Soul Serenade: Earth, Wind & Fire – “September”

Written by Ken Shane's Soul Serenade, Music

Right in the middle of their epic hit making career, Earth, Wind & Fire delivered one of the most indelible singles of all time. Ken Shane remembers “September”

You’ve surely seen those desert island lists here on Popdose, and in other places. But what if you had to choose a song, just one song, that has the ability to lift your spirits even when the whole world is crumbling around you? A song that you can get you up and moving when all you want to do is lie down and sleep. A song that finds you trying out your falsetto voice at top volume, even if you have no falsetto voice. For me, that song would be the 1978 Earth, Wind & Fire hit, “September”.

Earth, Wind & Fire, led by Maurice White, were already superstars by the time they recorded “September.” In fact they were right in the middle of their hit-making career. Their first top ten single, 1975’s “Shining Star,” was three years behind them. Their last top ten hit, 1981’s “Let’s Groove,” was three years away. In short, it was prime time for EW&F, and did they ever deliver.

“September” was written by White, along with Al McKay, and Allee Willis. It features a joyfully infectious chorus, delivered in a remarkable falsetto vocal performance (come on, you’ve tried to sing along, you know you have) by Philip Bailey. His vocal, combined with an insistent percussion track, and the usual sterling performances by the EW&F horns, and the extraordinary bassist Verdine White power “September” into the soul stratosphere.

The single was released by Columbia on November 18, 1978. “September” quickly earned its spot on The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire Vol. 1, which was released just days later. It was a shooting star on the Billboard charts where it reached #1 on the R&B chart, and #8 on the Hot 100. “September” has had a powerful afterlife, appearing in numerous films and tv shows. Al Gore even used it as his campaign theme song during his historic run for the Presidency in 2000.

Earth, Wind & Fire was a hit making machine throughout the ’70s and into the ’80s. They created a number of indelible soul hits, and they’re still out there today delighting audiences at every stop on the road. But I started by talking about that one song. For me, it’s “September.” What is it for you?

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