And the answer: September.
Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends” has been popularly interpreted as an anti-war anthem, and also used as a tribute to mourning survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Armstrong says that he wrote the sobering anthem about his late father, who passed in 1982 when Armstrong was 10. The song is featured on Green Day’s hit 2004 album, American Idiot.
Few times has a random theft led to the creation of one of the most iconic rock albums of all time, but such was the case for Green Day in 2004. After a tough couple of years due to the commercial failure of their 2000 album, Warning, Green Day needed a break. However, things certainly got worse before they got better. Amidst conversations about splitting up, arguments about creative direction and the general tension of the group, the band came into the studio one morning to discover the tapes for their upcoming album, Cigarettes and Valentines, had been stolen.
Yet Green Day members like Billie Joe Armstrong weren’t deterred. The band decided to take it as a sign that they were on the wrong path, and scratched the idea completely. Instead of falling apart, Green Day switched gears entirely. They implemented a weekly conversation period, where each member could voice their own creative interests, and began to challenge themselves with tasks such as writing a “30-second song.” Ultimately, the album American Idiot was already well underway to creation—even if the band didn’t realize it yet.
Did you know?
Today, 18 years ago, American Idiot was released! Since it has hit the shelves, the album debuted at number one, went six times platinum, received the Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2005, led to the band's return to top draw status on the road, revived their career, and even led to a Broadway production.
American Idiot follows a narrative of American disillusionment, largely inspired by political instability of the early 2000s. On the matter, Armstrong recalls:
"We were in the studio and watching the journalists embedded with the troops, and it was the worst version of reality television. Switch the channel, and it's Nick [Lachey] and Jessica [Simpson]. Switch, and it's Fear Factor. Switch, and people are having surgery to look like Brad Pitt. We're surrounded by all of that … and the characters Jesus of Suburbia and St. Jimmy are, as well. It's a sign of the times."
After the success of the studio album release, Green Day realized they wanted to take it a step further, to truly pay homage to the rock operas by which their album was inspired. As such, the band members adapted the album into an eponymous Broadway musical.
Learn more about Green Day, American Idiot, and its legacy here.