If this is the second go-round for this, I obviously missed the first one… or maybe I just didn’t pay any attention to it. Anyway… music as a muse; a great topic for someone who’s a musician.
So… “September,” a song by Earth, Wind & Fire. Bouncy. Lively. Nice groove and the Phoenix Horns strutting their stuff. Oddly a song some music critics didn’t like so much… but who asked them? It’s music I grew up with and from a group where you knew their music would be so good that when your heard they had a new album out, you went and got it as fast as you could.
I was born in September so the title, if not the song’s lyrics, tends to resonate with me. I had to really sit and think about exactly when the song was released – 1978 and on their greatest hits album and probably as a “filler” kind of piece and, usually, groups use such an album to introduce new music that didn’t make other releases.
1978 was a rough year; unemployment was pretty bad, lots of weed being smoked and, I thought, because the “let’s get high and just chill” thing was a good idea given the strifes of the time. All anyone wanted was a break, that chance to get their foot in the door and those who didn’t have a high school diploma or GED, let alone a college degree was finding it very difficult to get a job making any kind of “decent” money… and even if you had one – and like I did – that wasn’t a sure thing.
But in the music of the time, a lot of people found a way to escape the craziness and this particular song, with it’s bouncy beat and groove as well as its horns – something else that was a thing in the 70s with groups like Chicago and Tower of Power – well, it was a nice song to listen to, that and Earth, Wind & Fire had a way of “sneaking in” messages in their songs that could inspire or otherwise say to you that you just just hang in there and everything will be okay.
The song, to me, was about remembering happier times and I remember hearing the opening lyrics about the 21st of September and quipping, “What, you couldn’t have said the 23rd?” which, of course, was the day I was born. And, indeed: With the way things were going back then, remembering happier times and, yeah, even doing a lot of dancing, was better than worrying about getting a job or where your next meal was coming from or having a roof over your head.
If nothing else, you could always count on Earth, Wind & Fire to come out with a song that could lift your spirits or get you thinking about being in love. It was fun to get their latest album, throw it on the turntable, and just sit and listen for that one song that would mean something to you. The musician in me didn’t always pay so much attention to the lyrics and when I first heard “September,” I was deep into the song’s arrangement, using that special ability many musicians had to be able to single out the different parts and even see the notes in my head and as if the sheet music was right in front of me.
If nothing else, it took my mind off of whatever might have been bugging me and the song had a nice beat to walk to when I’d trudge my way to the restaurant I worked in. Sitting around with friends and family and just listening to their music was like an oasis of sorts… and a little wine and weed didn’t hurt much either.
“September” was a song from a time that, when compared to today, was actually easier in a lot of ways… but not without its own moments that sucked and not in a good way; for those who lived it, bleh, shit could have been better and a lot of people were falling into the pit of hopelessness. But this song, and like many others written at that time, was real music performed by real musicians and led by Maurice White who just seemed to have a way with music and lyrics. He could reach you, touch you with his lyrics and for the more upbeat songs, could get you on your feet and dancing like no one was watching you.
Because for a lot of people, there just wasn’t anything else to do.