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Who are Green Day? - A History of Green Day

Updated on August 15, 2013

Green Day's Success

  • Green Day has sold over 25 million albums worldwide.
  • Dookie has sold over 8 million albums since release in 1994.
  • American Idiot has sold over 6 million copies since release 2004.

Green Day Politics

"I'm a dirt bag rock and roller. I want to represent that before anything else" Billy Joe Armstrong.

Green Day is not afraid to make a political point and are proud of the fact that they can use their fame to influence; their concerts are often full of angst against the current political environment and Billy Joe often uses his position to educate his captured audience. Their most successful album American Idiot is full of social commentary and anger and is often misunderstood and misrepresented by the popular media. What it says about Green Day is that they don't care who they upset, they just want to get their message across in a way that real people can understand and identify with. Green Day are proud to be political

"The only people who should sing about social issues or politics are the ones who aren't full of s*@t." Billy Joe Armstrong

American Idiot essenially became a modern day anti-war album at a time when the US was embarking on a campaign in Iraq - it conveyed a message of anger at the waste of life and the futility of war and its ineffectiveness to solve problems.

I saw Greenday in NJ a few years ago - they are brilliant live and played for three hours without a break. They obviously love their job!
I saw Greenday in NJ a few years ago - they are brilliant live and played for three hours without a break. They obviously love their job! | Source

Green Day: History of the Punk-Rock Band

Green Day are an American punk rock band consisting of vocalist and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist and backing vocalist Mike Dirnt, drummer Tré Cool and Jason White a former session and touring guitarist with the band who became a full member in 2012. Formed in 1987 they were part of the Californian punk scene and released several albums with the independent label Lookout!

Their breakout success came in 1994 when they released the Dookie album through the major label Reprise Records. This album helped punk rock break into the mainstream bringing the band to the limelight together with other California punk bands. The sound they produced was far more refined than the original punk sound that The Ramones or The Sex Pistols played; the album was a huge commercial success and punk rock once again became an important influence on modern music.

While many will say that Green Day’s sound has become pop-punk over recent years, the introduction of three albums this year that go back to their roots with a more hardcore sound prove that Green Day can adapt and produce a punk sound that is still relevant today even though the music has been modernized to fit in with the younger generation. Green Day have had huge commercial success over the years with over 65 million album sales, a hugely successful Broadway show and several award winning albums – while they’ve been producing great music for 25 years they seem to have the same energy and desire as they had when they were an underground teenage band in California.

Green Day - "Stray Heart" (Official Video) - the first single from iDos

How good is iDos?

4.5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of iDos

Green Day's Latest Album: Review of iDos

2012 is an interesting year for Green Day as the band releases a trio of albums. Released on November 13th, this second album of the trilogy is like a blast to the past with a far more intense garage rock style; the first album iUno was more sedate in comparison. Green Day explain the change as this album being the ‘party’ experience; it combines many adult themes and although it starts of very quietly, with what seems like an anti-climactic folk song it soon explodes into a fully-fledged rock album.

You immediately are in tune with the theme of the album with some amazing riffs and drums setting the tone throughout the album. The critics who claimed Green Day had become irrelevant and producing pop-punk have been put firmly into their place with the angst and power that bombards the senses.

The lyrics tell a very personal tale and one that Billie Joe can heavily identify with at the moment – the sordid story, the abuse, the addiction and the breakdown seem to parallel much of what is happening to Billie Joe in life. Interestingly the free-fall we find ourselves in as we move through the album is a brutally honest tale and one with which we can all identify somehow.

What impresses me throughout is the energy that starts in the second song continues all the way through making this, for me at least, one of the more pleasing Green Day albums for a while. The lyrics and music force you to listen to them and digest the message, the depravity and the hurt that is very prevalent throughout. This truly is an excellent album and I simply cannot wait until next month’s release of the final album in the trilogy.

Early Green Day

15 year olds Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt formed a band called Sweet Children and began playing live events; Larry Livemore, owner of Lookout! Records saw the band live and signed them to his label. After changing their name to Green Day the band recorded their first studio album 39/Smooth and re-released in 1991 under the name of 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours adding songs from their first two EPs.

The band went on an extensive tour in 1992/93 after releasing their second album Kerplunk in 1991. Their first two studio albums were relatively successful; their initial sound was heavily influenced by The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash and many other top punk bands of the time. Their energetic style and angry lyrics gained them many fans especially while touring; while they were not particularly famous or that different than any other punk band of the time, there was something about their music that made you feel that there was more to come. They were very raw, very young and very angry and this came through in their music, their on-stage performances and within their albums.

Kerplunk was a very good album that not only demonstrated that they had great potential as a modern punk band but also highlighted the skill and artistry that the band had; their musical skills were very evident as was their ability to write incisive and thought provoking lyrics. The early years were important for Green Day as they learnt the music business, learnt how to appeal to a live audience but also found a way to adapt and change and produce progressive music that had an appeal to the underground audience of the time.

Green Day Seminal Years

How Good are Green Day?

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After Kerplunk became an underground hit several major labels began to take interest in Green Day. Reprise Records producer Rob Cavalla signed the band; his ability to connect with the band and understand who Green Day were helped them leave the garage and begin to enter the mainstream.

Dookie, their third studio album was recorded in three weeks and released in early 1994. It was a commercial success and gained airtime on MTV with several singles hitting number one on the rock tracks charts. Dookie was received well by critics and was awarded a Grammy for best alternative album.

During this seminal time for Green Day they began to enhance their reputation thanks to their touring; their infamous mud fight in Woodstock 95 and the loss of Dirnt’s teeth during the live pay-per-view event pushed them into the limelight and led to them being publicly accepted in the mainstream. Dookie was probably the first of their pop-punk albums that wasn’t quite as heavy or disturbing as their prior work – it allowed a wider audience appreciate their abilities and gave them the chance to experiment with more hardcore punk in later albums.

In 1995 they released Insomniac. Building on their popularity they took the risk to produce a less pop-punk sound by integrating a much heavier sound with deeper and darker lyrics. Insomniac wasn’t as commercially successful as Dookie, but it proved that a modern punk band could produce a hardcore record and still sell millions of albums in the mainstream – it was perhaps a turning point for the band who now realized that they could mix a quieter more melodic sound with heavy guitars, great riffs and dark sinister lyrics full of anger and deprivation. The band was therefore able to transform their sound building more on their origins rather than what was ‘accepted’ in the mainstream.

While they grew in popularity and continually toured, their success almost led to their downfall as exhaustion and cancelled tours – it led to a brief hiatus and changed the shape of the band for the next few years.

Green Day Band Members Through the Ages

Current members

  • 1987-present: Billie Joe Armstrong: vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica
  • 1988-presemt: Mike Dirnt: bass, backing vocals
  • 1990-present: Tré Cool: drums, percussion, backing vocals
  • 2012-present: Jason White: guitar, backing vocals

Session and touring members

  • 2003-present: Jason Freese: keyboards, piano, saxophone, trombone, backing vocals
  • 2009-present: Jeff Matika: rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals

Former members

  • 1987-1990: John Kiffmeyer: drums, percussion
  • 1987-1988: Sean Hughes: bass

Former touring members

  • 1997-1999: Timmy Chunks: guitars
  • 1997-1999: Garth Schultz: trombone, trumpet
  • 1999-2001: Gabrial McNair: trombone, tenor saxophone
  • 2001: Jeanne Geiger: trombone
  • 1999-2004: Kurt Lohmiller: trumpet, timpani, percussion, backing vocals
  • 2004-2005: Mike Pelino: rhythm guitar, backing vocals
  • 2004-2005: Ronnie Blake: trumpet, timpani, percussion, backing vocals

Green Day - The Quiet Years

After their hiatus Green Day began to work on a new album in 1997. Realizing that they need a change of direction the produced the album Nimrod. Gone was the traditional pop-punk / hardcore punk that had underlined their success; in its place was an experimental sound that combined ballads, ska, punk and surf music.

Nimrod was a huge success with their song Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) becoming a major hit and an anthem for many people. While many hardened fans didn’t like the change of style they began to appeal to a wider audience and built on this success.

They produced their six album Warning in 2000 and also joined the Warped Tour to promote the album. The album was a success but didn’t receive the same kind of critical acclaim that Green Day were used to. Many noted that the hard core social commentary of the punk Green Day had been replaced by a more questioning and hopeful band – some even thought this may be the end for them as they no longer seemed as relevant. Warning was a good album however it lacked the cutting edge of their previous albums and due to this did not get so much TV play time.

During this period Green Day also released a couple of compilation albums again making people think that Green Day were perhaps nearing the end of their success. They were still winning awards, but somehow they seemed more like a teenage pop-rock band than a hard hitting band full of social commentary.

Green Day Reborn

Many bands would have folded after the supposed mediocrity of their last album; luckily for us Green Day persevered. They went back to the studio in 2003 to record a new album – however after much of the work was stolen they stopped the project and started over. What followed was perhaps one of their most significant albums to date.

In 2004 Green Day completed and released their hit album American Idiot – the album debuted at number one on the billboard charts and produced some of the best music of their careers. Billed as a rock opera following the journey of Jesus of Suburbia, the album was one of their most critically acclaimed winning a Grammy for Best Rock Album and numerous other prestigious awards.

The album brought back much of the hardcore punk rock, combined it with a more melodic rock sound and added subliminal and angry lyrics; it was the type of album that you expected from Green Day but never got. The album contained varying styles from the stunningly simple and profound Wake Me Up when September Ends, to the complicated Jesus of Suburbia and finally to the brilliant Boulevard of Broken dreams. Throughout the whole album the music and lyrics resonated with the audience producing a tumult of feelings ranging from anger, to laughter and ultimately to sadness. The social aspects of the album were profound and deep and definitely make you think about things in a different way.

While many critics were unimpressed giving mediocre ratings, the fans voted with their pocket books and made this a five times platinum album – the album helped spawned a Broadway Show and is perhaps their most relevant album which still remains relevant today, eight years after release.

Green Day on Broadway

After nearly five years, in 2009 21st Century Breakdown was released. With a mostly positive critical reception it built on the success of American Idiot and continued to reinforce Green Day’s relevance on today’s music scene. The album, infused with political and social commentary complimented the melding of punk rock and mainstream rock to produce an important album the cements Green Day at the top of rock world.

Billy Joe’s retrospective lyrics seem to mirror much of the turmoil of his own life and make this album a very personal and insightful one. Musically, Green Day continues to excel, producing riff induce hardcore punk, subtle rock ballads and pop-punk at its best.

2009 also will be seen as seminal year for them with the production of American Idiot: The Musical. The Broadway play, based on their album, creates an incredible experience combining the brilliant music with a superb cast to tell an expanded story based on the original album.

In late 2011 Green Day played a show in California and played fifteen new songs that would form part of a new album or series of albums. In early 2012 the band announced that they were in the studio and would be releasing a trio of albums.

As I write this article, iUno and iDos have been released and iTre will be released in December 2012. iUno is a very melodic album that begins the trilogy; it is an unexpectedly soft side to Green Day and has surprised many fans. Critically is has been well received.

iDos is almost like a step back in time to garage punk with a hardcore sound that is reminiscent of early Green Day. The album is very personal, dealing with the partying lifestyle and the downfall that often follows it. The album is raw, raunchy and deep and the most purely punk sound that Green Day has produce in almost twenty years.

Birth Place of Billie Joe Armstrong:
Oakland, CA, USA

get directions

Birth Place of Mike Dirnt:
Berkeley, CA, USA

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Birth Place of Tre Cool:
Frankfurt, Germany

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Birth Place of Jason White:
North Little Rock, AR, USA

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Green Day Concert (21st Century Breakdown Tour) @ Bell Center , Montreal, Canada on 18th July 2009. Green Day vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong gets the crowd singing to American Idiot.
Green Day Concert (21st Century Breakdown Tour) @ Bell Center , Montreal, Canada on 18th July 2009. Green Day vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong gets the crowd singing to American Idiot. | Source

About Billie Joe Armstrong

Born: February 17, 1972

Place of Birth: Oakland, California, USA

"I don't want to limit myself musically. It would be really limiting if we'd neglect something we really want to do, like explore other styles of music."

Billie Joe Armstrong is the co-founder and lead vocalist of Green Day. Raised in Rodeo, California he began listening to music at a very early age recording his first song very early on. He met Mike Dirnt in elementary school becoming best friends thanks to their common interests and their love of music.

Billie Joe is a skilled musician with the guitar being his main instrument; however his skill with general percussion and piano give him an exceptional advantage when song writing. His lyrics are always thought provoking and deep and in many cases deeply personal and introspective. It is obvious that he uses his own experiences, pain and anger as inspiration for his writing.

One thing that isn't always evident is Billy Joe's humor. In the concert I attended someone dressed up as a gigantic rabbit and entertained the crowd before the concert - it only came to light that Billy Joe was the rabbit after the concert.

Mike Dirnt, musician, primarily of Green Day. Photograph was taken in Cardiff during the American Idiot tour
Mike Dirnt, musician, primarily of Green Day. Photograph was taken in Cardiff during the American Idiot tour | Source

About Mike Dirnt

Born: May 14, 1972

Place of Birth: Berkeley, California, USA

“I have a daughter and she's the greatest thing that ever happened to me. She gives me a good excuse to watch cartoons.”

Born Michael Ryan Pritchard he was named Mike Dirnt by his schoolmates due to his ‘air-bass’ and the sound he made when plucking the strings “dirnt, dirnt, dirnt”. Best known as the co-founder of Green Day he has played for several bands including the Frustrators.

Like Billy Joe Armstrong, Mike is an accomplished vocalist and lyricist and while mostly known for backing vocals, he has headlined several Green Day songs. His bass skills are exceptional, and having seen him live I can honestly attest that he is a great showman, a talented musician and a very hard worker!

Having seen Green Day in concert twice I am amazed how these master musicians can expend so much energy playing great songs but still stay on stage without a break for three hours - not only are they a great band, but they play for the audience not for themselves.

About Tre Cool

Born: December 9, 1972

Place of Birth: Frankfurt, Germany

"I wish people would turn off their computers, go outside, talk to people, touch people, lick people, enjoy each other's company and smell each other on the rump."

Frank Edwin Wright III or Tre Cool is a German born American drummer. His portfolio is diverse and includes The Lookouts, Samiam and other side projects. He replaced John Kiffmeyer in 1991.

His percussion skills are very complex and make him one of the best musicians in the industry; like most drummers he continues to adapt his style and strives to play the song rather than the instrument. His style has developed into a very rhythmic style that compliments that hardcore sound of the other musicians of the band.

One of his most interesting aspects is his on stage presence – his charisma and his wild almost whimsical approach to the drums and the songs in general make the whole Green Day experience exceptional. Like most of the band members he truly enjoys what he does and aims to help the audience have as much fun as he does.

Jason White performing with Green Day at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Jason White performing with Green Day at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | Source

About Jason White

Born: November 11, 1973

Place of Birth: Little Rock, Arkansas

If you’ve been following Green Day since they began rocking the world you’ll know that Jason White has been involved with them as a session and tour musician since 1988. His excellent lead guitar playing has become part of their signature sound and he became an official member of the group as they began recording their latest trilogy.

His unassuming character allows the other members of the band to be in the limelight, but as a hardened fan, without him you know Green Day wouldn’t be the band they are today – for me he is part of the foundation that makes this punk band so good.

Albums of Green Day

1,039 / Smoothed Out Slappy Hours

Even though Green Day were an underground band at the time, this album demonstrates that they were going to be successful as the combination of garage punk infused with anger and darkness combined well with the obvious humor of the band members. While not their best album, it's a very insightful look at the roots of this great band.


Kerplunk was the album that brought Green Day to the main music labels; yet again it was a prime example of modern punk that highlighted the skills of the band and proved that not only could they produce great music but they could also write provocative lyrics. Commercially it wasn't a huge success but it remains as one of the more important Green Day albums.


Many argue that Dookie was the best Green Day album; it is perhaps their most important album as the commercial success catapulted Green Day into the limelight and made them one of the most successful punk bands ever. This album helped punk rock re-emerge from the garage and become a force in the rock world. The combination of hardcore sound and pop-punk, with the dark and sinister lyrics helped teenagers identify deeply with the album and the band, Green Day had a knack of knowing what everyone felt and being able to express this in their music.


If Dookie was the turning point for Green Day, then Insomniac was the album that helped define who they were. The music was less hardcore and infused with comedy; it was almost as if the band was a bunch of teenagers not prepared to grow up yet. The album thus reached out to a lot of people who did not want to deal with life and society and helped them understand that it was OK to be different and not be one with society. Musically it was as good as if not better than Dookie.


Despite the fact that mainstream media still didn't give Green Day much credit they continued to reinvent themselves and punk rock with this album. Nimrod is technically excellent with some superb drumming and guitar work; the lyrics will just as dark and introspective and Billy Joe's voice continued to be perfect for the sound they were looking for. This album was very strong overall without a weak song - however there weren't any songs that may be considered classics (according to the critics that is). Out of all their albums this probably demonstrates their ability to change their sound the best. Amazon Price: $3.48 List Price: $7.98


There are many hardcore fans that consider Warning as a sell-out album. It certainly was different, with less angst and social commentary and a far more contemplative tone. The music was somehow softer as Green Day continued to experiment with their sound and continued to expand punk music. The result was a good album that showed a softer side to the band

International Superhits!

This album is simply a compilation of all their hits throughout their career to date. If you haven't bought any of their albums, then this is a great snapshot of what makes Green Day so good and successful.


While International Superhits was a brilliant compilation of their top selling singles, this album was a strange cornucopia of b-sides, oddities and suprises. This probably is a better snapshot of Green Day as it is less commercial and shows the true character of the band.

American Idiot

American Idiot is one of their most successful albums. Perhaps more pop-punk than traditional punk it included several hit songs and was used in the American Idiot Broadway play. The album combined traditional punk rock, pop-punk and a softer ballad style of rock to create a compelling overall feel. The production quality was exceptional and ensured that the social commentary and anger really came to the front.

Bullet In A Bible (CD/DVD)

American Idiot remains one of my favorite Green Day albums, however when played live, the social commentary seems even more relevant. This live performance demonstrates the angst of Green Day but also shows their funny side - Green Day are one of the best live bands around and if you can't attend a concert, then one of their live albums more than makes up for that.

21st Century Breakdown

As Green Day have matured their music has changed and become far darker and introspective. Billy Joe infuses his lyrics with pain and anger and he almost seems lost as we follow his journey through this album. Musically it is like a toned down version of American Idiot; it is still an excellent album though, but seems less hardcore and moves more towards the more commercial pop-punk

Awesome As F**k

To experience Green Day at their best you have to attend a concert. They give everything to their audience in three hours without a break. This great live album demonstrates the energy and vibe Green Day are able to get on stage - they are simply brilliant live and this album demonstrates this very well.


Uno is a very interesting album for Green Day; it's simpler and quieter than recent albums and moves them back towards their roots with less subtlety. The resulting sound is still a pop-punk sound that Green Day are so good at, but it is far softer and is less aggressive in both sound and also in the commentary they usually add to their music. While it is a good standalone album, it should be remembered that this really is disk one of a triple CD set.


Dos, or iDos is a raw trip into a party lifestyle that gets out of hand. Sublime lyrics are surrounded by pure punk rock to produce a sound that hasn't been heard from Green Day for quite a while. The label of pop-punk has been totally removed and they are back to their roots. This is a very compelling and at times scary album that seems to parallel Billy Joe's life.


This album is due to be released in December 2012 - it is the final album in the trilogy that includes Uno and Dos and promises to be brilliant.

My Favorite Albums of Greenday


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