Billie Joe Armstrong

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Billie Joe Armstrong
RiP2013 GreenDay Billie Joe Armstrong 0021.jpg
Armstrong performing in 2013
Background information
Birth name Billie Joe Armstrong
Also known as Wilhelm Fink
Reverend Strychnine Twitch
Born (1972-02-17) February 17, 1972 (age 42)
Oakland, California, US
Origin Rodeo, California, US
Genres Punk rock, alternative rock
Occupations Singer, musician, songwriter, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, actor
Instruments Vocals, guitar, piano, drums, percussion, saxophone, harmonica, mandolin, bass, violin
Years active 1987–present
Labels Reprise, Lookout!, Adeline, Recess
Associated acts Green Day, Pinhead Gunpowder, The Network, Foxboro Hot Tubs, The Boo, The Lonely Island, Norah Jones, The Replacements
Notable instruments
Gibson Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior
Gibson Billie Joe Armstrong J-180
Gibson Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior Double Cut
Fernandes Stratocaster (Blue)
Gibson Les Paul Custom
Gibson ES-335
Gibson SG Standard
Gibson Les Paul Standard
Gretsch Hollowbody
Fender Stratocaster
Fender Telecaster
Guild D55
Taylor 514C
Fender Jaguar
Gibson ES-137

Billie Joe Armstrong (born February 17, 1972) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, and actor. He is best known as the lead vocalist, principal songwriter, and guitarist of the punk rock band Green Day, which Armstrong 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.

In 1997 to coincide with the release of Nimrod, Armstrong founded Adeline Records in Oakland to help support other bands releasing music and signed bands such as The Frustrators, AFI and Dillinger Four. The record company has since come under the management of Pat Magnarella and is now based in San Diego C.A.[1]

Early life

Billie Joe Armstrong was born in Oakland, California, and was raised in Rodeo, California, as the youngest of six children of Andrew "Andy" Armstrong and Ollie Jackson.[2] His father worked as a jazz musician and truck driver for Safeway Inc. to support his family. He died of esophageal cancer[2] on September 10, 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[2] restaurant in El Cerrito.

Armstrong's interest in music started at a young age. He attended Hillcrest 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.[2][3] 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.[2] He became interested in punk rock after being introduced to punk rock by his brothers.[4] Armstrong has also cited Minneapolis-based bands The Replacements and Hüsker Dü as major musical influences. 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.

Along with Hillcrest Elementary, Armstrong attended Carquinez Middle School and John Swett High School, both in Crockett, and later transferred to Pinole Valley High School in Pinole. On his 18th birthday (February 17, 1990), he dropped out to pursue his musical career.

Career

Armstrong in 1994

In 1987, age 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,[5] 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.[6] 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.[7]

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 founded by Armstrong and now managed by Pat Magnarella.[8] 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.[9] He spent much of this time taking long walks and participating in jam sessions in the basement of Hi-Fi, a bar in Manhattan.[10] 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.[10] After returning home, Armstrong was arrested on DUI charges on January 5, 2003, and released on $1,200 bail.[10]

Armstrong in 2013

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.[11] In 2009 Green Day published 21st Century Breakdown, the band's second rock opera with a great commercial success too.[12]

In 2009, their hit album American Idiot became a musical on Broadway.[13]

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.[14][15] Armstrong returned to the role of St. Jimmy for 50 performances beginning January 1, 2011.[16]

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.

On July 26, 2012, it was announced that Armstrong would join Season 3 of NBC's The Voice as an assistant mentor for Christina Aguilera's team.[17]

Armstrong wrote songs for These Paper Bullets, an adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing with rock-and-roll music. The Yale Repertory Theater premiered the show in March 2014.[18]

Armstrong also collaborated with the Comedy hip hop group Lonely Island in their song I Run NY from The Wack Album released on June 7, 2013.[19] He will star alongside Leighton Meester in Frank Whaley's film Like Sunday, Like Rain, which began filming in September 2013.[20][21]

In October 2013, it was revealed that Armstrong and singer-songwriter Norah Jones would be releasing a duets LP. The album, consisting of covers from an Everly Brothers' album called Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, will be titled Foreverly and will be released on November 25, 2013.[22] The first single of this album, Long Time Gone, was published on October 23 through Soundcloud and the official album website.

In 2014 Armstrong joined The Replacements for a number of shows beginning on April 19 at Coachella. Frontman Paul Westerberg had been suffering with back problems and spent the majority of the gig lying on a sofa while Armstrong helped play his parts. Westerberg referred to Billie Joe as an "expansion of the band".[23] Armstrong joined The Replacements on stage again at the Shaky Knees music festival in Atlanta in May.[24] In July Armstrong posted a picture of himself with The Replacements Tommy Stinson to Green Day's facebook (via Instagram) with the tag "In Kentucky playing a show #thereplacements with #thereplaceable #canthardlywait #messagetotheboys #holyshitIminthereplacements #billiejoeandtommystinson"[25] The next day Armstrong took to the stage in Louisville KY at the Forecastle festival playing the entire set with the band and at one point kissing Westerberg on the lips after helping him with his microphone.[26] The Replacements ended the gig at Forecastle by playing a special version of 'I Don't Know' for Billie at his request.[27] Billie Joe and The Replacements played at the Osheaga Music Festival at Jean-Drapeau Park in Montreal on Sunday, August 3, 2014[28]

Instruments

Armstrong performing in 2009 with "Blue".

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."[29] He toured with this guitar from the band's early days and still uses it to this day.[30] "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.[31] 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.[32]

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.[33] 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.

Personal life

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. In a February 2014 interview with Rolling Stone Armstrong described how his sudden marriage and having a son was "mental"[34] saying, "I was very impulsive at that time. I think that impulsive behavior was meant to counteract the chaos in my life."[34]

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."[35] 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."[36] In February 2014, Armstrong again discussed his bisexuality in a Rolling Stone article about Dookie, a record which Armstrong described as "touch[ing] on bisexuality a lot."[34] Armstrong discussed the song "Coming Clean" stating, "It was a song about questioning myself. There are these other feelings you may have about the same sex, the opposite sex, especially being in Berkeley and San Francisco then. People are acting out what they're feeling: gay, bisexual, transgender, whatever. And that opens up something in society that becomes more acceptable. Now we have gay marriage becoming recognized... I think it's a process of discovery. I was willing to try anything." [34]

Armstrong performing at the Fox Theatre in March 2013 during Green Day's first show since Armstrong left rehab.

Armstrong supported Barack Obama during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.[37][38]

Incidents

Armstrong was arrested in early 1996 after a show in Wisconsin for indecent exposure.[39]

Armstrong was arrested in January 2003 for drinking and driving after being pulled over for speeding.[40] He received a breathalyzer reading of 0.17%, more than twice the state's legal limit of 0.08%.[41]

On September 1, 2011, Armstrong was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for wearing his pants too low.[42] 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."[42]

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.[43] Armstrong was released from the hospital on September 4, reportedly suffering from gastric problems.[44]

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.[45] The band later issued a statement apologizing for the incident and clarifying that their set had not actually been cut short.[46] The incident occurred just four days prior to the release of Green Day's ninth studio album, ¡Uno![47]

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.[48][49] As a result, scheduled appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Ellen DeGeneres Show were canceled.[50] 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.[51][52][53] The claims made by Claudia Suarez and published in numerous articles at the time of Armstrong's rehab were proven to be false when Armstrong gave an interview to Rolling Stone in March 2013 in which he admitted, "I've been trying to get sober since 1997, right around Nimrod".[54] Armstrong discussed how during the 21st Century Breakdown tour in 2009-2010, "There were meltdowns on that tour that were huge".[55] Armstrong detailed his addiction and in particular how it had escalated in the months prior to the release of the Trilogy albums and the performance at iHeart stating that during the summer while touring in Europe, "We were playing some shows in Europe. I was at my pill-taking height at that time, medicating the shit out of myself".[54] Armstrong continues to describe how his manager called him after they had played Shepherds Bush in London about cancelling Reading Festival so as to go to rehab but Armstrong had refused. Armstrong gave details of a gig at Irving Plaza in New York just over a week before the iHeart incident he had "Threw back four or five beers before we went on and probably had four or five when we played. Then I drank my body weight in alcohol after that. I ended up hungover on the West Side Highway, laying in a little park." [54] Green Day subsequently canceled all remaining concert dates for 2012 and early 2013 as Armstrong continued dealing with his personal problems.[56] In late December, the band announced they would return to touring at the end of March.[57] Armstrong later admitted that the substances he had been abusing were alcohol and prescription pills for anxiety and insomnia.[58]

Awards

Year Award Presented By
2008 50 Sexiest People in Rock (#1)[59] (Readers Choice) Kerrang!
2010 Top Frontmen of All Time (#25)[60] (Readers Choice) Gibson

Discography

Green Day

Main article: Green Day discography

Pinhead Gunpowder

Vocals and guitar on all

The Network

Foxboro Hot Tubs

With Norah Jones

Other media appearances

References

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External links