‘One of the most requested songs’: On that mysterious date from Earth Wind and Fire’s ‘September’

A huge hit for Earth Wind and Fire in 1978, “September” is powered along by an iconic Philip Bailey vocal, a thunking Verdine White bassline, these brilliant stabs from the Phenix horns — and a date-specific lyric by Maurice White that remains a mystery to this day.

Just what happened on that 21st night of September? “You know, Maurice wrote that song, and I don’t even know,” Bailey tells Wendy Williams, laughing. “It must be something kinky.”

“September” emerged from the sessions that would produce I Am, but was included as part of a greatest-hits compilation — reaching No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts and No. 8 on the pop list. The song also was Top 5 in the UK. You’d think, in keeping, that Earth Wind and Fire would be booked up on that date, into perpetuity. But Bailey says the calendar doesn’t come into play with their biggest fans.

“Usually, people will have us change the lyrics,” he says. “If it’s December, they’ll say ‘change it to December.’ … But it’s one of the most requested songs globally 42 years later.”

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