Billie Joe Armstrong Says Eddie Van Halen Cried When They Met and Told Him 'You're the Only One That Understands Me'

"He had tears coming down his eyes, and I didn't really know what to say," recalled the Green Day frontman of meeting the late rock icon

Billie Joe Armstrong's meeting with the late Eddie Van Halen was more emotional than expected.

In a new interview on The Howard Stern Show, the Green Day frontman opened up about his longtime Van Halen fandom and recalled meeting the rock icon at one of his shows, describing the memory as a "heavy experience."

Armstrong, 51, said Van Halen was his "favorite band" growing up, revealing that he "cried" upon seeing the rockers perform at age 12 in 1984. "It’s like his guitar playing came from a different place. He reinvented how to play guitar," explained the musician. "But they also wrote great songs, that’s the main thing that I took away from Van Halen. The songs were just so f---ing great."

Related: Billie Joe Armstrong on Managing Addiction, Mental Health: 'There's No Shame' (Exclusive)

<p>Gilbert Flores/Penske Media via Getty; Jerod Harris/Getty</p> Billie Joe Armstrong and Eddie Van Halen

Gilbert Flores/Penske Media via Getty; Jerod Harris/Getty

Billie Joe Armstrong and Eddie Van Halen

He then spoke about meeting Eddie, who died at age 65 of cancer in 2020, following one of the band's concerts. "It was right when Van Halen got back together with David Lee Roth. Me and a bunch of friends got on a plane, and we went to go see them in Kansas City," said Armstrong, explaining that he chose the location to avoid the celebrity-filled nature of a Los Angeles concert.

The pre-show backstage meeting "was kind of an emotional thing," recalled the "American Idiot" singer-songwriter. "First, we went back and I met [Eddie's son Wolfgang], who was super cool, and then they were like, ‘Do you want to meet Eddie?’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ And so he’s back there, and he’s got his guitar on, he’s plugged in, and it’s like he’s talking to me and shredding at the same time, and I was just like, 'Oh my God!'"

Armstrong, a fellow guitarist, remarked that he noticed Eddie had "gigantic" hands. "I grabbed his hands and I looked at them, and I was like, 'Dude, your hands are so…' He’s like, ‘Oh I got arthritis now and blah blah blah.’ And then, like, this really insane thing happened, where he kind of started crying," he said.

<p>Cindy Ord/Getty</p> Tré Cool, Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt of Green Day in New York City on Jan. 17, 2024

Cindy Ord/Getty

Tré Cool, Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt of Green Day in New York City on Jan. 17, 2024

Related: Billie Joe Armstrong Breaks Down Green Day's Biggest Hits — and Reveals Which One They Almost Gave Away (Exclusive)

The Grammy winner told Stern, 70, the meeting then became more sentimental than he expected. "He looked at me, and he put his hand behind my neck, and he goes, ‘You’re the only one that understands me.’ He had tears coming down his eyes," he continued. "I didn’t really know what to say."

Despite feeling seemingly overwhelmed, Armstrong was able to muster up a response. "I was like, ‘Man you have no idea how much you’ve meant to me as a musician and as a songwriter.’ He’s like, ‘People think I’m an alien because of the way I play,’ and I’m like, ‘It’s all about your songs,’ and he goes, ‘Exactly, exactly.’ It was this really kind of heavy experience."

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<p>Daniel Boczarski/Getty </p> Green Day perform in Milwaukee in July 2023

Daniel Boczarski/Getty

Green Day perform in Milwaukee in July 2023

Related: Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong on His 29-Year Marriage: 'We've Always Come Out Stronger' (Exclusive)

Before heading out into the crowd to watch the concert, Armstrong witnessed a sweet exchange between Eddie and his 32-year-old son. "Wolfgang came in, and Eddie’s shredding, and he’s going, ‘Dad, dad, dad … we have to tune,'" he explained. "They weren’t using a tuner, and then Eddie said the coolest thing, it was like a father-son moment: he goes, ‘Do you want to tune to me, or do you want me to tune to you?'"

"That kind of bond that a father and son had as musicians, it always stuck with me as this beautiful thing," added Armstrong.

Green Day's new album Saviors is out Friday.

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