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On Drive and Gatekeepers

A hand holds a torn piece of brown paper with the legend 'to inspire' in black ink

The cover image for this post is by Cindy Liu

This blog post was written by Jamie .


"I now realized that all you needed was three chords, an open mind, and a microphone."

- Dave Grohl, The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music

That’s from Dave Grohl’s autobiography “The Storyteller”. Although he’s talking specifically about realizing that anyone can play music, he’s also talking about how anyone can take up any profession, hobby, or area of study if they have the drive.

In the section of the book this quote is from, Dave has traveled to visit some family (really his Mother’s old friend), and his “cousin” had become a punk rocker since he had last seen her - we’re talking leather jacket, Mohawk, safety pins and everything. She was leaving the house to go to a punk rock show, and he begged her to take him - he was wearing jeans and a plain T-shirt, not your average punk rock attire.

When he got to the venue, the people there accepted him because he was a fan of the music, he was one of them. They didn’t reject him because he didn’t fit any preconceived notions of what a punk rocker “looked like”. They accepted him because he wanted to be there, and they were willing to take him in with open arms. He talks about how he received tonnes of underground music recommendations at that show, and spent the remainder of his trip visiting music stores and listening to records with his “cousin”.

If those punk rockers hadn’t have accepted him, he may not have had the revelation and may not have taken up music as a profession. Earlier in the book, he talks about how he only ever took one lesson but was put off of music by his teacher because his teacher embarrassed him throughout the lesson.

If Dave had never taken up music, that would have been a world without a second tour for Scream. That’s a world without Nirvana as we know it (Dave was their third drummer, but it’s arguable that his influence on tracks like Smells Like Teen Spirit are what made the band superstars). That’s a world without the award winning acoustic album for MTV. That’s a world without Foo Fighters. That’s a world without one of the most positive, nurturing voices in music to date.

The key lesson here is: anyone with the drive can do anything, but it’s the gatekeepers who stop them. Support those around you, elevate them, and help them to achieve their goals. You never know, you might be coaching the next Dave Grohl.