I hate to say it, but there are so many a-holes in this world. Maybe they were always there, but we now have the technology to amplify them. Whether they're glorified on reality TV, wasting our tax dollars in D.C. or 50 state capitols around the U.S., or going viral every second of every day on social media, it seems like there's no supply chain shortage of truly bad people.
It truly pains me to say this because despite my cynicism and snark, I like people. And my intuitive response to meeting someone for the first time is to assume (or at least hope) I can see the good in them.
But whether watching TV, scrolling through social, or just driving to and from work, it is not at all difficult to experience multiple a-hole encounters. And when you're having a bad day, those interludes just seem to keep on coming.
That's why when I run across the opposite of an a-hole – a truly good soul – I feel compelled to pause and recognize the moment. It's especially impressive when you spend time dealing with highly successful people, whether it's in the world of business or on stage holding a guitar.
By any standard, these are people who have “made it.” And as you may know from experience, sadly, many famous, accomplished people have trouble handling their stellar success. In fact, some of them succumb to the pressures and can truly be miserable to be around.
But then there are the truly rare ones you really want to celebrate. They're at the top of their game, and rather than selfishly grab for even more, they use their fame, notoriety, and talent for good. It's not an easy task, and that's why when there's one of these people in your midst, you just want to applaud them for who they are and what they do.
Even if they're not exactly taking credit for their goodness, using their PR people to spread their greatness, and making the media rounds. I remember a story about Steven Spielberg as a much younger man. He had already achieved incredible success directing his early blockbuster films. The story goes that he was discussing with his rabbi how to best make charitable donations given his immense wealth. As I recall, he was about to write a big check for a building or auditorium and would receive the honor of having his name on it. The rabbi's advice to the famous director? “If you have put your name on it, it doesn't count.”
I'm paraphrasing, but there's another great line about this same issue credited to the greatest coach in the history of sports, UCLA icon John Wooden:
“The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching.”
And that brings us to the title of today's post and how it is intricately tied to our business, specifically the rock n' roll community. Something happened earlier this week that should cause us to turn off cable news, cease doom-scrolling, and stop whining that everyone's a crook, a liar, or both.
Dave Grohl (once again) restored my faith in people, especially those who rock. You may have heard he walked in unannounced to the Hope Mission in L.A. and proceeded to cook a barbeque dinner for 450 homeless souls.
For that, Grohl earns the honor of being a mensch. But this is not the first time I bestowed that honor on him. Just days after our election in November 2020, I was inspired by a CFOX/Vancouver morning show bit:
“If rock n' roll was a country, who would be our President?”
Great question, and as I do, I took it further, also naming a Vice President and most of the cabinet.
My choice for the Oval Office was, of course, the distinguished Dave Grohl, a member in good standing of the seminal Nirvana, the leader of the Foo Fighters, and a guy who has shown himself to be charitable, wise, and giving. In that blog post, I put it this way:
“Grohl's a mensch, a good soul, and someone with multi-generational appeal. He knows how to get the big stuff done, he does a great job of serving his constituents, and he even takes the time for fun stuff, like his drum challenge with 10 year-old protege, Nandi Bushell, from Ipswich, England.”
I also observed that Grohl is younger than most of the candidates (54 years-old now, and still “in demo”) who've run for our highest office in recent elections.
I'm happy to report that more than two years later, Grohl hasn't been caught up in any scandals, has not reneged on any promises, has started no conspiracy theories, and he hasn't taken any classified documents on tour with the Foo Fighters.
By the way, Joan Jett was my hands-down choice for Veep, and I'm sticking with her. You can read about all my 2020 nominees here.
But Grohl's exploit last week takes him to a whole new level of mensch-dom. LA Times writer Emily St. Martin wrote the story:
Grohl wheeled into a Northridge homeless shelter, Hope the Mission's Trebek Center (yes, that Trebek) accompanied by a meat truck and massive smokers for a 24-hour marathon of meat – brisket, ribs, and pork butt.
Not only did Grohl prep the food, he stayed around to clean up “the kitchcen” afterwards.
As you no doubt know, L.A.'s homeless problem is epic and complicated. When a veritable monsoon moved in, it was clear to Grohl the locals needed a some of his carnivorous culinary cuisine.
As Hope the Mission President and CFO Rowan Vansleve explained to the Times, “There's this megastar walking around hugging and just loving on people. Then he starts to light all the fires at about 11p.m., and this is when the massive story hit…So he's out there last Wednesday through to Thursday. So it's pouring down, the area's flooded. And he stayed out there from midnight until I think it was 6a.m. when the meat stopped resting.”
What's a 6-letter world that begins with “m,” rhymes with “bench,” and means a good soul?
So, what IS a mensch? Like a lot of non-English words – this one's Yiddish with German roots – the true meaning often gets somewhat lost in translation. And so I did what Spielberg apparently did – consulted the learned rabbis.
In fact, the Jewish Chronicle checked in with Rabbi Neil Kurshan who wrote the book on the subject – literally. “Raising Your Child to be Mensch” is the go-to handbook. He says “a mensch is driven by an innate decency, motivated perhaps by a sense of values to live up to but not out of regard for recognition. They will act as a mensch at times when it may be hard to be one..”
Grohl checks all those boxes.
None of this is to say there aren't philanthropic, kind, and empathetic people in the business of “radio and records” because there are. Plenty of them.
But to be a mensch is a higher calling. “As the Chronicle reminds us, they are “people we look up to, but they are never too good to be true.”
Those of us who work in the high flying media business easily remember that exclusive group of kind, generous, and truly joyful people we've had the good fortune to meet and hopefully work with along our career paths.
But a mensch like Dave Grohl is that true rarity, to be appreciated and cherished.
There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
P.S. Thanks to Emily St. Martin of the L.A. Times for her coverage of the Grohl BBQ. We ended up following each other on Twitter. And this tweet showed up in my feed after she filed her story:
Dave Grohl! What a mensch! 🤩 https://t.co/h3bNUSTJl7
— Emily St. Martin (@ByEmilyStMartin) March 1, 2023
Obviously, we know one when we see one.
P.P.S. To learn more and/or to donate to Hope the Mission, go here.