California-born guitarist and vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong drew fire from hardcore underground punk fans when his grassroots band, Green Day, went mainstream with their blockbuster 1994 album Dookie and received exhaustive MTV airplay. Accused of selling out, Armstrong and his bandmates (Mike Dirnt and Al Sobrante (later replaced by Tre Cool) seemed relatively unruffled by the brouhaha and turned out a string of increasingly popular records, including the 2000 Warning and the 2004 American Idiot. Actually, the early MTV play presaged additional dramatic work for Armstrong. In the early years, his non-Green Day filmed appearances were scant, and included such spots as a 1997 guest voice-over on the Mike Judge animated sitcom King of the Hill. Ever the nonconformist, Armstrong later opted to voice the character of Charles Manson in the claymation musical comedy (!) Live Freaky! Die Freaky!, a reenactment of the famous 1969 Manson Family killings, set thousands of years in the future.
Biography by Nathan Southern
- Is the youngest of six children.
- As a child, performed with his jazz drummer father, Andy, at Shriners' Hospitals and convalescent homes around northern California.
- Met future Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt in fifth grade and began playing music with him soon after; first song the pair learned was Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train."
- Dropped out of high school his senior year to focus on music full time.
- Made his studio debut with Green Day on 39/Smooth, released in 1990 by Lookout Records.
- Commercial breakthrough came with Green Day's Dookie (1994), which sold more than 10 million copies in the U.S. alone due to hits like "Longview" and "When I Come Around."
- Helped design the Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Jr., a Gibson guitar named after him.