It’s that time of year again – the 21st night of September, made famous in Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1978 hit “September,” one of their catchiest, most beautiful songs.
The group hits on all cylinders: a trademark indestructible groove; horn section passages that reveal new subtleties even on the third or fourth listen; a bass part by the incomparable Verdine White that makes a virtual concerto for bass players; wistful lyrics about blue talk, love and memory; and the soaring, interlocking voices of the late Maurice White and soprano Philip Bailey.
The song only becomes more poignant in light of the number of people on it who are no longer with us. White, of course, as well as much of the sublime horn section: saxophonists Andrew Woolfolk and Don Myrick, as well as trombonist Louis Satterfield.
Co-writer Allee Willis — who also passed in 2019 — told Ultimate Classic Rock that she knew “September,” which was included as a new song on the group’s “Best of Earth, Wind & Fire Vol. 1” record, was a hit from the minute she heard the guitar intro. And she was hoping it was among the songs they wanted her to work on.
She added that the “ba-de-ya” of the chorus was White’s trademark filler collection of syllables when he didn’t have a lyric yet. She kept thinking they would let her write a “real” lyric there, but they never did. “I learned my greatest lesson ever in songwriting from him, which was never let the lyric get in the way of the groove,” Willis said. (That’s clear: They even left in a Verdine White slip-up at 0:15).
And why did they go with the 21st night of September? She said they tried a bunch of different numbers, and that’s just the one that felt the best. “I constantly have people coming up to me and they get so excited to know what the significance was,” she said. “And there is no significance beyond it just sang better than any of the other dates. So … sorry!”
The band hasn’t forgotten:
— Earth, Wind & Fire (@EarthWindFire) September 21, 2022
In conclusion: Yow.