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Billie Joe Armstrong
RiP2013 GreenDay Billie Joe Armstrong 0021.jpg
Armstrong performing in 2013
Born (1972-02-17) February 17, 1972 (age 52)
Other names
  • Fink
  • Wilhelm Fink
  • Reverend Strychnine Twitch
Education Pinole Valley High School
Occupation
  • Singer
  • musician
  • songwriter
  • actor
Spouse(s)
Adrienne Nesser
(m. 1994)
Children 2
Relatives Steve Nesser (brother-in-law)
Awards Full list
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • guitar


Years active 1987–present
Labels Reprise
Signature
Billie Joe Armstrong signature.svg

Billie Joe Armstrong (born February 17, 1972) is an American musician who is the lead vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter of the rock band Green Day, which he co-founded with Mike Dirnt in 1987. 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, The Network, The Longshot and The Coverups. Armstrong has been considered by critics as one of the greatest punk rock guitarists of all time.

Armstrong developed an interest in music at a young age, and recorded his first song at the age of five. He met 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 14 years old. The band later changed its name to Green Day. Armstrong has also pursued musical projects including numerous collaborations with other musicians.

Armstrong's business ventures include founding Adeline Records to help support other bands in 1997, coinciding with the release of Nimrod. Adeline signed acts such as The Frustrators, AFI, and Dillinger Four. The record company shut down two decades later in August 2017. Armstrong also co-founded Oakland Coffee Works in 2015.

Early life

Billie Joe Armstrong was born in Oakland, California, on February 17, 1972, the youngest of six children of Ollie Jackson (born 1932) and Andrew Marsicano Armstrong (1928–1982). He was raised in Rodeo, California. His father, a jazz musician and truck driver for Safeway, died of esophageal cancer in September 16, 1982, when Armstrong was 10 years old. The song "Wake Me Up When September Ends" is a memorial to his father. Armstrong has three older sisters named Marci, Hollie, and Anna, and two older brothers named David and Alan. His mother worked as a waitress at Rod's Hickory Pit in El Cerrito, California, where he and Mike Dirnt would play their first gig in 1987. His great-great-grandparents Pietro Marsicano and Teresa Nigro were Italian immigrants from Viggiano who settled in Boston until 1869, when they moved to Berkeley, California.

Armstrong 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. 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, he met Dirnt in the school cafeteria, and they immediately bonded over their love of music. He became interested in punk rock after being introduced to the genre by his brothers. He has also cited Van Halen, Ramones, The Replacements and Hüsker Dü as major musical influences. His first concert ever watched was Van Halen in 1984. Along with Hillcrest Elementary, Armstrong attended Carquinez Middle School and John Swett High School, both in Crockett, California, and later transferred to Pinole Valley High School in Pinole, California. On his 18th birthday, he dropped out to pursue a musical career.

Career

In 1987, aged 15, Armstrong formed a band called Sweet Children with his childhood friend Mike Dirnt. In the beginning, Armstrong and Dirnt both played guitar, with Raj Punjabi on drums and Sean Hughes on bass. Punjabi was later replaced on drums by John Kiffmeyer, also known as Al Sobrante. 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.

In 1989, Green Day 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.

In 1990, Armstrong provided lead guitar and backing vocals on three songs for The Lookouts' final EP IV, which featured Tré Cool on drums. Tré became Green Day's drummer in late 1990 after Sobrante left in order to go to college. Cool made his debut on Green Day's second album, Kerplunk (1991).

In 1991, Armstrong joined the band Pinhead Gunpowder, consisting of bassist Bill Schneider, drummer Aaron Cometbus, and fellow vocalist/guitarist Sarah Kirsch. Kirsch left the group in 1992, and was replaced by Jason White. The group has released several extended plays and albums from 1991 to the present, and performs live shows on an intermittent basis.

In 1993, Armstrong played live several times with California punk band Rancid. Rancid's lead singer, Tim Armstrong, asked Billie Joe Armstrong to join his band, but he refused due to his progress with Green Day. However, Billie Joe Armstrong was credited as a co-writer on Rancid's 1993 song, Radio.

With their third LP, Dookie (1994), Green Day 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. The album was followed by Insomniac (1995), Nimrod (1997), and Warning (2000).

Armstrong collaborated with many artists. He co-wrote the Go-Go's 2001 song "Unforgiven". He has also co-written songs with Penelope Houston ("The Angel and The Jerk" and "New Day"), 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 album Skull Ring ("Private Hell" and "Supermarket"). Armstrong produced an album for the Riverdales. He was part of the Green Day side project the Network from 2003 to 2005, which became active again in 2020. The Network released two albums: 2003's Money Money 2020 and 2020's Money Money 2020 Part II: We Told Ya So!.

Hoping to clear his head and develop new ideas for songs, Armstrong traveled to New York City alone for a few weeks in 2003, 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.

Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day (199862242)
Armstrong performing in 2005

In 2004, Green Day debuted American Idiot, their first rock opera. The album has sold more than 15,000,000 copies worldwide. In 2009, Green Day released 21st Century Breakdown, the band's second rock opera, which was another commercial success. Between these two projects, Armstrong was the lead vocalist of the Green Day side project Foxboro Hot Tubs, who formed in 2007 and have performed intermittent live shows ever since. Foxboro Hot Tubs released one album, Stop Drop and Roll!!!, in 2008.

In 2009, Armstrong formed a band called Rodeo Queens, along with members of Green Day and NYC punk rocker Jesse Malin. They released one song, along with a video, called "Depression Times".

In 2009, American Idiot was adapted into a Broadway musical that won two Tony Awards. Armstrong appeared in the musical in the role of St. Jimmy for two stints in late 2010 and early 2011.

In 2012, Green Day released a trio of albums: ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!. In 2013, Armstrong appeared on Season 3 of NBC's The Voice as an assistant mentor for Christina Aguilera's team. In 2013, Armstrong and singer-songwriter Norah Jones released the album Foreverly, consisting of covers of songs from The Everly Brothers' album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. The first single from the album, "Long Time Gone", was released on October 23.

2013 onward

RiP2013 GreenDay Billie Joe Armstrong 0017
Armstrong in 2013

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. He starred alongside Leighton Meester in the 2014 film Like Sunday, Like Rain. For his work in the film, Bilie Joe won the Breakout Performance Award at the 2014 Williamsburg Independent Film Festival. Armstrong wrote songs for These Paper Bullets, a rock musical adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, which premiered at Yale Repertory Theater in March 2014.

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". Armstrong joined The Replacements on stage again at the Shaky Knees Music Festival in Atlanta in May.

In November 2014, Armstrong moved with his son Joseph to New York and began working on another acting role, in the film Ordinary World. It was Armstrong's first lead acting role. The film centers on the mid-life crisis of a husband and father who attempts to revisit his punk past, and was released in 2016. It included new songs written and performed by Armstrong. The film got mixed reviews, although Armstrong's own performance was generally praised, with The Village Voice writing that he had "a low-key charm suggesting that, if he desired it, he could get more onscreen gigs in between albums."

In October 2016, Green Day released their album Revolution Radio. In July 2017, Armstrong formed a supergroup with Tim Armstrong of Rancid, named The Armstrongs.

In April 2018, Armstrong formed the rock band The Longshot, and on April 20, the band released their debut studio album Love Is For Losers. Shortly after, Armstrong announced that he and The Longshot would embark on a summer tour. Aside from Armstrong, the band's lineup consists of Kevin Preston and David S. Field of the band Prima Donna on lead guitar and drums, respectively, and longtime Green Day live member Jeff Matika on bass.

In 2019, Armstrong co-wrote and performed the track "Strangers & Thieves" on the album Sunset Kids by Jesse Malin.

Green Day's fourteenth album, Saviors, is planned to be released on January 19, 2024.

Instruments

Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day) House Of Blues 2015
Armstrong performing with "Blue" in 2015

Armstrong's first guitar was a Cherry Red Hohner acoustic, which his father bought for him. He received his first electric guitar, a Fernandes The Revival RST-50 Stratocaster that he named "Blue", when he was ten years old in 1982, the same year his father died. His mother got "Blue" from George Cole, who taught Armstrong playing 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 install the Bill Lawrence L500XL Humbucker pickup in the bridge position at an angle similar to Eddie Van Halen's guitar Frankenstrat which Armstrong very influenced by Van Halen. Armstrong replace the L500XL with a white Yamaha Pacifica humbucker at Woodstock '94.

Armstrong later reinstalled the Bill Lawrence L500XL pickup before recording Insomniac, and used it for a long time after that, although he has switched to a black Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB in 1995.

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, Rickenbacker 360 and his copies of "Blue" from Fender Custom Shop. Recently he has begun giving away guitars to audience members invited to play on stage with Green Day, usually during the songs "Knowledge" or "Longview". 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 the album Warning.

Armstrong also has three 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 as guitar. He recorded harmonica and mandolin parts on (Nimrod and Warning), piano parts on 21st Century Breakdown, American Idiot: The Original Broadway Cast Recording (2010) and ¡Tré!, and plays drums and bass from time to time.

Personal life

Billie Joe Armstrong a Viggiano
Armstrong receiving his honorary Viggiano citizenship in 2018

In June 2018, Armstrong was given honorary citizenship of Viggiano, the Italian commune from where his great-great-grandparents hailed, by Viggiano's mayor Amedeo Cicala. Armstrong is a member of the board of directors of Project Chimps, a sanctuary for former research chimpanzees funded in large part by the Humane Society of the United States.

Armstrong is the owner of soccer club Oakland Roots SC.

Business ventures

In 1997, Armstrong co-founded Adeline Records, a rock and punk rock record label which had, in recent years, been managed by Pat Magnarella, Green Day's manager. Adeline Records closed in August 2017 following Magnarella's split from Green Day.

In April 2015, Armstrong opened Broken Guitars (now Oakland Guitars), a guitar shop in Oakland, California with fellow Pinhead Gunpowder member and longtime Green Day associate, Bill Schneider.

In December 2015, Armstrong and Mike Dirnt launched a coffee company, Oakland Coffee Works. The company sells organic coffee beans and is said to be the first company to use mass-produced compostable bags and pods.

Fashion

Green Day - Copps Coliseum - Hamilton, ON - 7 16 09 (3730317537)
Armstrong performing in 2009, dressed in his signature punk style

Armstrong has been noted for his punk fashion style, which influenced his followers of previous and current generations to the point of being known as a "style icon". He also launched an eye liner with Kat Von D named "Basket Case", which is a cosmetic that he implemented as part of his singing character since his beginnings.

Awards

Year Award Presented By
2010 Top Frontmen of All Time (#25) (Readers Choice) Gibson

Discography

Solo releases

Albums
  • Foreverly (2013, with Norah Jones)
  • No Fun Mondays (2020)
Singles
  • "Look for Love" (1977)
  • "Long Time Gone" (2013)
  • "I Think We're Alone Now" (2020)
  • "Manic Monday" (2020)
  • "That Thing You Do! (2020)
  • "Kids in America" (2020)
  • "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory" (2020)
  • "Corpus Christi" (2020)
  • "War Stories" (2020)
  • "Amico" (2020)
  • "Not That Way Anymore" (2020)
  • "That's Rock 'n' Roll" (2020)
  • "Gimme Some Truth" (2020)
  • "A New England" (2020)

Green Day

  • 39/Smooth (1990) – lead vocals, guitar
  • Kerplunk! (1991) – 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, piano, harmonica
  • American Idiot (2004) – lead vocals, guitar, piano
  • 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
  • Revolution Radio (2016) – lead vocals, guitar, piano
  • Father of All ... (2020) - lead vocals, guitar

Pinhead Gunpowder

Vocals and guitar on all

  • Jump Salty (1994)
  • Carry the Banner (1994)
  • Goodbye Ellston Avenue (1997)
  • Shoot the Moon (EP) (1999) – also production
  • Compulsive Disclosure (2003)
  • West Side Highway (EP) (2008)

The Network

  • Money Money 2020 (2003) – guitar, vocals
  • Trans Am (EP) (2020)
  • Money Money 2020 Part II: We Told Ya So! (2020) - lead vocals, lead guitar, backing vocals, drums

Foxboro Hot Tubs

  • Stop Drop and Roll!!! (2008) – lead vocals

SWMRS

  • This Kid. (Demo) (2008) – production
  • Goody Two Shoes (EP) (2009) – production
  • Broadcast This (EP) (2010) – production
  • Regan MacNeil (EP) (2010) – production
  • Don't Be a Dick (2011) – production
  • Lost at Seventeen (2013) – production
  • Swim (EP) (2014) – production

The Boo

  • The Boo (EP) (2011) – bass

The Shrives

  • Turn Me On (EP) (2015) – bass

The Longshot

  • The Longshot (EP) (2018) – vocals, guitar, bass, drums
  • Love Is for Losers (2018) – vocals, guitar, bass, drums
  • Devil's Kind (Single) (2018) – vocals, guitar, bass, drums
  • Bullets (Single) (2018) – vocals, guitar, bass, drums
  • Razor Baby (EP) (2018) – vocals, guitar, bass, drums
  • Return to Sender (EP) (2018) – vocals, guitar, bass, drums

See also

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