“September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire

Do you remember? Well, do you? Maurice White, singer of Earth, Wind, and Fire, reflects on a night that was important for him and his significant other in the song “September.” In order to convince the reader of the significance of an arbitrary night, he makes use of several literary techniques. The singer tries to improve memory recall uses metaphor to link abstract emotions to physical details of the night, rhetorical questioning to emphasize the action, and synesthesia to link different senses.

The singer uses metaphor to give physicality to significant emotions of the night. There are several notable ones:

as we danced the night away, remember / how the stars stole the night away, oh yeah

verse 1

By having the listener picture the act of stars “stealing” the night, they are able to envision how, as time flies by, relativity seems to cause the stars to exit the night sky quickly—and taking the darkness away with them.

golden dreams were shiny days

chorus

They juxtapose “dream” with “day” while linking two related syonyms, “golden” and “shiny”. What, exactly, is a gilded dream? Perhaps it is a dream of accumulating wealth or some type of achievement. Now these dreams have translated into “shiny days”‘, signaling that there has been some change in their reality–that they have achieved their golden dreams.

As you can see, metaphor gives body to the aspects of memory White is trying to pull.

Secondly, White utilizes rhetorical questioning to emphasize the action of remembering. This is likely the most famous line in the song, based on the portions sampled on streaming services.

White begins large:

Do you remember the 21st night of September?

verse 1

It is unlikely that one will remember a specific date, especially if we are at as large of a temporal distance from that event as the lyrics suggest.

But a simple, second-person question prefaces the rest of the imagery in the song, leading the viewer to question their own memory before envisioning the lyrics in their head:

Say, do you remember?

chorus

This tone is more informal, and therefore lends itself to better recall. The usage of the exclamatory “say” before the question emphasizes the surprise of the question. (Therefore, we’re likely reflecting far into the past.) It reminds us that we should be looking back.

Lastly, White uses synesthesia to link the senses. This too emphasizes the act of recall. Have you ever heard someone tell you to chew gum while studying? Linking one sense, like taste, to another, like sight (the flashcards you are looking at, for example) is an integral part of memory.

only blue talk and love, remember, the true love we share today

verse 2

Using a color to refer to the sound of talk helps the listener characterize the talk by another powerful sense. This improves the specificity of their recall.

My thoughts are with you, holdin’ hands with your heart to see you

verse 2

Obviously, one cannot physically touch a heart, which does not have hands. But by linking the sensation of holding hands with the feeling of love, the figurative heart, White is able to again improve the specificity of the listener’s recall.

Of course, most of us are not recalling anything in particular. But throughout the song, White is addressing one specific listener, and we are able to imagine ourselves as if we are that listener.

4 thoughts on ““September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire

  1. OWEN M

    I appreciate your in-depth analysis of this iconic song. It’s crazy how the music “speaks” to us, and we subconsciously insert ourselves as the audience. I especially like your discussion of synesthesia and how it links the senses and taps on our own memory.

    Like

  2. BENJAMIN GUERRERO

    I really liked your in depth analysis of “September”. I feel like you did a great job with justifying certain word choices and explaining the greater meaning/purpose behind some of the imagery found in the lyrics. New messages were uncovered, and I am able to see the song in a completely new light now.

    Like

  3. Athanasios P.

    I never really thought of this song as poetic, however, reading your post, I realized that I have been subconsciously imagining the 21st night of September he rhetorically asks of, then incorporating his descriptions of the night into the image I created. I also like your discussion of the colors in the song. The synesthesia of blue linked with talking, the golden dream, and holding hands with a (red) heart cause me to see the 21st night of September as a shiny blur of blue, red, gold.

    Like

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