Back in 2015, a man named Fabio Zaffagnini convinced 1,000 people in his hometown of Cesena, Italy, to realize a seeming logistic nightmare: a massive simultaneous performance of Foo Fighters’ indelible alt-rock hit “Learn to Fly” without any rehearsals. It worked and the results are encouraging. “A lot of people, when they watch the video, say it doesn’t look like Italian,” Zaffagnini told MTV News at the time. “It’s more like the American Dream, you know?”
“Learn to Fly” was chosen for its simplicity and versatility – three chords and a big heart – that have made Foo Fighters such a rock establishment since 1995. It is for this spirit that the group is honored with the Global Icon Award at this year’s VMA.
“This is a real reward,” said band leader Dave Grohl, accepting the band’s third-ever Moonperson. “We’ve been a band for 26 years, so that’s not bad!” One of those years, by the way, was 1997, when their second LP Color and shape fell and they performed on the rooftop of the Radio City Music Hall for the VMA. Memories!
Grohl, accompanied by fellow members Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, Taylor Hawkins, Chris Shiflett and Rami Jeffy, stood on stage alongside Fu fan and follower Billie Eilish, who introduced them. He said that they’ve made a list of all MTV people to remember to thank and have put together a list for decades. And then he shouted out to some of them: “Kurt Loder, Tabitha Soren, JJ Jackson, Matt Pinfield, Steve Isaacs, Amy Finnerty.”
It was a real journey for the band, which started out as a solo project for Grohl after Nirvana. He played all instruments on his self-titled 1995 debut album and expanded and changed the lineup over the following decades, releasing 10 studio albums and many modern rock hits.
Before the band picked up their last trophy, they played a mix of classic fu jams of all time, including “Learn to Fly”. Drummer Hawkins flashed the note “Charlie RIP” on his bass drum in tribute to the recently retired Rolling Stones percussionist Charlie Watts. Right after that, they connected the past with the present with “Shame Shame”, a new dance tune they released earlier this year.
“Shame, shame” found the team adopting a more playful side, similar to what they researched on Hail Atlas they recorded a disco comp and released it in July. Its position between two cold classics by Foos suggests its potential future power – and the completion of “Everlong”, the band’s signature song, allowed projections from the band’s past to spice up its career.
“Thank you very much for this award,” he concluded after the speech. “See you in 26 years!”
Dressed in his all-black rock star uniform and signature blue guitar, Grohl comes out ahead of his team as the first global idol at the VMA? This is what I call the American Dream.
The 2021 VMAs will be streamed live on MTV from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Find the full list of winners right here and stay on top of the highlights of the VMA evening!