The meaning of Green Day’s ‘Wake Me Up When Me When September Ends’

It’s September in a crappy year with a lot of depressing things happening to thousands of people every day, so somewhere today you will see someone reference the years-old joke about Green Day’s emotional classic ‘Wake Me Up When September’ ends. So let’s try to use more part of our collective brains than just the part that wants to see memes, to dig into the origins of the song and it’s profound impact.
The 4:19 track was one of the smash hit singles off Green Day’s wildly successful 2003 concept album ‘American Idiot’ which sold millions and became one of the biggest alternative releases of the 2000s. The song itself peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and was a top ten song in multiple countries. Though the story of ‘American Idiot’ is quite clear to fans and has been adapted into a Broadway musical, ‘Wake Me Up’ is viewed as a song that has no direct connection to the album’s concept.

In the first few years after its release, the song has been seen as a bonding point for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina and the terror attacks of September 11th. In recent years, the song has been adopted by meme culture to be a comedic complaint about the end of summer and other saddening topics.

So what is the actual inspiration for the song? The crowd-sourced lyrical web portal Genius has culled together some info detailing that the song depicts singer Billy Joe Armstrong dealing with the death of his father from cancer on September 1, 1982 at the age of 10. The title of the song allegedly refers to a conversation that a young Armstrong had with his mother when in his room after his father’s funeral. That is a lasting experience for anyone who has lost someone they love, let alone at such an impressionable age. Armstrong though has said in recent years, the song still brings up memories of his father but that it’s also has a newer celebratory tone to it.

September already? Woof. #wakemeupwhenseptemberends

Posted by 101 WKQX on Tuesday, September 1, 2020

In April,2020. Armstrong performed the song on the Global Citizen ‘Together At Home’ charity broadcast to organize resources against COVID-19. Yes, April this year feels like it was years ago.