September 19, 2019

Bob Gruen on New ‘Green Day’ Book, What His Bar Mitzvah Taught Him

Photo courtesy of the Bob Gruen Archive

Bob Gruen is not only one of the most famous rock photographers of all-time, but one of its most prolific as well. If you’ve seen a photo of John Lennon wearing a “New York City” t-shirt, Gruen took it. If you’ve seen a photo of Led Zeppelin standing in front of an airplane with the band’s logo on it, Gruen took it. He has captured countless iconic images over the past five decades that even casual rock fans have grown accustomed to seeing within books and printed merchandise.

The latest book by Bob Gruen is “Green Day.” Authorized by the California-based band, “Green Day” includes a foreword by frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and commentary by Armstrong and his bandmates Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool. It also features a foreword by Jesse Malin, a singer/songwriter who toured with Green Day while fronting the punk band D-Generation. Many of the photos featured in Gruen’s book – which span 20-something years – were previously unpublished.

I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with Bob Gruen and the highlights of such are below.

Jewish Journal: Do you remember the first time you heard Green Day? Was it the song “Longview?”

Bob Gruen: The first time I saw Green Day was on the live TV show at Woodstock festival 1994. The first time I saw them live was at the release party for “Nimrod” at the Don Hill’s club in New York in 1997.

JJ: How long was it between hearing them and meeting them for the first time?

BG: We met when I went to London and Paris with D-Generation who were opening for Green Day in February 1998.

JJ: Did you immediately click with the band? Or was it just an assignment for you?

BG: I was never on any assignment for Green Day, not for a magazine or the band themselves. We liked each other when we met and they were happy to have me come to take photos and I was happy to see their shows and hang with them.

JJ: How long did you spend putting this book together?

BG: 25 years of taking photos, a few months negotiating the contract with the publishers and 6 months in layout and getting the quotes and details.

JJ: Do you have a favorite shot or section of the book?

BG: All the photos in the book are favorites, but most of all the cover picture which is a return to a photo I took of The Clash in the same place above New York City.

JJ: Any other books in the works at the moment?

BG: I’m currently finishing a biography to be published in the Spring.

JJ: As this is for the Jewish Journal I feel compelled to ask: Were you bar mitzvahed?

BG: I had my bar mitzvah when I was 13 and I learned to question everything.

JJ: What was the last concert you attended for fun?

BG: I go out all the time to see friends play, but the last big show I saw was at the Fuji Festival in the mountains of Japan.

JJ: Finally, Bob, any last words for the kids?

BG: Rock & roll is the freedom to express your feelings, very loudly, in public!


You can buy “Green Day” on Amazon by clicking here. More on Bob Gruen can be found online.