History of September 21: Earth, Wind & Fire
When the band Earth, Wind & Fire released the feel-good song September in 1978, it broke into the Top 10 and has been one of their biggest commercial successes. However, it was originally released on November 18 of that year as a new song on the album “The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1.”
Rolling Stone magazine calls September one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” and Billboard magazine ranked it sixth on their top singles.
It’s sold over a million physical copies and over two million digital copies in the U.S. In 2018, it was inducted into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, not bad for a 40-year-old song.
It starts with:
Do you remember
The twenty-first night of September?
Love was changin’ the minds of pretenders
While chasin’ the clouds away
Our hearts were ringin’
In the key that our souls were singin’
As we danced in the night, remember
How the stars stole the night away, oh yeah…
The question “Do you remember?” followed by the supplied memories have made this a perennial favorite. Fans of the band even hold “21st Night in September” parties worldwide every year. People pick September 21 as their wedding day!
Though the song appeared during the disco period, it contains a mix of funk, boogie, Latin-flavored horns, and a circular chord pattern.
Check out the official HD video:
Origin of September
Maurice White, the leader of Earth, Wind & Fire, called Allee Willis, a struggling Los Angeles songwriter, and asked her to co-write the band’s next album.
While the night of September 21 is close to the Autumnal Equinox, marking the end of Summer, songwriter Allee Willis said there is no significance to the date. However, years later, when she was meeting with Marilyn White, the widow of Maurice White, she learned from her that September 21 was the due date of their son, Kahbran.
September by Earth, Wind & Fire: Live
I’ve seen Earth, Wind & Fire live a couple of times, and I must say: they’re kinetic. Here’s my review from their 2005 concert at Red Rocks in Colorado when they were performing with Chicago:
What Does It Mean: Ba-dee-ya?
Willis had some heartburn with White’s addition of his famous chorus. After asking him to rewrite it, he told her, who cares? She learned the biggest lesson of her songwriting career at that moment:
“Never let the lyric get in the way of the groove”
The End of September?
The song concludes with:
Say, do you remember?
Dancin’ in September
Never was a cloudy day
Stay tuned for the holidays. Earth, Wind & Fire recorded a new version of the song, retitled “December,” for their 2014 Christmas album Holiday.
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian