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The Tragic Backstory Behind The Song ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’

We’ve seen the funny memes but the story behind Green Day’s song is definitely no laughing matter.

Mark Andrew

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  • Green Day’s ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ often gets shared on social media every year whenever September comes.
  • Unknown to some, the song has a sad backstory.
  • Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong talked about it during the band’s 2019 appearance on The Howard Stern Show.

Whenever September rolls in, we know two things for certain: first, summertime is officially over and second, our social media feeds will once again be flooded by Green Day memes.

It has become a tradition for many netizens to share the haunting rock ballad ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends,’ a hit single taken from Green Day’s massively-successful seventh studio album American Idiot.

“Summer has come and passed, the innocent can never last”

True fans have always known this but casual listeners of the band may not be aware that the 2004 track has a tragic backstory. It’s not actually just a song about the changing of seasons but the title itself has been pulled from one of the saddest moments in the life of singer and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong.

“Here comes the rain again, falling from the stars”

The band’s frontman openly spoke about the song’s origin during their 2019 guesting at The Howard Stern Show. According to Armstrong, his father died in 1982 after battling with esophageal cancer.

Only 10 years old at that time, he blurted out the phrase to his mom after locking himself up in his room upon learning about his father’s passing.

Armstrong shared:

“I think it’s something that just stayed with me; the month of September being that anniversary that always is just, I don’t know, kind of a bummer. But it’s weird. When things happen like that when you’re that young, it’s almost like life starts at year zero, or something like that.”

And why did he only write about the emotional experience on their seventh album? The songwriter explained it was never easy talking about his father’s death – until many years later.

“I kind of avoided writing about him for many years and then finally having a breakthrough like… It felt good. It wasn’t a negative emotion so much, but just honoring him,” he told Stern.

Watch the interview and the band’s performance here:

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