The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #94: September by Earth, Wind and Fire (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song and going until I reach Song . When you see the song title listed as something like: Song (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #94: September by Earth, Wind and Fire.

As a writer, one of the risks that you face when you centre your story around an event or a particular date in time, is that the date/event ends up becoming the focus of your piece of writing and will detract from whatever message your story may have contained otherwise. Sometimes, fixating on a specific moment in time may cause your work to feel “dated” at some future time. However, there are some songs in which the inclusion of a specific date adds to the allure of the song; especially, when that date is left unexplained. Such is the case of “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire. By now, in this Age of Information that we live in, whether you are a fan of the band or not, you get inundated with references to this song as we approach “the 21st night of September”. But, what, exactly, is the deal with September 21st, that caused a whole song to be built around it? The truth is that September 21 was not just some random date nor was it a date chosen because of how the words/syllables sounded when they were sung (although there is some truth to that last part). The real reason for choosing September 21st had something to do with lead singer, Maurice White; a secret that he took to the grave with him when he died a few years ago. It was only upon his death that he allowed the real reason to become known. If you want to find out what it was, read on, my friends, for all shall be revealed.

The song, “September” was written specifically as a new, original song to be added to an album called, “Earth, Wind and Fire: Greatest Hits, Volume ”. The song was written by White, along with a songwriter named Allee Willis. At the time Willis met up with White, it was the early 1970s and, like many bands of the day, the members of Earth, Wind and Fire were dabbling in the “Mysteries of the East”. Before working with Willis (which White had never done before), he gave her a book called, “The Greatest Salesman in the World”, as well as, leads on where to find other books on Eastern philosophy and then, he sent her away, telling her to read up and then come back when she had absorbed this new knowledge. So, she left White and began her homework. By the time she was finished, Willis claims that a sense of Joyfulness was filling her heart and mind. When she returned to where the band was rehearsing, White played a bit of the instrumental structure that would become, “September” and, from there, they wrote the lyrics to the song.

At one point on the song, the nonsense word, “Ba-dee-ya” repeats itself, over and over again. As Willis and White were writing, Willis claimed to have asked White to change “Ba-dee-ya” because it sounded silly. He replied that the syllables matched the notes of the song in such a way that it made perfect sense to him. But, more than that, Willis learned that in an Earth, Wind and Fire song, White never let the lyrics get in the way of the groove of the song and so, “Ba-dee-ya” stayed and has become a joyous mantra to be sung/chanted as the song, September” is played.

Now, as for the significance of the date…..for years and years, as “September” grew in popularity and became a staple of all live Earth, Wind and Fire shows, members of the band were constantly being asked what the significance was to the date of “September 21st”. For almost four decades, the answer given was always the same, “September 21st is just a date that sounds good when it is sung with the groove of the song”. And, while there was some truth to that line, it was not the real reason. In an interview with Maurice White’s widow, Marilyn, in 2016, she revealed that September 21st held tremendous personal significance for her and for Maurice. As she stated, she was pregnant and expecting their first child around the time that Maurice was thinking of writing this song. The due date she was given by her family doctor was, you guessed it, September 21st! Marilyn White said that Maurice was filled with Joy at the prospect of becoming a father for the first time and wrote “September” specifically to commemorate the birth of his child. She said that every single time he performed that song live, he did so as a way of signalling to his son (as the baby turned out to be) that his arrival had changed his life for the better and that he was loved unreservedly.

For most people, “September” strikes them as a happy song. The lyrics lead you to believe it is about falling in love or else, celebrating the love that you have with your partner. To a point, that is correct but, as you now know, the message of the song is not just about loving your partner, it is about “Family” and the completeness that having a family brings. So, let this date, “the 21st night of September” be forever remembered for Family and for Love!

So, without further delay, let’s all enjoy one of the most positive and upbeat songs of all-time. Here is “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire. Enjoy!

The link to the video for the song, “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Earth, Wind and Fire, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting all manner of artists and bands. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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