Billie Joe Armstrong
Billie Joe Armstrong (born February 17, 1972) is an American rock musician and occasional actor, best known as the lead vocalist, main songwriter, and guitarist for the American punk rock band Green Day, which he co-founded with Mike Dirnt. He is also a guitarist and vocalist for the punk rock band Pinhead Gunpowder and provides lead vocals for Green Day's side projects Foxboro Hot Tubs and The Network.
Raised in Rodeo, California, Armstrong developed an interest in music at a young age, and recorded his first song at the age of five. He met Mike Dirnt while attending elementary school, and the two instantly bonded over their mutual interest in music, forming the band Sweet Children when the two were 15 years old. The band changed its name to Green Day, and would later achieve massive commercial success. Armstrong has also pursued musical projects outside of Green Day's work, including numerous collaborations with other musicians.
He also co-owns the record label Adeline Records, with his wife Adrienne and skateboarder Jim Thiebaud, with the collaboration of Green Day's guitarist Jason White and more recently Green Day's manager Pat Magnarella.
Billie Joe Armstrong was born in Oakland, California, and was raised in Rodeo, California, as the youngest of six children to Andrew "Andy" Armstrong and Ollie Jackson. His father worked as a jazz musician and truck driver for Safeway Inc. to support his family. He died of esophageal cancer on September 16, 1982. The song "Wake Me Up When September Ends" is a memorial to his father. He has five older siblings: David, Alan, Marci, Hollie, and Anna. His mother worked at Rod's Hickory Pit restaurant in El Cerrito. Armstrong and Mike Dirnt's first live performance was at Rod's Hickory Pit in 1987; their first performance under the name Green Day was in Davis, a college town approximately an hour's drive northeast of the San Francisco Bay area.
Armstrong's interest in music started at a young age. He attended Hillchest Elementary School in Rodeo, where a teacher encouraged him to record a song titled "Look for Love" at the age of five on the Bay Area label Fiat Records. After his father died, his mother married a man whom her children disliked, which resulted in Armstrong's further retreat into music. At the age of 10, Armstrong met Mike Dirnt in the school cafeteria and they immediately bonded over their love of music. He became interested in punk rock after being introduced to punk rock by his brothers. Armstrong has also cited Minneapolis-based bands The Replacements and Hüsker Dü as major musical influences.
In 1987, aged 15, Armstrong formed a band called Sweet Children with his childhood friend Mike Dirnt. In the beginning, Dirnt and Armstrong both played guitar, with John Kiffmeyer, also known as Al Sobrante, on drums, and Sean Hughes on bass. After a few performances, Hughes left the band in 1988; Dirnt then began playing bass and they became a three-piece band. They changed their name to Green Day in April 1989, choosing the name because of their fondness for marijuana. That same year, they released their debut EP 1,000 Hours through Lookout! Records. They recorded their debut studio album 39/Smooth and the extended play Slappy in 1990, which were later combined with 1,000 Hours into the compilation 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours in 1991. Tré Cool eventually became Green Day's drummer in late 1990 when Sobrante left Green Day in order to go to college. California punk band Rancid's lead singer Tim Armstrong asked Armstrong to join his band, but he refused owing to the progress with Green Day. Cool made his debut on Green Day's second album, Kerplunk. With their next album, Dookie (1994), the band broke through into the mainstream, and have remained one of the most popular rock bands of the 1990s and 2000s with over 60 million records sold worldwide.
Apart from working with Green Day and side-band Pinhead Gunpowder, Armstrong has collaborated with many artists over the years. He has co-written for The Go-Go's ("Unforgiven") and former Avengers singer Penelope Houston ("The Angel and The Jerk" and "New Day"), co-written a song with Rancid ("Radio"), and sung backing vocals with Melissa Auf der Maur on Ryan Adams' "Do Miss America" (where they acted as the backing band for Iggy Pop on his Skull Ring album ("Private Hell" and "Supermarket"). Armstrong has produced an album for The Riverdales. He has also been confirmed to be part of a side project called The Network, which released an album called Money Money 2020. Money Money 2020 was released on Adeline Records, a record label co-owned by Armstrong. Armstrong also provided lead guitar and backing vocals on 3 songs for The Lookouts' final extended play IV (1989).
Hoping to clear his head and develop new ideas for songs, Armstrong traveled to New York City alone for a few weeks, renting a small apartment in the East Village of Manhattan. He spent much of this time taking long walks and participating in jam sessions in the basement of Hi-Fi, a bar in Manhattan. However, the friends he made during this time drank too much for his liking, which was the catalyst for Armstrong's return to the Bay Area. After returning home, Armstrong was arrested on DUI charges on January 5, 2003, and released on $1,200 bail.
In 2004, Green Day debuted American Idiot, their first rock opera. The album has sold more than 15,000,000 copies worldwide, fueled by the hit singles American Idiot, Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Wake me up When September Ends. In 2009 Green Day published 21st Century Breakdown, the band's second rock opera with a great commercial succes too.
In 2010, Armstrong joined the cast of American Idiot, which won two Tonys, for one week in the role of St. Jimmy. He replaced the original Broadway cast member Tony Vincent from September 28 to October 3. Armstrong returned to the role of St. Jimmy for 50 performances beginning January 1, 2011.
In November 2010, the punk rock band that Armstrong's son Joey is drummer in, Emily's Army, released their first album titled Don't Be a Dick through Adeline Records and Armstrong's musical production.
Armstrong's first guitar was a Cherry Red Hohner acoustic, which his father bought for him. He then received his first electric guitar, a Fernandes Stratocaster that he named "Blue" when he was eleven. His mother got "Blue" from George Cole who taught Armstrong electric guitar for 10 years. Armstrong says in a 1995 MTV interview, "Basically, it wasn't like guitar lessons because I never really learned how to read music. So he just taught me how to put my hands on the thing." Cole bought the guitar new from David Margen of the band Santana. Cole gave Armstrong a Bill Lawrence Humbucking pickup and told him to install the pickup in the bridge position. After the pickup was destroyed at Woodstock '94, Armstrong then used a Duncan JB model. "Armstrong fetishized his teacher's guitar, partly because the blue instrument had a sound quality and Van Halen–worthy fluidity he couldn't get from his little red Hohner. He prized it mostly, however, because of his relationship with Cole, another father figure after the death of Andy." He toured with this guitar from the band's early days and still uses it to this day. "Blue" also appears in a number of its music videos such as "Longview", "Basket Case", "Brain Stew/Jaded", "Hitchin' a Ride", and most recently in "Minority".
Today, Armstrong mainly uses Gibson and Fender guitars. Twenty of his Gibson guitars are Les Paul Junior models from the mid- to late-1950s. His Fender collection includes: Stratocaster, Jazzmaster, Telecaster, a Gretsch hollowbody and his copies of "Blue". He states that his favorite guitar is a 1956 Gibson Les Paul Junior he calls "Floyd". He bought this guitar in 2000 just before recording their album Warning.
Armstrong also has two of his own Les Paul Junior signature models from Gibson. The first has been in production since 2006 and is modeled closely after "Floyd", Armstrong's original 1956 Les Paul Junior. The second began production in 2012 and is a TV Yellow double-cutaway Junior. Both models include a Gibson "H-90" pickup, exclusive to Armstrong's models. Gibson has also released an extremely limited run of acoustic signature guitars.
He plays several other instruments as well. He recorded harmonica and mandolin parts in the past (Nimrod and Warning), piano parts on 21st Century Breakdown (2009), American Idiot: The Original Broadway Cast Recording (2011) and ¡Tré! (2012), and plays drums live from time to time.
In 1990, Armstrong met Adrienne Nesser at one of Green Day's early performances in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They married on July 2, 1994; the day after their wedding, Adrienne discovered she was pregnant. Their first child, Joseph Marciano Armstrong, who was born on February 28, 1995, plays drums in a Berkeley-based band named Emily's Army. Their second child, Jakob Danger Armstrong, was born on September 12, 1998. Billie Joe is the co-owner of Adeline Records, along with his wife.
Armstrong has identified himself as bisexual, saying in a 1995 interview with The Advocate, "I think I've always been bisexual. I mean, it's something that I've always been interested in. I think people are born bisexual, and it's just that our parents and society kind of veer us off into this feeling of 'Oh, I can't.' They say it's taboo. It's ingrained in our heads that it's bad, when it's not bad at all. It's a very beautiful thing." In a later interview for Out magazine's April 2010 issue, Armstrong stated: "There were a lot of people who didn't accept it, who were homophobic." Armstrong continued, saying, "The fact that it's an issue is kind of phobic within itself. At some point, you gotta think, this should be something that's just accepted." Armstrong added: "I don't really classify myself as anything. And when it comes to sex, there are parts of me that are very shy and conservative. I want to respect my wife."
Armstrong was arrested in January 2003 for drinking and driving after being pulled over for speeding. He received a breathalyzer reading of 0.17%, more than twice the state's legal limit of 0.08%.
On September 1, 2011, Armstrong was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for "saggy pants". Armstrong tweeted "Just got kicked off a Southwest flight because my pants sagged too low!" According to an eyewitness on the flight, who also happens to be a television news producer, a flight attendant asked Armstrong to pull his pants up. Armstrong said, "Don't you have better things to do than worry about that?" The flight attendant's response was, "Pull your pants up or you're getting off the plane." Southwest Airlines saw his tweet, rebooked Armstrong on another flight and released this statement, "We reached out to apologize. We followed up ... and understand from the customer the situation was resolved to his satisfaction."
On September 2, 2012, Armstrong was rushed to the hospital before the band was scheduled to perform at the I-Day Festival in Bologna, Italy. Armstrong was released from the hospital on September 4, reportedly suffering from gastric problems.
On September 21, 2012, during a Green Day performance at Las Vegas' iHeartRadio Music Festival, Armstrong became agitated onstage and stopped the band's set midway through their performance of the 1994 hit song "Basket Case". In an expletive-filled rant, Armstrong criticized the event's promoters for allegedly cutting short the band's performance before smashing his guitar and storming off stage. The band later issued a statement apologizing for the incident and clarifying that their set had not actually been cut short. The incident occurred just four days prior to the release of Green Day's ninth studio album, ¡Uno!
On September 23, 2012, two days following the incident at the iHeartRadio Music Festival, Green Day announced that Armstrong was seeking treatment for an unspecified substance abuse problem. As a result, scheduled appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Ellen DeGeneres Show were canceled. According to Claudia Suarez Wright, Tre Cool’s ex-wife and the mother of Armstrong's godson, Armstrong had been drinking heavily in Las Vegas prior to the iHeartMusic Festival, following approximately one year of sobriety. Green Day subsequently canceled all remaining concert dates for 2012 and early 2013 as Armstrong continued dealing with his personal problems. In late December, the band announced they would return to touring at the end of March. Armstrong later admitted that the substances he had been abusing were alcohol and prescription pills for anxiety and insomnia.
|2008||50 Sexiest People in Rock (#1) (Readers Choice)||Kerrang!|
|2010||Top Frontmen of All Time (#25) (Readers Choice)||Gibson|
|2011||Best Punk Rock Singers (#1)||IMDb|
|2011||Best Guitarist Ever (Choice) (#39)||The-top-tens|
|2011||Greatest Electric Guitarist (#22)||The-top-tens|
|2012||The Greatest guitar player of Alternative Rock ||KROQ|
- 39/Smooth (1990) – lead vocals, guitar
- Kerplunk! (1992) – lead vocals, guitar, drums on "Dominated Love Slave"
- Dookie (1994) – lead vocals, guitar, percussion on "All by Myself" (hidden track)
- Insomniac (1995) – lead vocals, guitar
- Nimrod (1997) – lead vocals, guitar, harmonica
- Warning (2000) – lead vocals, mandolin, guitar, harmonica
- American Idiot (2004) – lead vocals, guitar
- 21st Century Breakdown (2009) – lead vocals, guitar, piano
- American Idiot: The Original Broadway Cast Recording (2010) – vocals, guitar, piano
- ¡Uno! (2012) – lead vocals, guitar
- ¡Dos! (2012) – lead vocals, guitar
- ¡Tré! (2012) – lead vocals, guitar, piano
Vocals and guitar on all
- Jump Salty (1994)
- Carry the Banner (1995)
- Goodbye Ellston Avenue (1997)
- Shoot the Moon (EP) (1999)
- Compulsive Disclosure (2003)
- West Side Highway (EP) (2008)
- Money Money 2020 (2003) – guitar, vocals
Foxboro Hot Tubs
The Lonely Island
Other media appearances
- King of the Hill (TV series, 1997) – Face
- Haunted (TV series, 2002) – Irv Kratser (cameo)
- Riding in Vans with Boys (film, 2003) – himself
- Live Freaky! Die Freaky! (film, 2006) – "Charles Hanson"
- Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (video game, 2006) – himself
- The Simpsons Movie (film, 2007) – himself
- Heart Like a Hand Grenade (film, 2008) – himself
- Green Day: Rock Band (video game, 2010) – himself (Singing voice, archive footage, & Virtual likeness/avatar)
- American Idiot (musical, 2010, 2011) – St. Jimmy
- One Nine Nine Four (film, 2012) - himself
- This Is 40 (film, 2012) - himself
- American Idiot (film, TBA) – St. Jimmy
- Colapinto, John (2005-11-17), "Working Class Heroes". Rolling Stone. (987):50–56
- "Look for Love". Record Mecca. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- Armstrong, Billie Joe (2005). "The Sex Pistols". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 28, 2006.
- Metropolis – Music and Concerts: Green Day[dead link]
- "10 Questions for Billie Joe Armstrong". Time. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
- Myers, Ben. "Green Day: American Idiot and the New Punk Explosion" April, 2006.
- "About Adeline Records". punknews.org. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
- Spitz, 2006. pg. 150
- Spitz, 2006. pg. 151
- "Green Day's American Idiot". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
- "Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
- Downs, David. "Review of American Idiot". Eastbayexpress.com. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- Lipshutz, Jason (September 29, 2010). "Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong Makes American Idiot Debut". Billboard.com. Retrieved September 30, 2010.
- Blank, Matthew (September 29, 2010). "Billie Joe Armstrong Debuts in Broadway's American Idiot". Playbill.com. Retrieved September 30, 2010.
- "Billie Joe Armstrong to Return to American Idiot". Broadway World.
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- "Gibson USA & Green Day present". Gibson.com. 2008-06-24. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- "Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Jr". Gibson Guitar Corporation. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
- "Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong Says Bisexuality Shouldn't Be an Issue". spinner.com. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
- "Billie Joe Armstrong: Idiot Savant". Out.com. 2010-03-10. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- January 7, 2003 Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong Arrested For Drunk Driving MTV.com
- Time Waster (2003-01-01). "TSG Mug Shot: Billie Joe Armstrong". Thesmokinggun.com. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- David Fricke (1 November 2007). "Billie Joe Armstrong". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
- "Artists Lend Voices to Obama Campaign". Rolling Stone. 10 July 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
- "Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong 'rushed to the hospital'". USA Today. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
- Green Day’s Epic Punk Tantrum Becomes The Talk Of iHeartRadio Festival, Day 1 http://music.yahoo.com/blogs/live/green-day-epic-punk-tantrum-becomes-talk-iheartradio-170318701.html
- Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong has onstage meltdown, will seek treatment: Favorite People http://www.oregonlive.com/celebrity-news/index.ssf/2012/09/green_days_billie_joe_armstron.html
- Album review: Green Day’s ¡Uno! http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2012/09/24/album-review-green-days-uno/
- "Billie Joe Armstrong Seeks Substance Abuse Treatment". UpVenue. 23 September 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-23.
- Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong rants in Las Vegas, off to rehab http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/posts/la-et-ms-green-day-billie-joe-armstrong-rant-las-vegas-rehab-20120923,0,6169013.story
- Billie Joe Armstrong Rehab Update: Green Day Singer Had Been Sober For A Year http://www.contactmusic.com/news/billie-joe-armstrong-rehab-update-green-day-singer-had-been-sober-for-a-year_3301827
- Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong had been 'drinking a lot' the night of his breakdown http://www.nme.com/news/green-day/66329
- Billie Joe Armstrong was sober for a year until last weekend http://www.mercurynews.com/entertainment/ci_21628360/hicks-billie-joe-armstrong-was-sober-year-until
- Green Day scrap upcoming tour http://jam.canoe.ca/Music/2012/10/29/20315706-wenn-story.html
- Michaud, Chris (2 January 2013). "Green Day announce return to touring in March". NBC News. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
- "Sexiest people". Kerrang. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
- "Best frontmen af all time". Gibson.com. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
- "Best Punk Rock singers". IMDb. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
- "Best Guitarrist Ever".
- "Greatest electric guitarrist". Retrieved 25 January 2013.
- "Best Guitarrist". Retrieved 25 January 2013.
- Kerplunk! (CD liner). Green Day. Lookout!. 1992. 0015133-02.
- Nimrod (CD liner). Green Day. Reprise Records. 1997. 0015133-02.
- Warning (CD liner). Green Day. Reprise Records. 2000. 0015133-02.
- "Foxboro Hot Tubs - Stop Drop and Roll!!!". punknews.org. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
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- Billie Joe Armstrong at the Internet Movie Database
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- Billie Joe Armstrong Signature Les Paul Junior
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