Billie Joe Armstrong
was brought into this world on February 17, 1972, the youngest of six children. His father, Andy, was a part time jazz musician and a truck driver for Safeway, while his mother was a waitress at a local restaurant named Rod's Hickory Pit. Billie started singing when he was just 5 years old. He would go around to hospitals and sing to the patients to make them feel better. Then he got to record his first song, "Look for Love" at a local recording company named Fiat Records. Billie got his first electric guitar, the infamous "Blue" (a Fernandes Stratocaster), when he was 11. His mother bought the guitar from his first guitar teacher. Billie still uses Blue to this day and has several replicas of it. At the age of 10, Billie's father died of cancer of the esophagus which spread throughout his body. His mother continued to work at Rod's Hickory Pit in Vallejo, California, to support herself and her six kids. Billie Joe and Mike later worked there as busboys. Two years after the death of his father, his mother remarried.
Billie was 10 when he met Mike Dirnt in the school cafeteria in 1982. During sleepovers at each other's houses, they played songs by old heavy metal warhorses such as Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard, and Van Halen. Other influences would be the "thrash and drang" of the Bay Area's alternative music culture percolating throughout the eighties. Clubs such as Mabuhay Gardens and Berkeley's 924 Gilman Street regularly showcased local groups like the Dead Kennedys and Buck Naked. He wrote his first song, "Why Do You Want Him", a song about his mother and his step father, when he was 14. At the age of 15, Billie, Mike, and a drummer named John Kiffmeyer formed a punk band and named themselves Sweet Children. Their first gig was actually at Rod's Hickory Pit. One day before his 18th birthday, and halfway through his senior year, Billie dropped out of high school (Pinole Valley High School) to devote all his time to Sweet Children. He knew what he wanted to do - play music, and school was just getting in the way. At this point, Billie had the nickname "Two Dollar Bill", referring to the price of the joints he sold.
In 1990, Kiffmeyer left the band to attend college. Billie and Mike were faced with the task of finding a new drummer. They knew the perfect fit, Tre Cool, a Gilman Street veteran, who was then playing in the Lookouts!. Later, Sweet Children was renamed Green Day. Before they knew it, they were traveling all over the country in an old bookmobile with Tre's dad at the wheel. They did all this with little money and staying at fans' houses. It was in Minneapolis in 1990 that Billie first laid eyes on his future wife, a girl named Adrienne Nesser. They dated for some time and then were married on July 2, 1994, a 5 minute ceremony. The day after their wedding, Adrienne found out she was pregnant. Their son, Joseph Marciano Armstrong, was born in March 1995. Three years later on September 12, 1998, another boy, Jakob Danger was added to the Armstrong family. Today, Billie, Adrienne, Joseph, and Jakob reside in Berkeley, California.
Sultry vocalist and pianist Norah Jones developed her unique blend of jazz and traditional vocal pop with hints of bluesy country and contemporary folk due in large part to her unique upbringing. Born March 30, 1979, in New York City, the daughter of Ravi Shankar quietly grew up in Texas with her mother. While she always found the music of Billie Holiday and Bill Evans both intriguing and comforting, she didn't really explore jazz until attending Dallas' Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. During high school, Jones won the Down Beat Student Music Awards for Best Jazz Vocalist and Best Original Composition in 1996, and earned a second Best Jazz Vocalist award in 1997. Putting her vocal talents on the back burner, Jones worked toward earning a degree in jazz piano at the University of North Texas for two years before accepting a friend's offer of a summer sublet in Greenwich Village during the summer of 1999.
Although she fully intended to return to college that fall, the lure of the folk coffeehouses and jazz clubs proved too strong and she was soon inspired to write her own songs. Jones appeared regularly with the trip-hop-electronica band Wax Poetic and assembled her own group around songwriters Jesse Harris (guitar) and Lee Alexander (bass), with Dan Rieser on drums. In October of 2000, the group recorded a handful of demos for Blue Note Records and on the strength of these recordings, Jones signed to the jazz label in early 2001. Following an appearance on Charlie Hunter's Songs from the Analog Playground, Jones spent much of 2001 performing live with Hunter's group and working on material for her debut.
Come Away with Me, recorded by Craig Street (Cassandra Wilson, Manhattan Transfer, k.d. lang) and legendary producer Arif Mardin (Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, the Bee Gees), was released in early 2002 and garnered much public attention. The combination of her striking beauty and the fact that she was the daughter of an internationally renowned musician placed Jones in the awkward position of defending her music from those who dismissed her as another pretty face (the same argument used by those opposed to Diana Krall) and/or another riding the coattails of her musical royal heritage (see Natalie Cole, Miki Coltrane, Corey Parker). Although not by any stretch a "jazz" album (the label chose to call it "jazz-informed"), it featured jazz guitarist Bill Frisell and session drummer Brian Blade, and indicated a new direction for Blue Note combining jazz aesthetics and talent with a pop sensibility. Come Away with Me eventually went multi-platinum, selling 18 million copies worldwide and winning Jones eight Grammy Awards.
In 2004, Jones released her highly anticipated follow-up album, Feels Like Home. Pairing once again with producer Arif Mardin, Jones pursued a similar approach to Come Away with Me, mixing '70s singer/songwriter-style tracks with blues, country, and her own mellow take on piano jazz. In 2003, Jones played in a group called the Little Willies along with Lee Alexander (bass), Richard Julian (guitar/vocals), Dan Rieser (drums), and Jim Campilongo (guitar), playing covers of classic American music like Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson. This one-off performance ultimately turned into sporadic shows at the venue whenever their individual schedules would allow, slowly incorporating original songs into their set along the way. In time, the Little Willies began considering the release of a live album, but instead wound up documenting their sound in the recording studio. Milking Bull Records issued the resultant self-titled album in March 2006.
Late in 2006, the single "Thinking About You" announced a return to her solo career. It landed on the album Not Too Late, released in early 2007. The Fall arrived in 2009, followed in 2010 by ...Featuring Norah Jones, a collection of musical collaborations. The following year Jones was asked to provide some vocals for Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) and Italian composer Daniele Luppi's spaghetti Western project, Rome. Burton returned the favor in 2012 by producing and co-writing the songs on Jones' fifth studio album, Little Broken Hearts. She next teamed with Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong in a project to re-create the classic 1958 Everly Brothers album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. Recorded in nine days with bassist Tim Luntzel and drummer Dan Rieser, Foreverly was released in 2013.