The rocker tells PEOPLE how music shaped his formative years

By Steve Helling
Updated April 22, 2015 07:25 AM
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There’s no question that Dave Grohl has influenced a generation of musicians.

As the drummer of Nirvana, he helped usher in the grunge movement in the late 1980s. Following the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994, Grohl formed Foo Fighters and has won multiple Grammy Awards for Best Rock Album.

His Musical Influences

But who influenced Grohl? “Let me tell you a story,” he tells PEOPLE. (Attention, celebrities: we love it when people say that.)

“I discovered music listening to AM radio in my mom’s Ford,” recalls Grohl. “It was stuff like 10cc, Carly Simon, Helen Reddy. We would drive around Virginia and sing along. I’d sing the main melody, and she would sing the harmony.”

“We didn’t have a lot of money; my mother was a public school teacher,” he continues. “On the weekends, she would bring home a record player from the school and we would listen to it. I’d go to the local record store and buy music. I’d earn money mowing lawns and then buy music with it.”

“My first record was a K-Tel collection called 20 Original Hits by the Original Stars. It had people like KC and the Sunshine Band on it.”

“But there was one song called Frankenstein by The Edgar Winter Group. It’s an instrumental, and it was amazing. It really changed my life. I listened to it, and suddenly I was seeing music, not just hearing it. The record became my prized possession.”

Grohl, 46, says that the song sparked his lifelong passion for record stores.

This year, he was the ambassador for Record Store Day, an event meant to promote local record shops in a world of digital downloads. “It’s important to have an emotional experience with music.”

A Musical Legacy

One of Grohl’s most emotional experiences? Watching his eldest daughter, 9-year-old Violet, discover music.

“She had Yellow Submarine on her iPad, so I came home one day with the Beatles vinyl box set. Violet was like, ‘Daddy, what is that?’ I said, ‘They’re records!’ I pulled them out and her eyes widened. She was like, ‘I can hold music!’ ”

“I got the record player and taught her how to do it,” he recalls. “An hour later, I walked in and she was sitting on her floor with all the record covers around her. She was reading the lyrics and listening to Let It Be, the same way I used to do it. It was an incredible bonding experience.”

Sonic Highways

Grohl has drawn upon his lifelong love of music to create Sonic Highways, an HBO docuseries about American music. (The first season is now available on DVD.)

In the series, he interview everyone from President Obama to Dolly Parton. (He was particular nervous about interviewing Parton. “She was the only person that I had a cheat sheet for,” he says.)

“Music has the ability to make people feel like they belong,” he says. “When you make music or listen to music, you become part of a community.”

To hear the song that changed Grohl’s life, check out the video below.

For more from Grohl, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday