A Rocker Reborn

When you're in a world-famous rock band, having your frontman meet an unexpected demise can really turn into a major annoyance. At the very least, it makes you rethink your future. Take what happened when Jim Morrison OD'd in that Paris bathtub — the remaining Doors gamely put out two albums sans Jimbo, even though it was obvious the doors of opportunity had already slammed shut. Likewise, after Freddie Mercury succumbed to AIDS, Queen's reign ended abruptly, and those champions were champions only in past tense. And of course it didn't do Joy Division any good when its enigmatic lead singer, Ian Curtis, put a noose around his neck, forcing his former compatriots to start anew under the guise of New Order.

Then there was Nirvana, considered by many to be the most influential outfit of the '90s. They were the gurus of grunge when Kurt Cobain opted to off himself — or when someone else opted to off him, depending on whatever conspiracy theory you subscribe to. Either way, it nixed Nirvana forever. Fortunately, drummer Dave Grohl didn't let that mishap crimp his career. Quite the contrary, trading his drumsticks for a mic and a guitar, he founded the Foo Fighters in 1995, seizing success in the process.

Granted, the Foos aren't the most original ensemble. Their hard-edged sound is plied with a relatively soft center, echoing a template laid down by forebears like the Pixies, Sugar, and Hüsker Dü. Not surprisingly, they also bear certain similarities to Nirvana, albeit without the insurgent intent. Still, Grohl's done an excellent job of establishing his own rock-star stance and celebrity status. His face peers out from the covers of the world's leading rock rags, he's shared the stage at the Grammys with Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello, and his band routinely sells out shows.

But it hasn't been an entirely smooth transition. After cutting the group's first disc entirely on his own, Grohl's ability to recruit other musicians was undermined by his supposed insistence on complete creative control. Then again, being the band's main man and multi-instrumental overachiever, the tendency to micromanage was probably pretty tempting.

Now, 12 years on, the Foo Fighters have eight albums under their belts — including their latest, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace and a steady lineup in the persons of Grohl, original bassist Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins, and guitarist Chris Shiflett. Which makes one think that maybe, in the world of rock 'n' roll anyway, there can be life after death after all. One simply has to start over with a new name and a new MO. If you're as serious and as savvy as Dave Grohl, resurrection is never out of the question.

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Lee Zimmerman