For today’s “special day:” Five great EW&F tracks

by | Sep 21, 2023 | Arts and Entertainment | 1 comment

Do you remember? We come together on a special day — Sept. 21, the date mentioned in “September,” everyone’s favorite Earth, Wind & Fire song.

But as I went through my various EW&F song lists and CDs to celebrate Earth, Wind & Fire Day, this heretical thought kept recurring: “September,” as great as it is, isn’t my favorite EW&F song. In fact, I don’t think it would make my top five. So, for Earth, Wind & Fire Day, let’s run through five favorite EW&F tracks — or, at least, my favorite five today. (If you disagree with any of my picks, let’s take it outside — or at least to the comments section below.)

  1. “Serpentine Fire.” I just love how it sounds, the chattering (and complicated-sounding) percussion, the way that the horns slither in and out, just like — well — serpentine tongues of fire. Still not sure what the song is about, though. It appears to be about some kind of test. Maurice White confesses during the song that he loses the test occasionally — but then, in a tossed-off line, says “Not many times.” I love that.
  2. “Getaway.” The studio version is tremendous — but check out the live version from the “Live in Rio” album. Every time I hear it, I think to myself: “Those poor horn players.” Their labor is our gain.
  3. “That’s the Way of the World.” Please rise for the national anthem. And put your hands — no! not over your heart! Put them in the air and wave them like you just don’t care! For me, the definitive version is a live recording from a 1982 concert in Houston. (It’s included on the three-disc “Eternal Dance” set. There are plenty of live EW&F albums, but somebody should take the time to compile a set of the band’s finest live performances. I’d buy that.)
  4. “Sunday Morning.” An underrated track from the band’s last great album, 1993’s “Millennium.” Extra points because it includes a snippet from “Serpentine Fire.”
  5. “Best of My Love.” What’s that? You’re complaining that this actually is a song by The Emotions? Technically, you are correct. But look under the hood: The song was written by Maurice and Al McKay of EW&F, and the players on the record, including MVP bassist Verdine White, hail from the band. And the song never fails to give me a four-minute rush of happiness.

Honorable mentions: “In the Stone,” “Time is on Your Side,” “Evil,” “Happy Feelin’,” “Jupiter,” “Shining Star” (the live version from “Gratitude”), “After the Love is Gone,” “System of Survival,” “Let Me Talk,” “Let’s Groove,” “”Fall in Love With Me,” “Mighty Mighty” (the live version from “Gratitude”), “Sunshine” and, of course, “September.”

You’ve probably heard this great story from Allee Willis, who co-wrote “September” with Maurice White and Al McKay: Throughout the process of writing the song, Willis became increasingly bothered by the use of the lyric phrase “”ba-dee-ya” in the chorus, and begged White to come up with words to replace it. White declined, and offered this bit of advice to Willis (advice that writers of all sorts should keep in mind): “Never let the lyric get in the way of the groove.”

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1 Comment

  1. Jane Stoltz

    Well, Mike, “September” IS one of my very favorites, but I forgive you. Personally, I really love “Saturday Night” and like to play it right before another favorite, “Sunday Morning.” The latter is a nice, mellow palate cleanse after that intense, amped-up party tune.

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