Green Day is an American Punk rock band formed in 1986 by lead vocalist and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt. For much of the band's career, they have been a trio with drummer Tré Cool, who replaced John Kiffmeyer in 1990 prior to the recording of the band's second studio album, Kerplunk (1991).
Green Day was originally part of the punk scene at the DIY 924 Gilman Street club in Berkeley, California. The band's early releases were with the independent record label Lookout! Records. In 1994, their major label debut Dookie, released through Reprise Records, became a breakout success and eventually shipped over 10 million copies in the U.S. Green Day is credited alongside fellow California punk bands including Sublime, Bad Religion, The Offspring and Rancid with popularizing mainstream interest in punk rock in the United States.
Though Insomniac (1995), Nimrod (1997) and Warning (2000), did not match the success of Dookie, Insomniac and Nimrod reached double platinum and Warning achieved gold status. Green Day's seventh album, American Idiot (2004), a rock opera, found popularity with a younger generation, selling six million copies in the U.S. 21st Century Breakdown was released in 2009 and achieved the band's best chart performance. It was followed by a trilogy of albums, ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré!, released in September, November and December 2012 respectively. Green Day's twelfth studio album, Revolution Radio, was released on October 7, 2016 and became their third to debut at number one on the Billboard 200.
Green Day has sold more than 85 million records worldwide. The group has won five Grammy Awards: Best Alternative Album for Dookie, Best Rock Album for American Idiot, Record of the Year for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", Best Rock Album for the second time for 21st Century Breakdown and Best Musical Show Album for American Idiot: The Original Broadway Cast Recording. In 2010, a stage adaptation of American Idiot debuted on Broadway. The musical was nominated for three Tony Awards: Best Musical, Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting Design, losing only the first. In the same year, VH1 ranked Green Day 91st in its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, their first year of eligibility.
Formation and Lookout! years (39/Smooth and Kerplunk, 1986–1993)
In 1986, friends Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt, 14 years old at the time, formed a band called Sweet Children. The group's first live performance took place on October 17, 1987, at Rod's Hickory Pit in Vallejo, California. In 1988, Armstrong and Dirnt began working with former Isocracy drummer John Kiffmeyer, also known as "Al Sobrante". Armstrong cites the band Operation Ivy (which featured Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman of Rancid) as a major influence, and a group that inspired him to form a band.
In 1988, Larry Livermore, owner of Lookout! Records, saw the band play an early show and signed the group to his label. In 1989, the band recorded its debut extended play, 1,000 Hours. Before 1,000 Hours was released, the group dropped the name Sweet Children; according to Livermore, this was done to avoid confusion with another local band Sweet Baby. The band adopted the name Green Day, due to the members' fondness for cannabis.
Lookout! released Green Day's debut studio album, 39/Smooth in early 1990. Green Day recorded two extended plays later that year, Slappy and Sweet Children, the latter of which included older songs that the band had recorded for the Minneapolis independent record label Skene! Records. In 1991, Lookout! Records re-released 39/Smooth under the name 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, and added the songs from the band's first two EPs, Slappy, and 1,000 Hours. In late 1990, shortly after the band's first nationwide tour, Kiffmeyer left the East Bay area to attend Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. The Lookouts drummer Tré Cool began filling in as a temporary replacement and later Cool's position as Green Day's drummer became permanent, which Kiffmeyer "graciously accepted". The band went on tour for most of 1992 and 1993, and played a number of shows overseas in Europe. The band's second studio album Kerplunk sold 50,000 copies in the U.S.
Breakthrough success (Dookie and Insomniac, 1994–1996)
Kerplunk's underground success led to a number of major record labels being interested in signing Green Day, and the band eventually left Lookout! and signed to Reprise Records after attracting the attention of producer Rob Cavallo. The group was impressed by his work with fellow Californian band, The Muffs, and later remarked that Cavallo "was the only person we could really talk to and connect with". Reflecting on the period, Armstrong told Spin magazine in 1999, "I couldn't go back to the punk scene, whether we were the biggest success in the world or the biggest failure ... The only thing I could do was get on my bike and go forward." After signing with Reprise, the band went to work on recording its major label debut, Dookie.
Recorded in three weeks, and released in February 1994, Dookie became a commercial success, helped by extensive MTV airplay for the videos of the songs "Longview", "Basket Case", and "When I Come Around", all of which reached the number one position on the Modern Rock Tracks charts. The album went on to sell over 10 million copies in the US. At a performance on September 9, 1994 at Hatch Memorial Shell in Boston, mayhem broke out during the band's set (cut short to seven songs) and by the end of the rampage, 100 people were injured and 45 arrested. The band also joined the lineups of both the Lollapalooza festival and Woodstock '94, where the group started an infamous mud fight. During the concert, a security guard mistook bassist Mike Dirnt for a stage-invading fan and punched out some of his teeth. Viewed by millions by pay-per-view television, the Woodstock 1994 performance further aided Green Day's growing publicity and recognition, and helped push its album to eventual diamond status. In 1995, Dookie won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album and the band was nominated for nine MTV Video Music Awards including Video of the Year.
In 1995, a new single for the Angus soundtrack was released, entitled "J.A.R.". The single debuted at number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song was followed by the band's fourth studio album, Insomniac, which was released in the fall of 1995. Insomniac was a much darker and heavier response to the band's newfound popularity, compared to the more melodic Dookie. The album opened to a warm critical reception, earning 4 out of 5 stars from Rolling Stone, which said "In punk, the good stuff actually unfolds and gains meaning as you listen without sacrificing any of its electric, haywire immediacy. And Green Day are as good as this stuff gets." The singles released from Insomniac were "Geek Stink Breath", "Stuck with Me", "Brain Stew/Jaded", and "Walking Contradiction".
Though the album did not approach the success of Dookie, it sold two million copies in the United States. In addition, the album won the band award nominations for Favorite Artist, Favorite Hard Rock Artist, and Favorite Alternative Artist at the 1996 American Music Awards, and the video for "Walking Contradiction" got the band a Grammy nomination for Best Video, Short Form, in addition to a Best Special Effects nomination at the MTV Video Music Awards. After that, the band abruptly cancelled a European tour, citing exhaustion.
Middle years and decline in commercial success (Nimrod and Warning, 1997–2002)
After a brief hiatus in 1996, Green Day began to work on a new album in 1997. From the outset, both the band and Cavallo agreed that the album had to be different from its previous albums. The result was Nimrod, an experimental deviation from the band's standard pop-punk brand of music. The new album was released in October 1997. It provided a variety of music, from pop-punk, surf rock, and ska, to an acoustic ballad. Nimrod entered the charts at number 10. The success of "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" won the band an MTV Video Award for Best Alternative Video. The song was also used in the second "clip show" episode of Seinfeld and on two episodes of ER.
The other singles released from Nimrod were "Nice Guys Finish Last", "Hitchin' a Ride" and "Redundant". The band made a guest appearance in an episode of King of the Hill entitled "The Man Who Shot Cane Skretteberg", which aired in 1997. In late 1997 and most of 1998, Green Day embarked on a tour in support of Nimrod. In 1999, guitarist Jason White began supporting the band during concerts as rhythm guitarist.
In 2000, Green Day released its sixth studio album Warning. In support of the album, the band participated in the Warped Tour in 2000. In November 2000, the band performed for free on the steps on San Francisco's City Hall to protest the eviction of artists from the city in a show produced by Ian Brennan. The band also had an independent tour to support the album in 2001. Critics' reviews of the album were varied. AllMusic gave it 4.5/5 saying "Warning may not be an innovative record per se, but it's tremendously satisfying." Rolling Stone was more critical, giving it 3/5, and saying "Warning... invites the question: Who wants to listen to songs of faith, hope and social commentary from what used to be snot-core's biggest-selling band?" Though it produced the hit "Minority" and a smaller hit with "Warning", some observers were coming to the conclusion that the band was losing relevance, and a decline in popularity followed. While all of Green Day's previous albums had reached a status of at least double platinum, Warning was only certified gold.
At the 2001 California Music Awards, Green Day won all eight of the awards for which the group was nominated. The group won the awards for Outstanding Album (Warning), Outstanding Punk Rock/Ska Album (Warning), Outstanding Group, Outstanding Male Vocalist, Outstanding Bassist, Outstanding Drummer, Outstanding Songwriter, and Outstanding Artist.
The release of two compilation albums, International Superhits! and Shenanigans, followed Warning. International Superhits and its companion collection of music videos, International Supervideos!. Shenanigans contained some of the band's b-sides, including "Espionage", which was featured in the film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
Billie Joe Armstrong – lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitar, piano, harmonica (1986–present)
Mike Dirnt – bass, backing and occasional lead vocals (1988–present); rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals (1986–1988)
Tré Cool – drums, percussion, backing and occasional lead vocals (1990–present)
Raj Punjabi – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1986–1987)
Sean Hughes – bass, backing vocals (1986–1988)
John Kiffmeyer – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1987–1990)
Aaron Cometbus – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1990)
Dave "E.C." Henwood – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1990)
Jason White – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals (1997–2012, 2016–present; official member 2012–2016)
Jason Freese – piano, keyboards, saxophone, trombone, rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals (2004–present)
Jeff Matika – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals (2009–present)
Former touring members
Timmy Chunks – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals (1997–1999)
Garth Schultz – trombone, trumpet (1997–1999)
Gabrial McNair – trombone, saxophone (1999–2000)
Kurt Lohmiller – trumpet, percussion (1999–2004)
Mike Pelino – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals (2004–2005)
Ronnie Blake – trumpet, percussion (2004–2005)
Bobby Schneck – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2004–2005)