I discovered Green Day an entire decade ago. I was 14 years old, and “American Idiot” had just come out. The music video was addictive, and the song had so much energy and aggression. As a young teenager just getting into music, this was the song I needed. It took 2 more singles and an eager dad to get me to finally buy the album, but once I did, my life changed forever. And it seems only fitting that now, around the 10 year anniversary of my personal discovery of Green Day, the punk band is getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cemented in history as a game changer in punk, rock, and music overall.
I’m overjoyed to see Green Day receiving this esteemed honor – they’ve earned it in more ways than one. While they have the prerequisite 25 years since releasing their first record, and they’ve sold millions of albums, earned countless awards, and found their way into nearly everyone’s ears thanks to recurrent radio airplay and MTV (back when they mattered) video spins, Green Day has made even bigger marks.
Green Day defined an era. And not just once, but twice. Dookie was their first claim to fame – it was an unexpected hit in 1994, and songs like “Longview,” “Basket Case,” “When I Come Around,” “She,” and “Welcome To Paradise” were inescapable on the radio and MTV. They earned their first Grammy, sold 20 million albums worldwide, and were touted as the best new artist of the year.
But more than that, Dookie defined a generation. It defined misunderstood, angsty teenagers, and it inspired millions of people who had nothing else to invigorate them. I was a small child at the time, so I can’t claim to have been part of this magical moment in history. But my fiancé, just turning 12, was amazed by Green Day. They were one of the first bands he got into, and he learned to play guitar to “Basket Case” and other classics from Dookie. Now he’s an amazing guitarist who’s recorded an album and works in music for his career.
My fiancé wasn’t the only one touched by Green Day, either. Fast forward a few years, and you’ll see that nearly all of the biggest bands in the late ’90s and early 2000s regularly cited Green Day – and Dookie in particular – as a major influence. Bands like blink-182, Sum 41, Simple Plan, and Fall Out Boy have all mentioned Green Day at least once. Some of them got into music because of Green Day; some learned how to play guitar by watching Billie Joe’s performances; some discovered punk through Green Day. And most of them probably wouldn’t have become bands if not for Dookie and Green Day.
Even singers like Avril Lavigne and Lady Gaga have referenced Green Day as an inspiration. Avril loved the punk trio, and identified them as her favorite band; she adopted a punk fashion sense thanks to her love of the genre, and covered “Basket Case” and “American Idiot” on tours. Lady Gaga revealed that Dookie was the first album she ever bought, and thus one of her earliest music influences.
The effects of their first major label album are strong, but after Dookie, Green Day experienced declining sales and overall popularity. Their next three albums – Insomniac, Nimrod, and Warning – each sold less than the previous one, and Green Day was on their way to being 30 year old has-beens. Even their 1998 hit single, “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life),” wasn’t enough to recharge their career. Green Day had made their mark, and their influence on early 2000s music was obvious, but they were no longer relevant themselves.
This is when Green Day took over the world for the second time. Enter American Idiot, the ambitious 2004 rock opera that launched Green Day back to the top. It sold nearly as well as Dookie, and resulted in hit single after hit single. They were inescapable and won more awards than ever before.
American Idiot is how I discovered Green Day. My favorite singer at the time, Avril Lavigne, had mentioned they were her favorite band in some random interview, so I was curious. A few months later, “American Idiot” came out, and I instantly saw why Avril loved them. My dad liked Green Day too, so he bought me the album. Though I somehow hated it on the first listen (maybe it was too different from what I was used to?), on the second listen it all made sense. I replayed that record a zillion times, and soon filled up the rest of my growing music collection with their whole back catalog. I got their other 6 studio albums, their greatest hits and rarities collections, the live CD/DVD Bullet In A Bible, some singles. Even books, posters, shoelaces, a purse. I couldn’t get enough of them. And in the years that have followed, I’ve gotten every single thing they’ve released since, seen them on tour (in 2 states and 2 countries), and even saw their American Idiot musical in theaters 4 times.
Through Green Day, I discovered dozens of other bands and artists that I may not have known otherwise. I started listening to some of their musical inspirations, as well as contemporary rock artists and the musicians that were inspired by Green Day. And after listening to so many great artists, I needed more. I read books, watched interviews, and learned everything I could about music.
Green Day was the main reason I became so obsessed with music as a teenager. Largely because of them, I filled up my life with music. In time, I got a college degree in music, made friends with all the most musical people I could find, worked in different parts of the music industry, and now I’m writing about music here every day. I have Green Day to thank for that – that’s the influence they’ve had on my life.
And I’m not the only one like that. There are so many other people of various ages that have been roused thanks to an album, a song, or the band overall. It can be kids, teenagers, young adults, even middle aged men like my dad who suddenly remembered why they used to love music.
Whether you like Green Day or not, you can’t reasonably deny that they deserve to be in the Rock Hall. Even if their music isn’t your cup of tea, you can’t deny the huge effects they’ve had on the music world and on the lives of thousands of people around the world. They’ve influenced many successful and talented musicians, but they’ve also touched peoples’ lives on personal levels.
My own journey is just one small example. My fiancé’s is another. And there are certainly countless others out there too who owe some aspect of their life to the effects Green Day had on them.
Green Day have come a long way in their 25+ year career, from playing tiny restaurants and punk clubs to selling out stadiums for millions of adoring fans. Their music has also evolved and expanded. And as they continue making music for – hopefully – years to come, they will continue to inspire and re-inspire people along the way.
Their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was an inevitable and fully deserved honor. They have stood the test of time and have earned the respect and adoration their many fans have for them. Congratulations, Green Day. You will be an exceptional addition to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I can’t wait to see what you do next.