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Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong wrote this about his father, who died of cancer on September 1st, 1982. At his father's funeral, Billie cried, ran home and locked himself in his room. When his mother got home and knocked on the door to Billie's room, Billie simply said, "Wake me up when September ends," hence the title.
The references to the amount of years is like so: When he says 7 years has gone so fast, he is talking about how Sweet Children (Green Day) formed almost exactly 7 years after the incident. And 20 years has gone so fast is an homage to when he wrote this song.
This was originally supposed to be on Shenanigans, but Billie was emotionally ready to record it, so it was put onto American Idiot. (thanks, Clark - Baltimore, MD, for all above)
The video was directed by Samuel Bayer, who directed Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit
" video. Jamie Bell and Evan Rachel Wood starred in the video, which isn't about Armstrong's father, but more a reflection on the mood in American after the September 11 attacks. In an interview with MTV, Bayer said this video was "hands down the greatest thing I've ever done." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
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