Foo Fighters started out as a one-man-band, with D.C. hardcore-raised ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl playing and singing nearly everything on the surprisingly polished self-titled debut, released on the 4th of July in 1995. But over the years, Grohl has filled out the full band lineup, while bringing in a dizzying array of guest musicians and vocalists to add something extra to the band’s albums and concerts.
Over the years, Foo Fighters have jammed with classic rock heroes, Grohl’s former bandmates from Nirvana and Scream, and members of Queen, System of a Down, even Boyz II Men. Obviously, Foo Fighters had to push back their “D.C. Jam” anniversary concert due to the COVID-19 lockdown. But to celebrate the band’s silver anniversary, here’s a look at 25 memorable occasions that Foo Fighters got a little help from their friends, onstage or on wax.
25. “Make It Right” with Justin Timberlake (Concrete and Gold, 2017)
Foo Fighters recorded Concrete and Gold at EastWest Studios, a large L.A. recording complex where several other major acts were working on their own records. And Dave Grohl fostered a party atmosphere by barbecuing for everybody in the parking lot, which resulted in several of the collaborations on the album, including unlikely guest vocalists like Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman and pop superstar Justin Timberlake. “We’d drink whiskey in the parking lot,” Grohl told Rolling Stone, explaining the Timberlake cameo. “Then the night before his last day, he says, ‘Can I sing on your record? I don’t want to push it, but – I just want to be able to tell my friends.”
24. “Panama” with David Lee Roth (Live in Los Angeles, 2015)
Many Foo Fighters shows have featured one or two big-name guest musicians joining the band onstage. But there’s probably no single Foos gig that attracted more star power than the show at the Forum celebrating Dave Grohl’s birthday in January 2015, a few days before he turned 46. Alice Cooper, Slash, Perry Ferrell, Lemmy Kilmister, Paul Stanley, Zakk Wylde, and Tenacious D all joined the band onstage for a set that featured almost as many covers as Grohl originals. But the highlight was the encore that featured two Van Halen classics with David Lee Roth. “There was one guy that I never played with before,” Grohl told the audience as he introduced Diamond Dave. “He was the fuckin’ bucket list motherfucker. We got the bucket list motherfucker tonight.” Somewhere out there, Sammy Hagar is fuming.
23. “Virginia Moon” with Norah Jones (In Your Honor, 2005)
Superstar jazz balladeer Norah Jones sang and played piano on one of the loveliest songs from the mellower acoustic disc of the band’s double album In Your Honor. Jones also included the track on her 2010 collaborative album …Featuring.
22. “Something From Nothing” with Rick Nielsen (Sonic Highways, 2014)
Dave Grohl’s HBO miniseries Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways was a multimedia project that followed the band as they visited studios in 8 American cities, and interviewed and jammed with famous hometown musicians. The resulting album of the same name was the most collaborative Foo Fighters record, with guests on every track. And the always starstruck Grohl never seems to fan out more in the series than in the Chicago episode, when he drafts Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen to rip a baritone guitar solo on the album’s lead single “Something From Nothing” at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio. Nielsen performed the song with the band on numerous occasions, bringing his signature checkerboard guitar with him on The Late Show with David Letterman.
21. “Saint Cecilia” with Ben Kweller (Saint Cecilia EP, 2015)
Foo Fighters dashed off the Saint Cecilia EP as a quick stopgap project while touring in support of the ambitious all-star Sonic Highways. But even the lo-fi EP they recorded at their hotel while performing at the Austin City Limits festival had a guest. Singer-songwriter and native Texan Ben Kweller, formerly the teen prodigy of the ‘90s post-grunge band Radish, joined Foo Fighters onstage for “Big Me,” and then sang backup on the EP’s title track, which peaked at #3 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart.
20. “Rope” with Deadmau5 (The Grammys, 2012)
In 2012, producers of the Grammys telecast decided to celebrate EDM’s burgeoning commercial relevance by cramming producers like David Guetta into a medley with artists from other genres like Lil Wayne and Chris Brown. This concept somehow turned into Foo Fighters playing the first half of 2011’s “Rope,” before a curtain dropped to reveal Deadmau5, in his big silly mouse helmet. Dave Grohl briefly sings along with Deadmau5’s official remix from the “Rope” single and then jumps into the audience to awkwardly bob his head to the beat.
19. “Gimme Some Truth” with Billy Idol (Live in Jacksonville, Florida, 2018)
Foo Fighters followed Billy Idol onstage at the Welcome to Rockville festival in 2018, so they joined forces to play “Gimme Some Truth,” the John Lennon song that Idol’s own band Generation X covered in 1979. Then for no apparent reason, John Travolta also materialized onstage with the Foos a minute later, standing around awkwardly while the band played “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease.
18. “Holiday in Cambodia” with Serj Tankian (MTV Video Music Awards, 2007)
MTV held the VMAs at the Palms Casino and Resort in Las Vegas for the first and only time in 2007, with an experimental format including frequent cutaways to Fantasy Suite rooms hosted by stars like Mark Ronson and Kanye West with surprise guests. The Foo Fighters had their own suite, in which Dave Grohl and his band jammed with Cee-Lo Green, Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal and Lemmy Kilmister. And for a brief moment during MTV’s highly touted annual awards show, System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian fronted Foo Fighters for a cover of the Dead Kennedys’ satirical punk classic “Holiday in Cambodia.” The performance finally got a proper commercial release in 2019 on the 01070725 EP, one of a series of archival releases Foo Fighters rolled out to celebrate their 25th year.
17. “Miracle” with John Paul Jones and Petra Haden (In Your Honor, 2005)
Foo Fighters jammed with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones at Wembley Stadium in 2008, and Dave Grohl formed the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures with Jones in 2009. But before all of that, Jones linked up with Foo Fighters for a couple of delicate tracks on the second half of In Your Honor. Jones played piano on “Miracle,” which also featured That Dog. violinist Petra Haden, who was part of the expanded lineup that recorded the 2006 acoustic live album Skin and Bones.
16. “Dear Rosemary” with Bob Mould (Wasting Light, 2011)
Dave Grohl has often cited Hüsker Dü as one of his biggest influences, and Foo Fighters covered the Dü’s “Never Talking to You Again” live in 2002 as the B-side of the “Low” single. So it was no surprise when Bob Mould appeared on two songs on 2011’s Wasting Light and frequently joined them on tour to sing and strum on “Dear Rosemary,” including on Conan.
15. “The Feast and the Famine” with Peter Stahl and Skeeter Thompson (Sonic Highways, 2014)
Dave Grohl joined the Virginia hardcore band Scream as a teenager, touring the country with them for a few years before he got the call to join Nirvana. And Grohl always remained friends with his old bandmates, bringing guitarist Franz Stahl on as a member of Foo Fighters for a couple of years in the late ‘90s and participating in a Scream reunion in 2010. When an episode of Sonic Highways brought Grohl back to his old Washington, D.C. stomping grounds, Scream’s Peter Stahl and Skeeter Thompson sang backup on the throwback punk anthem “The Feast and the Famine,” recorded at Inner Ear Studios in Arlington. Dedicated Foo Fighters fans will also recall Thompson from the comical anecdote in ”Just Another Story About Skeeter Thompson” from the 1992 cassette where Grohl debuted his first solo compositions under the name Late!