It was the 1970s, and Dale Lewis and Pete Wentz II were legislative assistants on the Hill working for a well-liked Democratic senator from Delaware named Joseph R. Biden Jr. Lewis worked in the Foreign Service office, while Wentz was coming off a successful stint on Biden’s election campaign. Like many young politicos whose paths crossed, they hit it off, eventually got hitched and moved out of D.C.
The couple headed to Winnetka, Illinois, an affluent suburb of Chicago, and started a family. Lewis and Wentz couldn’t have predicted their son, showing a knack for bass guitar, would go on to become a founding member of one of the most beloved pop-punk bands of the past three decades.
Yes, we have former Vice President Joe Biden to thank for Fall Out Boy and Pete Wentz.
And now, as Biden gears up for the home stretch in his presidential campaign, pop-punkers who grew up stanning From Under the Cork Tree are finding a new reason to head to the polls. Maybe Biden will make emo great again.
Wentz doesn’t shy away from sharing his political origin story. The bassist hosted a Chicago fundraiser to campaign for Obama and Biden in 2008. On Election Day that year, Wentz said “Thnks fr th Mmrs” to Joe: “I would not be standing here actually, in reality, at all, because my parents met working for Biden,” he told the Associated Press.
He also penned a long-lost blog post about why he was voting for the Democratic nominees. The letter included a quote from his father outlining how he met his wife: “We started out as friends and the rest is history.” Thank you for all you’ve done for moody teens everywhere, Mr. Wentz II.
There’s an adorable photo of baby Pete Wentz held in the arms of a young Biden, his mom standing by. “That picture is me, Joe Biden and my mom — wow I’m like the same height still,” Wentz captioned the photo.
It’s a cute story, but let’s look at the bigger picture: Biden’s inadvertent impact on not just pop-punk, but 2010s pop and celebrity culture. Without Wentz, we’d have no Decaydance (now DCD2) Records, home to Panic! at the Disco, the Academy Is…, Cobra Starship and Gym Class Heroes — some of the biggest alt-pop groups of the late 2000s and early 2010s. And if we have no Panic!, that means we have no Brendon Urie, which means we don’t have his so-bad-it’s-good feature on Taylor Swift’s 2019 song “ME!”
This butterfly effect continues with Gym Class Heroes. No GCH means no Travie McCoy, which means no romance with Katy Perry. She wouldn’t have written Teenage Dream’s deeply underrated hit “Circle the Drain” about their tumultuous relationship.
But Dems, where is your boy tonight? Wentz isn’t as politically outspoken this election cycle. He’s not in the press like he was in 2008 while married to Ashlee Simpson. Still, his influence is helping some voters feel more connected to Biden.
As longtime Fall Out Boy fan Cassie Rohlfing tells me, “If someone I respected has this fun, totally random connection to the candidate, it’s a sort of fun way to endorse and put support behind him.”