How September by Earth, Wind & Fire Became a Timeless Classic

by Alex Harris

29th November, 2023

How September by Earth, Wind & Fire Became a Timeless Classic

The Story Behind the Lyrics, the Music, and the Cultural Impact

The Genesis of a Masterpiece

September by Earth, Wind & Fire is a song that transcends time and genre. Released on November 18, 1978, this masterpiece not only showcased the band’s musical prowess but also set a new standard in the R&B and soul genres. The creation of September is a story of artistic collaboration and innovation, beginning with Al McKay’s foundational four-chord progression and Maurice White’s melodic ingenuity, paving the way for lyrical excellence.

Earth Wind & Fire performing Photo @Instagram
Earth Wind & Fire performing Photo @Instagram

The Lyrical Journey: From “Ba-dee-ya” to Cultural Lexicon

The lyrics of September, a collaborative effort by Allee Willis, Al McKay, and Maurice White, stand out for their simplicity and infectious charm. Willis’s first encounter with the song’s intro, as she recounted to NPR, was a defining moment, signaling her involvement in what she perceived as “the happiest-sounding song in the world.” The chorus’s “Ba-dee-ya” epitomises the song’s essence, a phrase Maurice White insisted upon, prioritising the song’s vibe over literal meaning. This approach taught Willis an invaluable lesson in songwriting: the groove is paramount.

The Musical Tapestry: A Blend of Genres

Beyond being a quintessential late ‘70s R&B soul jam, September is a rich tapestry of diverse musical influences. The doo-wop elements, especially evident in the falsetto vocals of Philip Bailey and Maurice White, pay tribute to the foundational sounds of American music. The Phenix Horns add a vibrant layer, while Verdine White’s bass anchors the rhythm, inviting listeners to dance. This amalgamation of styles results in a sound that is both timeless and universally appealing.

The Cultural Resonance: More Than Just Lyrics

The song’s impact extends well beyond its memorable lyrics. The line “Do you remember the 21st night of September?” has evolved from a simple lyric to a symbol of joy and celebration. The song’s power to evoke nostalgia and happiness has made it a mainstay in various forms of media and a favorite for celebrations globally. Its frequent use in films, TV shows, and commercials further solidifies its status in popular culture.

The Significance of September 21st

An intriguing aspect of the song’s story is the significance of the date mentioned in the lyrics. Initially believed to be chosen for its sound, it was later revealed by Maurice White’s widow in 2018 that September 21st held personal significance as the due date of their son. This revelation adds a deeper, more intimate dimension to the song, blending White’s personal life with his artistic expression.

The Legacy Continues

Today, September by Earth, Wind & Fire remains an emblem of exuberant music. Its ability to resonate with diverse audiences underscores its status not just as a song, but as a cultural phenomenon. As we explore the lyrics, phrases like “wake me up when September ends” gain new meaning, reflecting the song’s enduring appeal. The continued popularity of September is a tribute to its universal charm and the brilliance of its creators.

September is more than a composition with engaging lyrics; it represents a musical odyssey that continues to captivate listeners globally. Its fusion of soulful melodies, poignant lyrics, and cultural relevance has secured its place as an everlasting classic in the music world.

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