Social media is a little more funky today as people ask, “Remember the night of September 21?”
In 2019, Los Angeles even declared the date âEarth, Wind and Fire Dayâ. But what is the significance of September 21 in the band’s chart-topping song?
Some, including a professor of music theory at New York University, interpret it as a reference to the last day of summer. The day before the astronomical start of autumn. This is not a bad guess given that de facto conductor Maurice White had a strong interest in astrology at the time. In fact, the name of the group comes from elements of its astrological sign.
Is September 21 even the last day of summer? It’s this year, but it was the eve of the last day of summer in September 1978 when Earth, Wind and Fire were in the studio recording the song for their upcoming album “The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol . 1 “
When is the last day of summer?
The first astronomical day of fall falls (pun intended) roughly equal between September 22 and 23. The variation arises from the time lag between the length of the calendar year and the tropical year, or the time it takes the Earth to travel around the Sun.
Fall begins tomorrow with the September equinox when the Sun is directly over the equator at 3:20 p.m. EDT. This point in time occurs approximately 6 hours later each year, except in leap years where this forward progression is erased and the equinox occurs 18 hours earlier.
Looking back in the eastern time zone from the switch to the Gregorian calendar in October 1582, the September equinox occurs on September 22 in 50.6% of years and September 23 in 48.3% of years.
It last fell on September 24 in 1903 and 1904, as the leap year was skipped in 1900 (every 4 years except years divisible by 100, but not by 400, complexity necessary to better align with this tropical year 365.24219). You have to go back to the end of the 15th century to find a September equinox on the 21st.
If we look at the Pacific time zone where the band lives, 4% of those last summer evenings are on September 21, but that’s still not where the song’s date came from.
Allee Willis shared the story of the song before its 2018 Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee. This Grammy, Emmy and Tony-winning songwriter has also collaborated with Bob Dylan, James Brown, Patti LaBelle and Herbie Hancock, wrote the 1995 Rembrandts hit “I’ll Be There for.” You (Theme from Friends) âand co-wrote Broadway musicalâ The Color Purple â.
âIt was the very first song I wrote with Maurice White. It was within five minutes of our meeting,â Willis told American Songwriter Magazine. the one they want me to work on! ‘ It was the happiest thing I have ever heard. “
White and Willis disagreed throughout the three months of writing the song to the lyrics of “ba-dee-ya” throughout the song. Willis explained in an interview with the Library of Congress.
In the song’s last recording session, White won and the lyrics stuck. Willis described in a 2014 interview with NPR what she called her “biggest songwriting lesson … never let lyrics get in the way of the groove.”
“There is no meaning beyond that, just sung better than any other date.”