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September by Earth, Wind & Fire

Album: The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1Released: 1978Charted:
  • This song has a tendency to make people happy when they hear it. Allee Willis, who wrote the song with Maurice White and Al McKay from Earth, Wind & Fire, describes it as "Joyful Music."

    It was the first song Willis wrote with the band, and quite a learning experience. She told us: "Their stuff was very much based on Eastern philosophies, an incredibly positive outlook on life; the lyrical content of their songs was not typical of what would have been in soul music at that time. So when I left the studio that first day, Maurice gave me the name of a book, it was called The Greatest Salesman In The World, and he sent me to the Bodhi Tree, which is a very spiritual bookstore here in LA. I got that and a bunch of other books that the saleswoman said was the philosophy. And what went from being a very simple experience turned into, for me, an incredibly complex experience. Because I dove into these books.

    And even the way they were written, the language they were written in, I kind of didn't understand anything. But Maurice told me right from the jump he thought I was a very spiritual person, and I was put here to communicate. And I thought, if Maurice was saying that to me, I need to hang with this.

    I was pouring through these books for a couple of months. Lyrics started being 25-30 pages long as I'm trying to figure all this stuff out. Reading all that stuff changed me forever. He lead me to a path I've stayed on.

    "So 'September' was fantastic and thrilling, and they had started the intro of it by the time I had walked into the studio to meet everyone. Just as I opened the door and I heard that little guitar intro, I thought, Oh God, please let this be what they want to work with me on. Because it was so obviously a hit." (Here's our full Allee Willis interview. Her website is alleewillis.com.)
  • According to Maurice White, he got the idea for this song in an unlikely place: a hotel room in Washington DC while there was some kind of protest going on below. Said White, "There's all these cats screaming and throwing things and going crazy and this tune just evolved."
  • While there are many theories as to the "21st night of September" in the opening lyrics, the truth is they just felt right. Willis told us: "Maurice had that very first line, and I said to him, 'Why the 21st?' Because I'm someone who likes to tie up all the ends very neatly, so if I'm saying the 21st, I want to know during the song what's the significance. But he always told me there was no real significance. So whether that's true or not I can't say. But as far as I know, it's just something that sang really well. And I would say the main lesson I learned from Earth, Wind & Fire, especially Maurice White, was never let a lyric get in the way of a groove. Ultimately it's the feel that is the most important, and someone will feel what you're saying if those words fit in there right. I do remember us experimenting with other dates, but 21st just sang phonetically fantastic."

    Willis co-wrote most of the songs on Earth, Wind & Fire's next album I Am, including the hit "Boogie Wonderland."
  • Although many people hear the first words in the chorus as "Party On," it's really "Bada-Ya." Allee Willis explained in her Songfacts interview: "I absolutely could not deal with lyrics that were nonsensical, or lines that weren't complete sentences. And I'm exceedingly happy that I lost that attitude. I went, 'You cannot leave bada-ya in the chorus, that has to mean something.' Maurice said, 'No, that feels great. That's what people are going to remember. We're leaving it.' We did try other stuff, and it always sounded clunky - thank God."
  • This was written specifically for Earth, Wind & Fire's greatest hits album The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1. Along with their cover of "Got To Get You Into My Life," it was one of two new songs included on the set, which became their best-selling album and helped the band cross over to a broader audience.
  • Movies that used this song include Night at the Museum, The Ringer, Soul Food, Dan In Real Life and Babel.
  • In our interview with EW&F bass player Verdine White, he talked about the song's lasting influence. "People now are getting married on September 21st," he said. "The stock market goes up on September 21st. Every kid I know now that is in their 20s, they always thank me because they were born on September 21st."
  • This was featured on the NBC spy comedy Chuck in the 2010 episode "Chuck Versus the Living Dead." On the show, Buy More manager Big Mike claims he was once a member of the band back when they were called Earth, Wind, Fire & Rain (he was Rain).
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Comments: 6

On February 3rd 1979, "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire peaked at #8 (for 1 week) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on November 12th, 1978 and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100...
It reached #1 (for 1 week) on January 7th, 1973 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
Was track 2 of side 2 from the group's album, "The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1", the album reached #3 on Billboard's R&B Albums chart and #6 on the Top 200 Albums chart...
Even though the song appeared on a 'Best of' album, it was not previously released as a single.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I am a white 52 year old singer, guitarist, writer, producer. I saw EW&F at Madison Square back in the late 70's. Changed my life. My band played serveral EW&F songs. At one gig, the owner of the club came in and said "want to meet Larry Dunn, of EW&F?" We were all blown away. In came Larry, dressed to the 9's.... and all gentleman! He gave us his time because we were young (19 & 20 year olds) musicians. Long live EW&F. God bless you all!Phil Palma - Warner Robins, Georgia
What a fun, upbeat song. My b-day is Sept. 21, so this is MY song!Lisa - Milwaukee, Wi, Wi
Nice recent cover by Pomplamoose.Craig - Missoula, Mt
YES...I agree!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this song...fills my heart with happiness every time I hear it.Linda - New York City, Fl
I love this song! Who else agrees with me?James - Hudson, Fl
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