuck and they just changed the spelling.

A Lesson In Lingo: 4 Phish Phrases

Next up on the Phish syllabus is a lingo lesson in lingo. Overhear a pair of Phish fanatics chatting in a coffee shop, and you’ll wonder if they are speaking a different language. These devotees have developed their own lingo to express their love for all things Phish. Here’s a quick primer to help you converse with phans as if you know what you are talking about.

First, phans label each era of the band a number and these labels describe when their love of Phish began: 1.0 refers to the band’s beginnings until its first break in 2000; 2.0 is a short period and a small cohort of fans that starts when Phish returned from its first hiatus in 2002 and ends before they officially broke up in 2004. Finally, 3.0 refers to new converts: fans who discovered the band only after they reunited for good in 2009.

As this schooling on Phish continues, here are four words to drop into a conversation with a Phish fan to make you sound educated. "Noob" is a condescending word referring to a newbie, like post-2009 phans. A "chomper" is someone who talks during songs at a Phish concert (definitely a no-no). "Spunion" is someone whose appearance, actions and speech indicate they’ve taken way too many drugs. Finally, "hose" is a free-flowing improvisational jam where the music feels like it just flows directly into the listener’s ears.

Down On The Farm: Hits & A Few Phan Favorites

From the 2000 record of the same name, "Farmhouse" is one of the few Phish songs that made a splash beyond just their fans thanks to this radio-friendly chorus: "I never ever saw the Northern lights/I never really heard of cluster flies/ I never ever saw the stars so bright/ In the farmhouse, things will be alright." Besides this earworm, the ninth record from the band also featured another one of its biggest charting radio hits: "Heavy Things," which reached No. 29 on Billboard’s Adult Top 40 chart and No. 2 on the Adult Alternative Songs charts.

Some other key studio tracks to explore and listen to that show the depth and breadth of the band’s talents include: "Golgi Apparatus," "Chalkdust," "Torture," "Sample in a Jar," "Character Zero" and "Sand."

Into The Studio: A Choice Phish Records

Phish have released 20 studio albums and 53 live records. That’s a lot of music to sift through for any newbie. Three key albums to help understand and get into the band include: A Picture of Nectar (their major-label debut from 1992 that was certified gold), Hoist (1994) and The Story of the Ghost (1998), recorded at famed Bearsville Studios in in Woodstock, NY - a record Trey Anastasio described as "cow-funk." Listen carefully to this trio of records and you’ll come away from these deep dives either loving the band and ready to take the next step on this phishing trip or not.

Make sure to also check out the conceptual album Rift. This follow-up to their major-label debut is a fan favorite and also a critical darling. It’s possibly the band’s greatest studio creation, but it’s also an acquired taste. Rift follows the story of a man who dreams about the rift in his relationship with his girlfriend. The listener follows this protagonist on a dark and heavy ride as his emotional journey turns from a pleasant dream to a nightmare. The narrative is told backed by a sonic palette that showcases all of Phish’ colors and musical influences: from jazz and blues to psychedelic rock and funk.

Go See Phish Live

As Neil Young sang in "Union Man," that is often-quoted by concert lovers, "live music is better bumper stickers should be issued." Phish subscribe to this mantra and are known to plaster their cars in bumper stickers. The centerpiece of a Phish show is extended jams and the communion between Phish fans, but their concerts also feature amazing light shows, props, and pranks.

To get a sense of what attending a Phish concert is like, start with the six-disc set Hampton Comes Alive. Released Nov. 23, 1999, the collection consists of two concerts in their entirety captured at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia in 1998. The title plays on Frampton Comes Alive! — one of the best-selling live albums of all time.

In the band’s early days before the Internet came of age, bootleg tapes abounded. Trading these — just like Grateful Dead fans do — was always a part of Phish culture. LivePhish captured all of the band’s live shows. This is now an Android app where you can stream shows, past and present. Mere minutes after each Phish concert ends, the newest show is uploaded.

Before the streaming age, the band frequently released CDs up to six discs in length (most Phish concerts run more than three hours). One of these essential listening live releases is Darien Lake from Sept. 14, 2000 that includes a cover of Neil Young’s "Albuquerque."

Order Up The Baker’s Dozen

For Phish fans, the 13 concerts dubbed The Baker’s Dozen are pure bliss. The residency occurred at the Manhattan mecca from July 21 to Aug. 6, 2017. Every night featured a different set list (26 total sets as they played two each night). No song was repeated and each night had a theme.

Over the course of 13 shows, Phish played 237 songs. A highlight of The Baker’s Dozen was a 30-minute jam of "Lawn Boy" — a song that usually clocks in under four minutes.

Cover Me

Many consider the group the greatest cover band on earth, so go down the Phish YouTube rabbit hole and what matters at this moment in your life is sure to get neglected for a while.

An understanding of Phish's many collaborations and covers tis also essential to better appreciate the band. Phish has paid homage to everyone from classic rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, to Frank Zappa and the Talking Heads. Collabs include: Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and weird as it sounds, even Jay-Z, who the band invited on stage during a Brooklyn gig in 2004, to sing-along on the 24-time GRAMMY-winner’s hits: "99 Problems" and "Big Pimpin.’"

Trick Or Treat Tributes & Auld Lang Syne Shenanigans

Halloween shows always feature musical costumes where Phish plays another artist’s album from front to back. The Beatles' White Album in 1994 is especially good and the first time the band premiered this concept. Many fans claim the 1998 Halloween show where the band covered the Velvet Underground’s Loaded is one of the most underrated and was mind blowing. But the best might be from 2018 when they invented a fake Scandinavian synth-rock outfit called Kasvot Växt.

For years, Phish have celebrated another year come and gone along with their fans, often playing a string of shows leading up to New Year’s Eve. Pranks are always a part of these special occasion gigs and there's often a theme with stages being transformed to transport their phlock to other realms.

Many of Phish’ most legendary end-of-year celebratory concerts occurred in New York City at Madison Square Garden where they’ve performed to close out the year 15 times. One of the most memorable saw the band "send in the clones" on Dec. 31, 2019, to ring in another new year.

Latest News & Exclusive Videos

Daniel Nunnelee's "Why Don’t You Just Come Over"A Beginner’s Guide To Phish: 8 Ways To Get Into The Popular Jam BandX's Mark The Spot: How Cigarettes After Sex Turn Difficult Memories Into Dreamy NostalgiaFinding 'Comfort In Chaos': John Summit On The Journey To His Debut AlbumGRAMMY Museum Partners With HYBE For New K-Pop Exhibit 'HYBE: We Believe In Music' Opening Aug. 2

Foo Fighters Essential Songs: 10 Tracks That Show The Band's Eternal Rock Spirit | GRAMMY.com (8)

The Warning

Photo: Danielle Ernst

interview

The three sisters of the whiplashing Mexican rock band The Warning sat down with GRAMMY.com to talk about their biggest recorded leap to date, 'Keep Me Fed.'

Morgan Enos

|GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2024 - 07:11 pm

The Warning have been around for over a decade, with three previous albums under their belt — but they've never hit with gale force quite like their single "S!CK." Get a load of them on a recent "Kimmel" performance below; when singer/guitarist Daniela "Dany" Villarreal Vélez screams the title, her bandmates — her sisters, bassist Alejandra "Ale" Villarreal and drummer Paulina "Pau" Villarreal — respond with a groovy, steamrolling riff.

From harmonies to songwriting to sheer charisma, The Warning have reached a new pinnacle with their fourth album, Keep Me Fed, which arrived June 28. It's packed with bangers: the boiling-over "Apologize," the chugging, Spanish-language "Qué Más Quieres," and pop-laced detours that stick, like "Hell You Call a Dream."

The Monterrey, Mexico trio have opened for some of rock's titans over the past few years: Guns N' Roses, Foo Fighters, and Muse. This only incentivized them to make Keep Me Fed hit as hard as humanly possible.

This involved reaching out to rock's blue-chip writers, like Dan Lancaster and Mike Elizondo, to help the songs truly hit the jackpot. But speaking to the three on a four-way call, it's clear their success really relies on their sisterly synergy: they effortlessly bounce off each other in conversation, just like they do in the studio or on a stage.

Read on for a full interview with The Warning about the road to Keep Me Fed, songwriting in Spanish and English, and how supporting the greats spurred them to make a swing that connected.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

**Bring us from the Error era to Keep Me Fed. What transpired in The Warning's history?**

Pau: We grew so much as people, through our experiences touring with Foo Fighters, Muse and Guns N' Roses. You can't help but learn and grow from all of these experiences and shows.

We were very inspired, and I feel like Keep Me Fed was the first opportunity we had to sit down and actually process everything that we had been through, and just put it directly into the music.

Ale: We were recording and writing in between tours; we had a hectic schedule. I feel like you can definitely hear that chaotic energy, and everything we lived through this past year while writing the album.

You opened for some of the biggest rock bands on the planet. Tell me more about how that fed into the music.

Pau: Seeing these amazing musicians playing every night, you can't help but want to push yourself. What made us grow was that hunger to be better. We wanted to be a good opener for these legendary bands. We wanted the crowd to be impressed; we wanted to prove ourselves to these new crowds.

And, not only with our live performances: we knew we were going to write this album, and release new music. And if these new people were going to look for our new music, we wanted it to be this insanely huge step forward in our careers.

Musically, our biggest references are Muse and Royal Blood — and we toured with them. So, by seeing what they do live, and how their ideas are [executed], we had a really good idea of how we wanted our ideas to sound live.

Dany: Coming home from the tours to process everything that you went through, I think unconsciously you let everything out, and let everything go when you're writing music. I think that played a big part in what we came back to express in the Keep Me Fed songs.

Can you talk about working with outside writers on Keep Me Fed?

Ale: We've always only worked within the few of us, so adding someone else to the mix was very different. It's so interesting to see how other people work, and working with them, and hearing all of these different ideas. I feel like we learned so much from every person we wrote with.

Dany: We have three songs with Dan Lancaster, who is touring with Muse now; he's a great producer as well. We worked alongside our producer, Anton DeLost, for the whole record. They are such a dream team, honestly. They knew how to push us toward a direction that made us get the best out of us.

We were so surprised by the stuff we lived through — very intense, specific feelings, that they can relate to in a totally different way. We managed to connect the dots between feelings and what we wanted to express.

Pau: Also, they're not necessarily rock writers. Some of them are pop. Some of them are R&B writers. It's a really big melting pot of styles and inspirations and experiences.

You start learning little tricks and tips from each person. So now, even when we're writing alone, we channel everything that we learned from these individual writing sessions.

And I feel like we look at songwriting in a new way — especially because we are Mexican, and English is not our first language. So, we write in English with a very different mindset; we think in Spanish while we are writing in English. We see language in a more phonetic way.

So, finding new ways to look at the language that we write in, and new ways to communicate what we want to say through the words or eyes of these other writers, was a very enlightening experience.

The Warning - Qué Más Quieres (Official Video)

Keep Me Fed sounds absolutely massive. How did you craft that sound?

Dany: We were very focused on making it sound as big as possible, and as close to our live performance energy as we could. Guitar-wise, we explored a lot of different fuzz pedals, which was very new to me. I wasn't very much of a fuzz girl, but oh my god, it adds so much texture, and it added to the sound that we wanted to hear.

Also, we went a lot heavier with this album. I experimented with playing with baritone guitars, so I could be a lot lower than I usually am. I love that; it makes me feel so powerful, and I think it adds a lot to the songs.

Ale: I recorded all my bass parts with a pick, which is something I don't do; I only play with my fingers. But for the recording, it sounded clearer, and made the bass stand out, as we're only a three-piece. So, I liked exploring that.

Dany: I learned to play with a slide. I had never done that before. And I had to figure out how to play it live down the road. It really pushed us, and me, to stay sharp and do what was necessary for what we wanted to express in the music.

Vocally, I experimented with a lot of different textures. We usually just go all out and do this angry screaming that I know how to do from our 10-year career. But this time, I [explored] the dynamics more and more. I went soft, I went a little more airy, and then I screamed. It was fun to get to know myself more as a singer and guitar player.

Pau: We explored a lot of different styles. You can hear different [unexpected] influences. "Burnout" is really funky and groove-driven. "Apologize" is just a very angry song. "Sharks" is this type of new thing. It's just so varied.

We let ourselves be open to the possibility that we could literally do everything. We could try everything out, and it would still fit in this album, because it was still us.

Explore The World Of Rock

A Beginner’s Guide To Phish: 8 Ways To Get Into The Popular Jam BandWatch Red Hot Chili Peppers Win Best Rock AlbumWatch Prince’s GRAMMYs Highlights

Foo Fighters Essential Songs: 10 Tracks That Show The Band's Eternal Rock Spirit | GRAMMY.com (14)

Darius Rucker performs for the 2024 Stars For Second Harvest in Nashville, Tennessee

Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images

interview

Thirty years after Hootie & the Blowfish's seminal debut — and nearly 20 since he forayed into country music — Darius Rucker looks back on some of his fondest memories that he further explores in a new memoir, 'Life's Too Short.'

Rob LeDonne

|GRAMMYs/Jul 5, 2024 - 02:06 pm

July 5, 1994 was the day Darius Rucker's life forever changed.

That was when his band, Hootie and the Blowfish, released their seminal debut, Cracked Rear View. Within a matter of months, the album went on to launch his band into the mainstream stratosphere. By mid-1995, Cracked Rear View topped the Billboard 200 — where it stayed for eight weeks — and by February 1996, the band went two-for-two at the 38th GRAMMY Awards, where they were awarded Best New Artist. Three decades on, Cracked Rear View remains one of the best-selling albums in U.S. history.

For Rucker, who has also enjoyed a successful run as a solo country act since 2008, it's all part of a triumphant journey that he recalls in his new memoir, Life's Too Short. A candid retelling of his eventful life, the book recounts the high-highs of musical dreams gloriously come true and the love of his family — including his late mother Carolyn, a frequent inspiration, particularly on his latest set, 2023's Carolyn's Boy. Rucker is also frank about his run-ins with the struggles of his massive success, including the scourge of racism he encountered along the way.

In celebration of Cracked Rear View's big anniversary and the recent release of Life's Too Short, Rucker spoke to GRAMMY.com about his band's biggest hits and career-making success, as well as the moments he knew Hootie, and his country venture, were about to be big.

How would you say Hootie's sound came about? Was it a natural evolution, or did you have a very clear sound in your head?

It was definitely natural.It all started with Mark and I in the USC dorms, realizing how much of the same music we knew and [were] jamming together —R.E.M.,the Eagles,the Beatles,,Hank Williams, Jr.andKISS.We both grew up on a huge variety of music, and all of those influences shaped our own songs once we started performing and writing together.

There wasa brief momentwhere we tried to do some heavier stuff as grunge was getting popular, but that wasn't us. Hootie was always going to sound like Hootie.

Congratulations on thethe30th anniversary of  'Cracked Rear View.'  When you think about that time in your life and the album, I'm sure the memories just come flooding right back?

Oh, so many. You know, we'd been writing songs for so long and playing them at our live shows, doing everything independently and having pretty good success with it. But making this one was different, because we had a real record deal finally, after so many "almost" deals falling apart, and we went out to a studio in L.A. to record the album. We hadDon Gehmanthereproducing, and I just remember feeling so much joy being in that room making music together.

Doesany onestory stand out?

One of my favorites, and I talk about this in the book, isDavid Crosbycoming to sing harmonies on "Hold My Hand." We were trying to figure out who would do it, and our friend Gena Rankin threw out David's name. She said it so casually, we all thought she was messing with us. There was no way a legend like him was going to come be part of this project! Sure enough, two days later he walked into the studio [to record it]. I still can't believe that happened.

Looking back, the album launched a variety of iconic singles. For example, I know "Hold My Hand" is a special one for you.

Jim "Soni" Sonefeld actually brought "Hold My Hand" to us when we were holding auditions for a drummer. He finished playing and told us he heard we were starting to write original music, so he popped a cassette in with this song on it. We obviously canceled the rest of the auditions.

What about a song like "Let Her Cry"?

I was sitting at a bar in Columbia [South Carolina] when I heard The Black Crowes sing "She Talks to Angels" for the first time. I was transfixed. I made them play it again and again until they wouldn't anymore, and then I went to every bar on the street and made them all play it.

When I finally went home, I tried to shake the song off by listening to something else great, so I put on Bonnie Raitt's Home Plate CD, and eventually decided I was going to write my own "She Talks to Angels," for Bonnie Raitt. The next morning I told Dean [Felber, the band's bassist], who I was living with at the time, that I had drunkenly recorded a song on our little four-track last night and we should listen to it because it was probably pretty funny. It wasn't funny, but it was pretty good.

"Only Wanna Be With You" was another one of the album's many hits. Where did that song come from? I'm especially wondering about one line in there: "I'm such a baby 'cause the Dolphins make me cry."

Anyone who knows my story knows that my mom, Carolyn, had a huge impact on my life and still does to this day, even though we lost her a long time ago. But she also had a specific impact on this song.

I had started writing it, with the chorus and some pretty good lyrics down, but I wanted to add more personal details and couldn't really get it right. I had taken a break from writing to watch the Dolphins game, and as they were about to lose once again after blowing a lead, my mom called. She heard me sniffling, and even though I blamed allergies, she immediately knew it was because of the game. "Unbelievable. Are those Dolphins making you cry again?!" The rest is history.

When did you realize 'Cracked Rear View' was something special?

Our fourth single "Time" really pushed us over the edge in dominating radio airwaves in a way that was hard to wrap our heads around, and really still is. I remember being in a car one time, and "Hold My Hand" was playing as soon as we turned on the radio, which was funny — but honestly, pretty expected at that point. We hit seek through the next few stations and — you can't make this up — "Only Wanna Be With You," "Let Her Cry" and, yep, "Time." Four stations, four Hootie songs. It was wild.

How did your life change?

Oh, it was a rocket ship. I always tell this story, but David Letterman heard our song on a Tuesday, put us on his show on a Friday, and by Monday, we were the biggest band in the world. It happened that quickly, and the opportunities that came from that changed our lives.

Aside from the big hits, were there any songs on the album that particularly meant something to you?

"Drowning" was an important song for me because I wrote it during the early days when we first started transitioning from covers to our own music, and I wanted to get deeply personal in what I put in songs. I put the hurt I felt from all of the racism surrounding us in that song. The lyrics literally ask, "Why is there a rebel flag hanging from the statehouse walls?"

The band supported me with that song, just like they did at shows where people casually threw the N-word at the stage. Like it has been my whole life, music was my outlet for dealing with that hurt. And I resolved that such ignorance would never stop me.

From 'Cracked Rear View' to 'Carolyn's Boy,' your songwriting as a whole has gotten much more personal. Why has that changed?

I actually think Cracked Rear View was pretty personal. The example of "Drowning" I mentioned earlier kind of shows that. But the vibe of Hootie was so happy-go-lucky that sometimes the deeper meaning of the lyrics got missed.

Country music is all about the lyrics and the storytelling, though, so I think that shows through in my newer music in a more prominent way. And with Carolyn's Boy specifically, I experienced a lot of life during the time we were writing that album. From the pandemic, to relationships, to my kids getting older and leaving the house, there was a lot of life to process and I put all of that into song.

Lightning struck twice when you branched out as a solo act and embarked into country music. When did you realize you made the correct gamble?

It was on Oct. 3, 2008. I had always wanted to make a country record, just because I love country music. When I came to Nashville, I wasn't hoping for immediate success, number one songs or platinum albums. I was just hopeful someone would give me a chance to make a record, and then maybe a chance to make another one.

But on that day in 2008, [my] debut single "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" hit the top of the charts at country radio. It was humbling, and it reaffirmed my belief in myself and my music. No matter what any of the doubters had to say about a Black man in country music, the Hootie singer in country music. The genre embraced [me], and it is still a dream come true almost 20 years later.

What was it like revisitingall of the old memories you delve into in 'Life's Too Short?'

It was therapy in a lot of ways. There are some parts, like about my dad, or my brother, that I didn't expect to talk so much about. But as you start revisiting the different chapters of your life, a lot comes to the surface that you might not have planned on, and you really start to process it, sometimes for the first time.

And then when we got into recording the audio book, reading it back added a whole other layer of emotion to the story. There were parts where I got choked up, and they kept that in the recording, which I think is really powerful — because it shows how much these stories mean to me.

Foo Fighters Essential Songs: 10 Tracks That Show The Band's Eternal Rock Spirit | GRAMMY.com (15)

Tom Petty performing with the Heartbreakers in 2008

Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

feature

On 'Petty Country,' Nashville luminaries from Willie Nelson to Dolly Parton and Luke Combs make Tom Petty’s simple, profound, and earthy songs their own — to tremendous results.

Morgan Enos

|GRAMMYs/Jun 27, 2024 - 03:42 pm

If Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers landed in 2024, how would we define them? For fans of the beloved heartland rockers and their very missed leader, it's a compelling question.

"It's not active rock. It's not mainstream rock. It's not country. It would really fall in that Americana vein," says Scott Borchetta, the founder of Big Machine Label Group. "When you think about what his lyrics were and are about, it's really about the American condition."

To Borchetta, these extended to everything in Petty's universe — his principled public statements, his man-of-the-people crusades against the music industry. "He was an American rebel with a cause," Borchetta says. And when you fuse that attitude with big melodies, bigger choruses, and a grounded, earthy perspective — well, there's a lot for country fans to love.

That's what Coran Capshaw of Red Light Management bet on when he posited the idea of Petty Country: A Country Music Celebration of Tom Petty, a tribute album released June 21. Featuring leading lights like Dolly Parton ("Southern Accents"), Willie and Lukas Nelson ("Angel Dream (No. 2)," Luke Combs ("Runnin' Down a Dream"), Dierks Bentley ("American Girl,") Wynonna and Lainey Wilson ("Refugee"), and other country luminaries covering Tom Petty classics, Petty Country is a seamless union of musical worlds.

Which makes perfect sense: on a core level, Petty, and his band of brothers, were absolutely steeped in country — after all, they grew up in the South — Gainesville, Florida.

"Tom loved all country music. He went pretty deep into the Carter Family, and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" and the folk, Americana heart of it," says Petty's daughter, Adria, who helps run his estate. "Hank Williams, and even Ernest Tubb and Patsy Cline… as a songwriter, I think a lot of that real original music influenced him enormously." (The Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Byrds' Gram Parsons-hijacked country phase, were also foundational.)

A key architect of Petty Country was the man's longtime producer, George Drakoulias. "He's worked with Dad for a hundred years since [1994's] Wildflowers, and he has super exquisite taste," Adria says.

In reaching out to prospective contributors, he and fellow music supervisor Randall Poster started at the top: none other than Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. "Having Willie and Dolly made people stand up and pay attention," Dreakoulias told Rolling Stone, and the Nashville floodgates were opened: Thomas Rhett ("Wildflowers"), Brothers Osborne ("I Won't Back Down"), Lady A ("Stop Draggin' My Heart Around"), and so many others.

Each artist gave Petty's work a distinctive, personal spin. Luke Combs jets down the highway of "Runnin' Down the Dream" like he was born to ride. Along with Yo-Yo Ma and founding Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, Rhiannon Giddens scoops out the electronics and plumbs the droning, haunting essence of "Don't Come Around Here No More."


And where a lesser tribute album would have lacquered over the songs with hom*ogenous Nashville production,
Petty Country is the opposite.

"I'm not a fan of having a singular producer on records like this. I want each one of them to be their own little crown jewel," Borchetta says. "That's going to give us a better opportunity for them to make the record in their own image."

This could mean a take that hews to the original, or casts an entirely new light on it. "Dierks called up and said, 'Hey, do you think we would be all right doing a little bit more of a bluegrass feel to it?' I was like, 'Absolutely. If you hear it, go get it.'"

"It had the diversity that the Petty women like on the records," Adria says, elaborating that they wanted women and people of color on the roster. "We like to see those tributes to Tom reflect his values; he was always very pro-woman, which is why he has such outspoken women [laughs] in his wake."

Two of Petty Country's unquestionable highlights are by women. Margo Price chose "Ways to Be Wicked," a cut so deep that even the hardcore Petty faithful might not know it; the Let Me Up (I've Had Enough) outtake was buried on disc six of the 1995 boxed set Playback.

"Man, it's just one of those songs that gets in your veins," Price says. "He really knew how to twist the knife — that chorus, 'There's so many ways to be wicked, but you don't know one little thing about love.'" Founding Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell features on the dark, driving banger.

And all interviewed for this article are agog over Dolly Parton's commanding take on "Southern Accents" — the title track of the band's lumpy, complicated, vulnerable 1985 album of the same name. "It's just revelatory… it brings me to my knees," Adria says. "It's just a phenomenal version I know my dad would've absolutely loved."

"It's one of Dolly's best vocals ever, and it's hair-raising," Borchetta says. "You could tell she really felt that track, and what the song was about."

Adria is filled with profuse gratitude for the artists preserving and carrying her dad's legacy.

"I'm really touched that these musicians showed up for my dad," she says. "A lot of people don't want to show up for anything that's not making money for them, or in service to their career, and we really appreciate it… I owe great debt to all of these artists and their managers for making the time to think about our old man like that."

Indeed, in Nashville and beyond, we've all been thinking about her old man, especially since his untimely passing in 2017. We'll never forget him — and will strum and sing these simple, heartfelt, and profound songs for years to come.

Wildflowers

Read List
Foo Fighters Essential Songs: 10 Tracks That Show The Band's Eternal Rock Spirit | GRAMMY.com (2024)

References

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Pres. Carey Rath

Last Updated:

Views: 6424

Rating: 4 / 5 (61 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Pres. Carey Rath

Birthday: 1997-03-06

Address: 14955 Ledner Trail, East Rodrickfort, NE 85127-8369

Phone: +18682428114917

Job: National Technology Representative

Hobby: Sand art, Drama, Web surfing, Cycling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Leather crafting, Creative writing

Introduction: My name is Pres. Carey Rath, I am a faithful, funny, vast, joyous, lively, brave, glamorous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.