A NeffZone.com Book Review
Assumptions can often be wrong. On the surface, you might assume “From Cradle To Stage" by Virginia Hanlon Grohl is just another Dave Grohl/Nirvana/Foo Fighters book. It is way more than that. More than a proud mother touting her son's accomplishments. This is a book that speaks to all those who have the passion to pursue dreams.
The structure of the book is deceptively simple – the stories of seventeen musician/artists as seen through the eyes of their mothers. The backgrounds and personalities of the “rock moms” set the tone for each individual narrative.
The musicians are a varied lot: Michael Stipe, Dr. Dre, Miranda Lambert, Mike D, Gary Clark, Jr., the Haim Sisters, Geddy Lee, Adam Levine, Kelly Clarkson, Pharrell Williams, Dave Matthews, Zac Brown, Warren Haynes, Amy Winehouse, Josh Groban, Adam Levin, and Tom Morello.
These unique stories are interwoven with thirteen vignettes which relate Virginia's the personal experiences with her son David's journey. Insights into his early years with bands like Scream, the Nirvana years, his relationship with Kurt Cobain, up through the present day Foo Fighters are all parts of her own story.
The result is a sort of quilt with each panel being different yet stitched together by threads of common experiences. For example, although coming from diverse backgrounds, they all shared the “Aha!” moment, a point in time when their child realized his/her path in life. “Music is a calling that doesn’t call softly or politely. It screams insistently. The musician WILL find a way,” observed Nancy Weinrib, Geddy Lee's mother.
Just as the “Aha!” moment was a common experience, most mothers also cite “the conversation” as an inevitable consequence – school becoming less important. Dr. Dre remembers having this talk with his mother, Verna Griffin. “I started having a lot of problems in junior high. I was going because I had to, not because I felt like I wanted to. I had other interests. I knew what I wanted to do with my life at a young age.” As Adam Levine's mother, Patsy Noah, pointed out: “I knew I didn’t have anything to do with it except to allow it. With Adam I knew there was no way I could stop him.”
Perhaps the most intriguing aspects of “From Cradle to Stage” are the perceptions about parenting during situations that might challenge common norms. Having the courage and patience to support their child's dream, even when traditional instincts told them otherwise, was something each mother faced.
Sandi Clark, mother of Gary Clark, Jr., had to deal with this. “She had to constantly remind herself that this was what he so passionately wanted to do—even though her mother’s instinct thought he should be doing his homework and getting ready for bed,” related Virginia Grohl.
Other mothers emphasized this theme. Val Matthews, mother of Dave Matthews advised: “We must find a way to involve the creative minds of those artists and thinkers who don’t always move comfortably according to the patterns our schools set up.” Josh Groban's mother, Libby Groban, agreed: “If you have a creative child, you must advocate for your child. The school must create self-confidence, a sense of value. It must assure the child that he or she is capable. It must be engaging, exciting.”
Perhaps Mary Morello, mother of Tom Morello, said it best: “Anybody in the world can raise a child well if they pay attention to him. That’s my theory. You really have to listen, to pay attention.” To which Virginia Grohl added: “None of this guarantees that you’ll raise a rock star, just a more fulfilled human being. If the creative flame burns in another area, try to identify it and keep it burning. Your child’s ingenuities may involve designing, writing, cooking, painting, engineering, or performing. Be open to all the possibilities.”
At its essence, “From Cradle To Stage” is a testament to the special bond between mothers and their children. In this case, due to the contributions to music these “kids” have made, it's what makes this book such a pleasure to read. As Dave Grohl says in the introduction to the book: “There is no love like a mother’s love. It is life’s greatest song. We are all indebted to the women who have given us life. For without them, there would be no music.”