While he might have sung about a “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, Green Day lead vocalist, Billie Joe Armstrong, devoted his time to help build a Habitat home, making a deserving family’s dreams a reality.
Green Day is Born
Armstrong is the lead vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter for Green Day. The band is credited for popularizing punk rock in the United States, producing multiple hit albums like “Kerplunk”, which made four million sales worldwide, making it one of the best-selling independent albums of all time. But the band didn’t always have such a dedicated following.
Armstrong’s interest in music started at an extremely young age. He recorded his first song, titled “Look for Love,” when he was only five years old.
He met Mike Dirnt, co-founder and bassist of Green Day, when he was 10 years old, in their school cafeteria. They immediately bonded over their love for music.
When you think of the genre punk rock, the last thing you might associate it with is charity work. But Green Day is no stranger to lending a helping hand.
“The Saints Are Coming,” a Tribute to New Orleans
The song centers on loss, with lyrics tweaked to reflect the experience of victims of the hurricane.
The song opens with the lyrics: “There is a house in New Orleans / They call the risin’ sun / It’s been the ruin of many a poor boy / And, God, I know I’m one.”
The video includes footage of wreckage from the hurricane and fictional news headlines, depicting an ideal scenario of the government responding with rescue and relief efforts in New Orleans, ending with a sign displaying “Not as seen on TV.”
Proceeds from the song’s sale were donated to Music Rising, an organization that raises funds to help replace instruments lost in schools affected by recent catastrophes in the United States. It started with the mission of rescuing musical culture from the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Despite this involvement, Armstrong wasn’t finished helping in the wake of the New Orlean’s disaster.
Habitat New Orleans Build
In April 2007, Armstrong rallied his family for three days of building with Habitat New Orleans. They documented their experience with a series of updates on their website, bringing their fans along with them for the journey.
“(Today) I had to do some upside-down hammering technique, but we managed to get the job done,” said Armstrong, reflecting on his first time on a Habitat build site.
“We felt a great sense of accomplishment when we finished (for the day)… It was amazing to see everyone getting their hands dirty in good conscience, working together for the greater good.”
Billie’s wife, Adrienne Armstrong, relished in the experience.
“New Orleans is an unforgettable city. The people are warm and welcoming and the hospitality is unparalleled,” she said.
On the second day building the Habitat home, they started seeing progress.
“Today was a great day. The house is really coming together,” said Billie Joe.
Adrienne was tasked with painting the front of the house – light pink trim against grey panelling, colours that were picked out by the home’s future family.
“Towards the end of the day, as we were nearing the finish of the front (of the house), I suddenly had a rush of emotion,” shared Adrienne.
“I felt so connected to this work we are doing. Working with our hands, sweating in the sun and helping to provide a place to call home for this special woman and her daughter.”
Their final day of building was accompanied by a bittersweet feeling. The knowledge that they made incredible progress on a home for a hardworking local family, paired with the desire to do more.
“I want to come back and build again. I recommend it to everyone. It not only builds a home for a stranger, but it also builds a home for your soul,” said Billie Joe.
For Adrienne, the final day brought with it an itching desire to see the project through.
“It’s amazing how connected you feel to the project you’re working on. (It’s) a sense of pride and excitement for the family who will live here,” she said.
Sweet Children Raffle
In June 2007, Green Day held a raffle for a copy of their Sweet Children 7 EP in pink vinyl. As an extremely rare and high-value collectable, they knew the raffle would generate a lot of interest.
Selling the tickets at $10 per or three tickets for $25, they donated a portion of the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity.
Many celebrities like Billie Joe Armstrong use their platform to share Habitat’s powerful mission. To join us in helping to build a world where everyone has a decent place to call home, click here.