Billie Joe Armstrong (born February 17, 1972) is an American rock musician and occasional actor, best known as the lead vocalist, main songwriter and lead guitarist for the American punk rock band Green Day. He is also a guitarist and vocalist for the punk rock band Pinhead Gunpowder and provides lead vocals for garage rock band Foxboro Hot Tubs when not working with Green Day.
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 fifteen 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 as well as serving as the primary vocalist for the bands Pinhead Gunpowder and Foxboro Hot Tubs.
Billie Joe Armstrong was born in Piedmont, California, a small town surrounded by the city of Oakland, 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 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 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 San Francisco Bay.
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. After his father died, his mother married a man whom her children disliked, which resulted in Armstrong retreating further into music. Armstrong wrote a song about him called "Why Do You Want Him?" at age 14, which was reportedly the first song he wrote. 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.
(Billie is also famous for telling Bill Maher that "Religion is a bunch of bullshit." On HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher) Armstrong attended John Swett High School, also in Crockett, and later Pinole Valley High School in Pinole, California, but then dropped out to pursue his musical career. Career
In 1987, Armstrong formed a band called Sweet Children with childhood friend Mike Dirnt at the age of 15. 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, allegedly choosing the name because of their fondness for marijuana. That same year, they recorded the EPs 39/Smooth, 1,000 Hours, and Slappy, later combined into the compilation 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours on Lookout! Records. 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 due 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. In 2009, their hit American Idiot became a musical on Broadway.
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.
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. American Idiot is an adaption of Green Day's concept album of the same name. Armstrong returned to the role of St. Jimmy for 50 performances beginning January 1, 2011. Instruments Armstrong performing in 2009 with a replica of "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." 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 his own line of Les Paul Junior guitars from Gibson, modeled closely after “Floyd”, Armstrong's original 1956 Les Paul Junior.
He plays several other instruments as well. He recorded harmonica and mandolin parts in the past, piano parts on 21st Century Breakdown, 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, and 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. 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."