September

Album: The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1 (1978)
Charted: 3 8
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Songfacts®:

  • 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 Songfacts: "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."

    Willis co-wrote most of the songs on Earth, Wind & Fire's next album I Am, including the hit "Boogie Wonderland."
  • 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."
  • There are many theories as to the significance of the "21st night of September" in the opening lyrics, and until 2018, even the song's co-writer, Allee Willis, was in the dark - Maurice White told her it had no real significance and was chosen because it sang well phonetically.

    White died in 2016; two years later, Willis was having lunch with his widow, Marilyn, who told her that September 21 was the due date for their son, Kahbran, and that Maurice put that specific date into the song as a secret message. Kahbran ended up being born early on August 1, which definitely wouldn't have the same ring to it as a lyric.
  • 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."

    "The main lesson I learned from Earth, Wind & Fire, especially Maurice White, was never let a lyric get in the way of a groove," she added. "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."
  • 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).
  • Taylor Swift released an airy, banjo-and-acoustic-guitar version of this song on April 13, 2018 that provoked ire on social media. Her recording was part of a Spotify promotion; she explained that she covered it for "sentimental reasons" and because the month of September is when one of her memorable breakups occurred.

    Philip Bailey of EW&F came to her defense, tweeting,"Music is free like that… Ain't Got Nothing But Love for Ya."

Comments: 13

  • Yul from CaliforniaRE the commenter who questioned Allee Willis’ account of Maurice White’s book recommendation: “The Greatest Salesman in the World” was first published in the 1960s. It was REISSUED in 1983. It would have been just the thing that one would look for in a “spiritual book store” in 1978.
  • Cyberpope from Richmond, Bc, Canada The 21st of September is also the Autumnal Equinox (start of Fall); a date significant in pagan/Earth religions globally.
  • Dt from Perdido Beachjust an awesome R&B/pop standard. It will get people dancing
  • Siahara Shyne Carter from United StatesThe Orginal is the coolest version!!!!
    Although I have Justin Timberlake version in "Trolls" movie lol If had time I will download the Orginal Version
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: www.legacy.com {12-25-2019}
    Allee Willis, songwriter who was nominated for an Emmy Award for writing the theme song to 'Friends', “I’ll Be There for You", passed away at the age of 72 on December 24th, 2019 in a Los Angeles-area hospital...
    She worked with Earth, Wind & Fire frequently, co-writing their hits including “September"*, “Boogie Wonderland,” and “In the Stone.” Willis won two Grammy Awards, one for co-writing the music and lyrics for the stage adaptation of “The Color Purple,” and the other for her work for the “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack, for which she co-wrote the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance” and Patti LaBelle’s “Stir it Up.” Her other notable songwriting credits include the Pet Shop Boys’ “What Have I Done to Deserve This” and Bonnie Raitt’s “Got You on My Mind.” She was a 2018 inductee to the Songwriters Hall of Fame...
    May she R.I.P.
    * On April 4th, 1979 "September" by Earth, Wind, & Fire peaked at #8 {for 1 week} on Billboard's Top 100 chart...
  • Debra from WisconsinI always loved this song from its inception. Eerily enough, my soul-mate died on the 21st day of September, so even though it has no significance for the writers, it does for me. In fact, they also talk about December and my husband's birthday and mine were on the same day in December.
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaHow could Maurice have sent her to buy a book in the '70s that was not written until 1983?
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn 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.
  • Phil Palma from Warner Robins, GeorgiaI 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!
  • Lisa from Milwaukee, Wi, WiWhat a fun, upbeat song. My b-day is Sept. 21, so this is MY song!
  • Craig from Missoula, MtNice recent cover by Pomplamoose.
  • Linda from New York City, FlYES...I agree!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this song...fills my heart with happiness every time I hear it.
  • James from Hudson, FlI love this song! Who else agrees with me?
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