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Why one of the best Green Day songs wasn't written by Billie Joe Armstrong


Green Day are one of those bands that seem to work as a benevolent dictatorship. Not unlike, say, Dave Grohl’s role in the Foo Fighters, Billie Joe Armstrong appears to have a fairly big say in most of what the legendary punk band decide to do. His is the name on the songwriting credits for the band’s biggest songs, and he’s the one that usually spearheads the band’s direction when undergoing new ventures.

But Green Day is still a functioning unit, and perhaps the most important relationship is that between Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt. Childhood friends growing up just outside the Bay Area of California, Armstrong and Dirnt bonded over their shared misfit sense and eventually became devotees of punk rock, often landing at the legendary DIY punk space 924 Gillman Street night after night.

Forming the band as teenagers, Armstrong and Dirnt have been musical collaborators, co-writers, and close friends for over four decades. Dirnt’s bass tone is essential to Green Day’s signature sound, featuring punchy midrange and often unfurling mind-bending runs with a level of technical proficiency not often heard in punk. Ask any run of the mill bassist to play ‘Longview’ or ‘When I Come Around’ and you’ll be surprised just how difficult Dirnt’s job is.

All three members of Green Day get credited with writing the band’s music, but when it comes to primary authorship, that status largely belongs to Armstrong. But one song spearheaded by Dirnt wound up becoming a classic adored by diehards and casual fans alike: ‘J.A.R.’.

Originally recorded during the sessions for Dookie, ‘J.A.R.’ was Dirnt’s tribute to childhood friend Jason Andrew Relva, who died in a car accident in 1992 at the age of 19. The song’s lyrics, chronicling the incident and contemplating the fleeting quickness of life, are some of the most incisive and personal in the entire Green Day catalogue. Those words, which are equally tender and roaring, were penned by Dirnt for his late friend.

‘J.A.R.’ was included on the soundtrack to the 1995 film Angus and was later released as a single, peaking at number one on the Billboard Modern Rock chart in the summer of 1995. Later included on the compilation International Superhits!, ‘J.A.R.’ never had a permanent spot in the band’s live setlist – it was occasionally sung by Dirnt in the ’90s, but these days, the song gets helmed by Armstrong when it gets broken out.