This is probably my favourite Rock song of the 21st century. It is often associated with 9/11 and it became symbolic after Hurricane Katrina, where it was dedicated to victims of the disaster.
It was released on June 13, 2005, as the fourth single from Green Day’s seventh studio album, “American Idiot”. The song was written by front man Billie Joe Armstrong about his father Andrew, who passed away in 1982 when Billie Joe was 10 years old.
I think the song resonates with many people, who have lost a father or a loved one. The song’s music video, directed by Samuel Bayer, depicts a couple broken apart by the Iraq War, which was intended to convey the song’s central theme of loss. I understand what they tried to do with that, but I think the story line of the video distracts from the lyrics and actual meaning of the song.
In 2019, Billie Joe spoke to Howard Stern about the song’s title and phrase, explaining, “I think it’s something that just stayed with me; the month of September being that anniversary that always is just, I don’t know, kind of a bummer. But it’s weird: when things happen like that when you’re that young, it’s almost like life starts at year zero, or something like that.”
When asked if he still thought about his late dad when performing Wake Me Up When September Ends, Billie Joe replied, “Yeah. I think about him every day, really. I kinda avoided writing about him for many years, and then finally having a breakthrough like that felt good. It wasn’t like a negative emotion so much, but it was just kind of like honouring him.”
So this Rocktober blog is not only dedicated to the music I love so much but also to my dad, who died 10 years and 2 weeks after this song was released. 16 years has gone so fast
I love to sing and I don’t care where I am or what I am doing, if I feel the urge to sing I just do it.
However there is one song I can never sing along to, It is not that I don’t like the song, the opposite is true it is one of my all time favourites. It is because it so close to a reality I faced.
As you can guess the song is “The Living Years” by Mike and the Mechanics. The song was released just after Christmas in 1988. At first I thought it was a great tune, I like the guitar riff in it, and Paul Carrack’s powerful voice.
But then I started to listen to the lyrics a bit more. Initially the words didn’t bother me but after a few years. I got into a solid relationship, the meaning of the song started to change for me.
It was a cocktail of the song and the movie Mrs Doubtfire that opened up old wounds. At least I thought they were old wounds, in fact they were wounds I never addressed properly.
I hadn’t seen my Father in more then 16 years at that stage . I mean there was no contact whatsoever as if he wasn’t there at all, this created a void in my life. A void which was hard to fill because I felt abandoned by the man who was supposed to unconditionally love me.
It was after watching Mrs Doubtfire in the cinema I realized that I had to address this void, rather then laughing at this hilarious movie, I cried, I felt a piercing pain. Then when I got home, I turned on the radio and “the Living year” sounded through the speakers. At that stage I thought someone ripped out my heart.
I knew then I couldn’t go on like that, my fiancé (now my wife) deserved an emotionally strong partner. I analyzed why both movie and song had such an impact, and especially the song because I had listened to it for years.
The movie was about a Father who desperately tried everything to be close to his kids, something my dad didn’t do.
The song was about a son who didn’t get all the things he had to say to his father ,before his dad passed away.
That was it. I had to reach out to my Father to get the answers I felt I deserved, before it was too late. If I didn’t I would become a bitter man. I didn’t want to go through the remainder of my life with a big “What if?” hanging around my neck.
The moment came via an unexpected event, out of the blue my dad called me on January 9, 1996,at that stage 18 years had passed, he asked if I would attend his mother’s funeral. I didn’t say yes nor did I say no, but I had a chat with my 3 older siblings and my wife, and we decided we would go to the funeral.
I recognized my dad who was sitting near to the altar, we sat at the back of the church, he looked like a man in pain. I could not help but feel sorry for him. After the funeral we exchanged a few words but no further plans were made. Another unexpected event expedited the plans, 17 days after my Grandmother’s death my own mother suddenly died. On top of that I had injured my back and needed to get a surgery. Through these events my dad and I had the chance to talk. The first thing he asked me “Can you forgive me for all the mistakes I made?” I paused for a second, I thought I can tell him to f*ck off or I accept that this a brave thing he did there, asking his son for forgiveness not knowing the outcome. I went for the latter.
Ever since that day or relationship developed, not so much as a traditional Father/Son relationship but more as two good friends, which probably might even be better. My dad passed away in 2015 and ever since that day every time I try to sing along to “the Living years” I get to the point of:
“So we open up a quarrel Between the present and the past We only sacrifice the future It’s the bitterness that lasts”
Then a lump comes into my throat and the memories and tears start to flow. I have no resigned myself to the fact to only listen to the song and not to sing along with it.
I know this was very personal story but it just illustrates how powerful the emotions can be when a song is played at a certain moment in time and then changes the whole perspective of life.
I am forever grateful to B. A. Robertson and Mike Rutherford for writing the song, because it made me face a very difficult decision I had to take, A decision that changed my life forever . I got to tell all the things I had to say.