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Bay Area trio Green Day stormed the mainstream in the early '90s with their snarling, snotty brand of three-chord pop-punk, delivered with a heavy dose of anarchic attitude and headline-grabbing antics. Influenced by their late-'70s punk predecessors, they went on to introduce a new, younger generation to the genre. Major-label breakthrough Dookie was the jewel in the crown of their '90s punk era, a modern classic regarded as one of the most defining albums of the decade. Maturing in the 21st century, the band hit a career peak with 2004's Grammy-winning international success American Idiot, a socio-political rock opera that ushered in the next stage of their evolution as one of America's most acclaimed rock bands. In 2015, 25 years after their debut, Green Day were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Green Day arose from the Northern California underground punk scene. Childhood friends Billie Joe Armstrong (guitar, vocals) and Mike Dirnt (bass) formed their first band, Sweet Children, in Rodeo, California when they were 14. By 1989, the group had added drummer Al Sobrante and changed its name to Green Day. That same year, the band independently released its first EP, 1000 Hours, which was well-received in the California hardcore punk scene. Debut full-length 39/Smooth and the Slappy EP arrived soon after in 1990. By 1991, the group had signed a contract with local independent label Lookout. Combining their first three efforts into one compilation, Green Day issued 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours for the label. Shortly after its release, they replaced Sobrante with Tre Cool (born Frank Edwin Wright III), who became the band's permanent drummer.
Throughout the early '90s, Green Day continued to attract a cult following, which only gained strength with the release of their second album, 1992's Kerplunk. The underground success of Kerplunk led to a wave of interest from major record labels, and the band eventually decided to sign with Reprise. Dookie, Green Day's major-label debut, was released in the spring of 1994. Thanks to MTV's support of the initial single "Longview," Dookie became a major hit. The album continued to gain momentum throughout the summer, with its second single, "Basket Case," spending five weeks on top of the American modern rock charts. At the end of the summer, the band stole the show at Woodstock '94, which increased the sales of Dookie. By the time their fourth single, "When I Come Around," began its seven-week stay at number one on the modern rock charts in early 1995, Dookie had sold over five million copies in the U.S. alone; it would eventually top ten million in America, selling over 15 million copies internationally. Dookie also won the 1994 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance.
Green Day quickly followed Dookie with Insomniac in the fall of 1995; during the summer, they hit number one again on the modern rock charts with "J.A.R.," their contribution to the Angus soundtrack. Insomniac performed well initially, entering the U.S. charts at number two and selling over two million copies by the spring of 1996, yet none of its singles -- including the radio favorite "Brain Stew/Jaded" -- was as popular as those from Dookie. In the spring of 1996, Green Day abruptly canceled a European tour, claiming exhaustion. Following the cancellation, the band spent the rest of the year resting and writing new material before issuing Nimrod in late 1997. Three years later, their long-awaited follow-up, a refreshingly poppy record titled Warning, was released. Another long wait preceded 2004's American Idiot, an aggressive rock opera that became a surprise success -- a chart-topper around the world, a multi-platinum Grammy winner, and easily the best-reviewed album of their career. Green Day reveled in the album's success, hitting numerous award shows and performing as part of Live 8 in July 2005. That fall brought the release of Bullet in a Bible, a concert album that documented the trio's expansive Idiot live show.
With their popularity and commercial viability restored, Green Day took on several small projects before returning to the studio. They contributed a cover of John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" to the charity album Instant Karma, appeared in The Simpsons Movie, and recorded an entire album of '60s-styled rock & roll under the alias of Foxboro Hot Tubs. While presenting an award at the Grammys in early 2009, the band announced the impending release of Green Day's eighth album, 21st Century Breakdown, which had been recorded with veteran producer Butch Vig. In May of 2009, 21st Century Breakdown was released, picking up where American Idiot left off as another ambitious punk rock opera. The album was a commercial success, selling over 215,000 copies in its first three days of sales. In 2009, American Idiot was adapted for the stage, and the following year, Green Day lent their talents to the original cast recording, combining a driving score with Broadway vocal arrangements. The band released the live Awesome as F**k in 2011.
During the summer of 2012, Green Day unveiled their ambitious plans for the fall and winter: they would release not one but three new albums. The records -- ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! -- would appear in September 2012, November 2012, and January 2013, respectively, with each individual bandmember gracing one of the album covers on his own. The first, appropriately called ¡Uno!, was preceded by the disco-rock single "Kill the DJ" and the anthemic arena rocker "Oh Love." ¡Uno! was set for a splashy release in September 2012, but the weekend prior to its release, Billie Joe Armstrong had an on-stage breakdown during a set Green Day played at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas. Days later, it was announced that Armstrong entered rehab for substance abuse; not long afterward, the band's touring plans for 2013 were canceled. ¡Dos! arrived as scheduled in November 2012 and ¡Tré! was moved up to a December release. Demolicious, a collection of 18 demos recorded during the making of their ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré! trilogy, showed up in time for 2014's Record Store Day release schedule.
In 2015, Green Day were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Following their induction, producer Rob Cavallo announced that he had started work on a new album with the trio. As they labored on the new record, Green Day released a single called "Xmas Time of the Year" for the 2015 holiday. The raucous "Bang Bang" was the first taste of their 12th record, Revolution Radio, which arrived in October 2016. The album topped the charts around the globe and featured the radio hit "Still Breathing." A year later, the group released a career-spanning compilation called Greatest Hits: God's Favorite Band, which included the previously unreleased "Back in the USA." Another retrospective release arrived in 2019, commemorating the band's 25th anniversary of playing Woodstock '94. Green Day Live!: Woodstock 1994 received a limited pressing for Record Store Day and debuted at number 156 on the Billboard 200. In early 2020, the trio returned with their 13th studio album Father of All..., also known as "Father of All Motherfuckers." The album represented a different approach for the band, with a short running time of less than 30 minutes and songs that tended more toward glam, soul, and anthemic rock than Green Day's usual punk. The album debuted at number four on the Billboard Top 200 charts despite mixed critical reviews. Later that year Armstrong released the covers song compilation No Fun Mondays. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine