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Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong wrote this song about his father, who died of cancer on September 1, 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 line "seven years has gone so fast" is a reference to how Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt's band Sweet Children (which would morph into Green Day), was formed seven years after Armstrong's father died.
"20 years has gone so fast" represents the time from his father's death to when Billie Joe wrote the song.
This was originally slated for Green Day's 2002 compilation album Shenanigans, but Billie Joe didn't feel that he was in an emotional state to record it, so the song was held back and used on American Idiot. (thanks, Clark - Baltimore, MD)
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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