From Cradle to Stage: Stories From Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars
By Virginia Hanlon Grohl
Seal Press, 240 pp., $27
To most of us, music stars are…well…stars — that elite subset of humanity whose audiences sometimes have difficulty perceiving them as people who, at one time, lived “normally.” But every one of them had or has a mother, and some of those mothers have stories to tell about the times before their precious little babies were filling arenas and selling millions of records.
In this breezy tome, 78-year-old Virginia Hanlon Grohl – Foo Fighter/Nirvana member Dave’s mom – visited in person and profiles nearly 20 moms about raising their now-famous kids, taking them to music lessons and early gigs, and how their success has affected them. But in many cases, the mother’s own stories become more interesting.
Take 90-year-old Mary Weinrib, who gave birth to Geddy Lee of Rush. As a Jew in Poland when the Nazis took over, she watched her father shot to death by SS Guards. Later at a concentration camp, she was put in a line for the gas chambers and certain death, only to be switched surreptitiously to the fit-for-work line by her mother. Later, she was transferred to the Bergen-Belsen Camp, where Anne Frank died.
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But she was there later to support her son’s burgeoning power trio at glamorous gigs like upstairs at someplace called “George’s Spaghetti House.” And Geddy’s name? It’s actually “Gary,” but he changed it legally because when Mary says it, it comes out as “Geddy.”
Then there’s country queen Miranda Lambert’s mother, who was not above using her young kid as a willing participant in the family’s private detective agency on cases. Or Beastie Boy Mike D’s mother, an internationally acclaimed art dealer whose son once cried, during yet another trip to Europe to sight-see, “no more churches!” Or the 92-year-old Mary Morello, whose political activism over decades and life in 52 different countries make her son Tom’s travels and activism look wanting by comparison.
Mrs. Grohl — who also inserts anecdotes about raising her Dave throughout — also visited with the moms of Michael Stipe, Dr. Dre, Adam Levine, Kelly Clarkson (who does NOT like her daughter’s smash song about her, “Because of You”), Pharrell Williams, Zac Brown and Dave Matthews, among others. Her talks with fellow Nirvana mom Wendy Cobain and Amy Winehouse’s mother Janis carry plenty of pathos.
In many cases, Grohl also got to speak with the “stars” about their mothers, and the feelings that came through are warmer than when they're speaking about any musical project, no matter how treasured. And if you are ever stranded without a working car outside a Gary Clark Jr. concert, fear not! He honed his hotwiring techniques as a teen, which would allow him to “borrow” the family car at night to catch blues gigs around Austin.