Foo Fighters’ “The Teacher” Lyrics Meaning

“The Teacher” was released on 30 May 2023 as the fourth single from Foo Fighters’ forthcoming project Here We Are, with The Teacher being dubbed “the centerpiece” of the album. That is to say that, measuring in at 10 minutes and a few seconds in length – way longer than any of the other tracks found on the LP – and the band rocks hard throughout. 

Also it comes complete with its own short film, as assembled by director Tony Oursler, who’s furthermore a multimedia artist, with those skills being on full display in the clip. Moreover, it is generally understood that this song serves a tribute to a couple of loved ones the band has lost of late, i.e. Taylor Hawkins, their longtime drummer, as well as Dave Grohl’s mom Virginia, who also passed away in 2022.  And as the album as a whole, it is likewise inspired by such a theme.

The Lyrics

So with that understanding in mind, when taking all of the lyrics into consideration, an argument can be made that this track is more in memory of Virginia than it is of Taylor. For instance, certain segments of the song feature Dave taking on what can be classified as a parental tone, even referring to the addressee as “boy” in the second verse and “kid” in the chorus. 

What’s being put forth by and large reads instructive in nature, even if said instructions are for the most part ambiguous. But what it appears the vocalist is getting at in general in that regard is recommending that the young addressee remains cognizant of where his life is headed. Also, the hook features a message along the lines of appreciating life in general.

But said hook can also be taken as alluding to the finality of mortality. The outro likewise reveals that this is serving as a “goodbye” to someone(s) who is no longer around, which presumably, given the hypothesis above, would be dearly departed.

“Hey kid, what’s the plan for tomorrow?
Where will I wake up? Where will I wake up?
Hey kid, what’s the plan for tomorrow?
Where will I wake up? Where will I wake up?”

The one part of this song that clearly isn’t advisory in nature is the bridge. Therein, Grohl rather celebrates the addressee for teaching him various life lessons. However, the one thing this person failed to impart onto the vocalist is “how to say goodbye”. In other words, Dave was not prepared to deal with the loss of his “teacher”.

So our conclusion is that Grohl is playing two roles in this song, in a manner of speaking. In segments such as the chorus, second verse and hook, he may actually be taking on the character of his mother and relaying the type of advice she used to impart on him in his youth. 

But the first verse, refrain, second verse and also possibly the hook seem to serve as ruminations on mortality, i.e. Foo Fighters poetically contending with the death of loved ones. And it’s the outro that brings it all home, verifying that this is indeed a song of interpersonal loss, though such a sentiment is never expressed forthrightly.

The Team behind the Song

Besides frontman Dave Grohl, four of the other five remaining Foo Fighters – Pat Smear, Chris Shiflett, Nate Mendel and Rami Jaffee – are also credited as writers of this song. Its producer is the versatile hitmaker Greg Kerstin, and the labels behind the track, i.e. those that are backing the release of “Here We Are”, are RCA and its imprint, Roswell Records.

The Music Video

As noted earlier, the director of the music video to “The Teacher” is also a multimedia artist. So what we are met with is what may be described as a live-action animated clip which, once again, measures in at 10 minutes. But it isn’t such that there are cartoons interacting with people per se. Rather, there are real-world images superimposed with animations, primarily in the form of moving shapes and colors.

As far as said shapes go, at the top of the list would definitely be triangles, which appear in various sizes throughout. Relatedly, especially later on the clip, the viewer is met with the likes of the All-Seeing Eye inside of a pyramid, similar to the image found on the dollar bill.

A second recurring theme throughout are images of childhood, as apparently captured with the types of video recorders that were common during the late 20th century. In fact during one of such airings, it can be seen that that recording date is 20 April 1990. At that time Grohl would have been 20 years old, and it may well be that said videos are from his youth, as the guy therein does sorta look like a young version of him (a true Foo Fighter fan would know).  And on that note, later on when we get to the outro of the song, what appears to be an old photograph of Dave and his mom takes center screen for a few notable seconds.

Other Themes

Another theme we find in this music video is depictions of nature, such as sunrises, sea shores and what have you. But what is especially recurrent in that regard is the presence of trees. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few scenes which feature Grohl and the others’ faces superimposed with the images of trees, and it becomes obvious that said plants are meant to serve some type of symbolic purpose as to the message that’s being relayed via this visual.

Lastly, in terms of what may be considered an actual subtheme of the clip, there are rock scenes of different types including, nearer to the end, what appears to be the Foo Fighters on stage performing.  However during said scene, their faces are for the most part covered with the likes of triangles and other multi-colored, animated shapes.

Earlier on, there are also various travel-related clips embedded therein, including what may be a young, 20-ish Dave appearing like he’s about to embark on a road trip. During one scene, the word “Amsterdam” is flashed and in another, the phrase “wake up and go to Hamburg”. So it may be that some of those road images, as well as the city depictions which pop up later on were filmed in Europe.

And amongst all that is going on in this clip, there is also one memorable sequence in which four guys seem to be helping another to walk. Said figures may be symbolic of the Foo Fighters, but they are presented in such a way that you can’t really tell.

2 Responses

  1. Karen says:

    One can only assume that a retired Virginia, on tour with the band, would often say to her son, “where will I wake up,” as they traveled across Europe, etc. Dave had her traveling with the band as soon as she stopped teaching.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The band supporting Dave, holding him up, keeping him going, so symbolic and powerful, like everything about this epic song.

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