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Green Day is considered among many music critics to be one of the greatest rock bands of all time. They were formed in 1987 and have been icons ever since. The band consists of lead singer and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist and backup vocals Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tre Cool. Green Day has released a total of thirteen studio albums. Their most famous album is probably American Idiot. This album was released in 2004 and contains many of their most well-known songs like “Holiday” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”. Another famous song on this album is “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” This song is a very emotional song for Billie Joe, who wrote this song. The song is about Billie’s father, who died from cancer when he was still young. The song is easily one of their best songs. While a lot of Green Day songs are about sad things like depression, loss, and anxiety, this song is incredibly unique compared to other Green Day songs, in terms of music style. They are able to tell a story with the lyrics as well as the instruments. An artist singing about losing a loved one can make for an extremely beautiful song. Another great song that will be discussed is “Julia” by the Beatles, while also exploring similarities and differences between the two songs.

“Wake Me Up When September Ends” is a song written by Billie to help cope with the pain he felt during the time when his father passed away. During his father’s funeral, Billie locked himself in his room and when his mother went to check on him, he simply told her to wake him up when September ends. This makes the song even more special for both the band and the fans. For the most part, people tend to think celebrities live extremely lavish lives and are loving every second of it. That is not always the case, Billie Joe is able to put his pain into his songs and it works out extremely well. While Green Day is a rock band, this song puts accents of folk and alternative along with rock in the song. During the opening verse, the only instrument heard is an acoustic guitar. Later in the song, the drums join and then bass and electric guitar and it is back to rock. Something cool this song does is later in the song, it has the same verse but with different lyrics. However this time, all of the instruments are being played. I think this was a moment in the song where Billie was able to tell people that while he will always miss his dad, he is doing okay and life goes on. This is a perfect tribute song. It is able to provide both good and bad lessons learned from that process. The band members are very strong advocates for mental health and their songs have always had good messages in the lyrics to help anyone struggling.

Billie Joe Armstrong is the primary songwriter for the band. He has been known to have personal struggles with mental health, there was once in an interview where he did not think he was going to live past age 20. In the opening verse of the song, Billie sings, “Summer has come and passed, the innocent can never last.” I believe with this he is saying that as time goes on, everyone will eventually lose some form of their innocence, whether that be a small amount or all of it. The second verse starts with, “Like my fathers come to pass, seven years has gone so fast.” Billie is saying that along with the death of his father seven years prior, time has flown by very fast. During the chorus of this song, it goes, “Here comes the rain again, falling from the stars, drenched in my pain again, becoming who we are. As my memory rests, but never forgets what I lost, Wake me up when September Ends. This is a moment in the song where the tone changes a lot. Billie is able to move on with his life, while still always remembering his father. Later in the song, there is a moment where Billie sings, “Ring out the bells again like we did when spring began.” These lyrics connect to the first verse of the song, as they both discuss seasons. There is also a lyric that goes, ‘Like my father’s come to pass, twenty years has gone so fast,’ this refers to the time between Armstrong’s father dying and now. This is also connected to the opening verse. While keeping the tone relatively dark, Green Day is able to make light out of it and send the message that no matter how hard life may be, life will go on and everything will be okay. This is a great message to be sending to people, especially those struggling with mental health issues. In an article interviewing Armstrong about the song and his father, he stated,

“Armstrong added that he still thinks about his late father every time he performs the song. ‘I think about him every day, really. I kind of avoided writing about him for many years, and then finally having a breakthrough like that felt good. It wasn’t like a negative emotion so much, but it was just kind of like honoring him.’

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This was a great explanation from Billie. He is saying that he will always think about his father, but he is moving on with life. I also liked how he included how he would avoid writing about him for many years due to worry about too many negative emotions. But as he started, it was more of a tribute song rather than a sad song. Another great tribute song is “Julia” by the Beatles.

“Julia” is a song from The Beatles’ 1968 album, “The White Album”. The song was written by John Lennon. It is about his mother who had died ten years prior to the release of this song. Like “Wake Me Up When September Ends”, both songs were written yeasts after the death had originally occurred. Julia Lennon was killed by a drunk off-duty police officer in 1958. She was the one who had encouraged John to pick up music when he was young. After his parents got divorced, John moved in with his aunt and he and Julia grew apart. However, they reconnected later when John had reached adolescence. When she died, John said, ‘I lost her twice,’ Lennon said. ‘Once as a five-year-old when I was moved in with my auntie. And once again when she actually physically died.’

In the intro of the song, Lennon sings, “Half of what I say is meaningless But I say it just to reach you, Julia.” I believe these lyrics are paying homage to when he was younger and his mother introduced him to rock and roll. John Lennon wrote many songs, and a good amount of them were thrown away, but he would perform these songs for his mom and get her approval. So I think this is him saying that the only person who matters when these songs are being written is Julia. In the final verse of the song, he sings, “When I cannot sing my heart I can only speak my mind, Julia” This is honoring both Julia and his wife, Yoko Ono. Later in his life before he died, he would call Yoko “mother”. This was able to have him able to open up to Yoko the same way he opened up to Julia when he was young. It is almost as if in his later years, John saw Yoko as if she was his mother. “Julia” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” are very different songs. “Julia” has only one instrument in the song, an acoustic guitar. The guitar is being played in fingerstyle and the song has a folk vibe to it. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” is a very rock and roll song. This song also talks about moving on from death while still remembering and appreciating the memories of the person who’s passed away. “Julia” sounds as if Lennon is seeing the spirit of Julia in people around him, like Yoko Ono. John Lennon’s singing voice in this song is very soft and sweet, while Armstrong’s is more edgy and in your face. Both songs are very good and are touching tributes to their parents.

While Green Day’s popularity with their more recent music may have decreased over the years, their early music like the album “American Idiot” remains one of the most popular rock albums of all time. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” is a haunting song about Armstrong’s late father and is able to help send a positive message to anyone needing it. Which is something Green Day has always done and is something they will continue to do for the rest of their careers.

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