Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) song meaning
Good Riddance is one of the most popular Green Day songs. The song was used in the 2-hour finale of the Seinfeld show, and ever since then has been frequently played at weddings and graduations. It has over a dozen interpretations ranging from death to being drunk. Some consider this song a betrayal of the punk roots, others say this is the most punk thing the band has ever done. Like most good songs, Good Riddance means something different to each of its listeners.
Armstrong wrote this song when his girlfriend was moving to Ecuador. He wrote the song under the title "Time of Your Life" as a sarcastic expression of the bitterness of this break up, sort of saying "you trashed my heart, I hope you had fun". Later his attitude to the relationship outcome changed and he gave the song a new name - "Good Riddance", putting its original name in parenthesis. An end of a relationship is a "turning point" that makes you look back and think of what you've been through and realize that "it's something unpredictable, but in the end is right"; whatever happened was meant to be.
No one knows what happens after one dies, hence "it's something unpredictable", but death is inevitable, natural "and in the end is right". When you lose someone you love, it's a huge turning point, and all you have left of them now is memories. "So take the photographs and still frames in your mind" - you keep them in your heart and hope that they are in a better place. Then again, sometimes, no matter how cruel it is, someone's death can be a "good riddance".
The song was written some time before the release of Dookie, the first album that the band released on a major label. That was the time when Green Day were rejected by the punk community and labeled 'sell outs'. A lot of their fans from earlier days turned their backs on the band because they believed that a punk band cannot be popular, and since Green Day were popular - they were not punk anymore.
This creates a theory that Good Riddance might be a message to those unfaithful fans who failed to understand the true meaning of punk and couldn't stay devoted to their favorite band because of a stereotype. Who needs those fans anyway? Good riddance.
A lot of people started calling Green Day sell-outs after they released Good Riddance, since acoustic songs are a main-stream prerogative and should not be played by punk bands. Nevertheless, Good Riddance could be considered one of the most punk things the band has ever done, since punk is about rebelling against the norms. So, releasing an acoustic song for a punk band is going against the norms, doing what you want and not what you're supposed to - and that's exactly what punk is about.
Something might have triggered writing this song, but it's not just about a relationship or death or a certain turning point, it's about life in general, and everything that's in it. The song is full of lines of eternal wisdom, like "so, make the best of this test and don't ask why - it's not a question, but a lesson learned in time". Indeed, when we go through hard times, we often ask a higher being, ourselves and everyone around "Why? Why did this happen to me?" But we never get the answer, because "it's not a question, but a lesson learned in time" - something we're supposed to find out as we go through life. "So take the photographs and still frames in your mind" - memories is something we need to hold on to at any point in life because they can get you through anything and make you realize that "for what it's worth it was worth all the while". In the end, life itself is "something unpredictable, but in the end is right". We don't always control it, don't always like it, but in the end it's what it was meant to be. And when it's over - "I hope you had the time of your life".