Labor Day 2021
Wistful. The word itself evokes the feeling. Just try to say it without sighing.
If months belonged to adjectives would there be any argument that September is the most wistful? I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way. Some of the greatest songs ever written to convey that feeling put the month front and center
So let’s say goodbye to Summer 2021 by celebrating September and all the wistfulness it conveys. There’s an extended playlist available here and at the end.
(NB: Tending, as my lists do, towards older and less popular material, the below videos are, for the most part, not record company productions.)
September Song Johnny Hartman (1955)
Although not widely known, Johnny Hartman might have been the greatest male ballad singer of the 20th century. To the extent that he’s known at all, it’s because of his 1963 collaboration with John Coltrane. Here, on his debut, he delivers a mood-setting version of this Kurt Weill classic.
See You in September The Happenings (1966)
If this mid-60s staple reminds you of another New Jersey foursome you’ll be forgiven because The Four Seasons are of the same time and place. I’ll fess up: until I went looking for it I’d always assumed this song was one of Frankie Valli‘s lesser vocal performances. Doppelgangerness aside, it’s an emblematic classic. Jersey boys, it turns out, don’t just come from Newark, they come from Patterson, too.
September Girls Big Star (1974)
The most influential band most people have never heard of had their own take on the year’s ninth month and girls at school. This Alex Chilton-penned confection appeared on the band’s second record. If you ask me, Chilton hadn’t lost a step and even learned a thing or two after The Box Tops disbanded.
September–Earth Wind and Fire (1978)
Among the sillier things ever said to me was the assertion by a recruited-jock-roommate at a large state university that, as college students, we were now free to listen to “other” music. The other music he had in mind was EWF. I didn’t need his permission. The band was always a guilty pleasure and this song has always delighted me.
September Skies Brian Setzer Orchestra (1994)
Recent readers may not be aware of my Long Island roots or my deep admiration of my near-contemporary, Bellmore‘s King of Twang, Brian Setzer. A triple threat in the playing, singing and songwriting trifecta, here, armed with just a guitar, Nassau County’s heppest cat demonstrates that he learned a couple of tricks from the masters of mid-century mid-fi. The song was written in the 1990s though the full-band version in the playlist sounds like it came from the era of the Rat Pack.
Flaming September Marianne Faithfull (1995)
What does one make of a singer whose earliest success is inextricably linked to the success of her boyfriend’s band and who then went on to release at least two masterful albums recorded a decade and a half apart? The residual sexism in that question aside, Marianne Faithfull more than earned her rightful place in the history of Anglo-American popular music, as demonstrated here in this deep cut from a later record.
Video Bonus and Playlist
Papa was a Rolling Stone The Temptations (1972)
This past Thursday was the 3rd of September so you didn’t think I’d let this one pass, did you? As Motown goes, it doesn’t get much better than this A song written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield who also took the producer’s chair. Vocals by The Temptations, And every bit of studio magic they could muster. A dance tune that has earned its designation as a masterwork.
Here’s the link to the playlist. Enjoy it and the day off, if you have it off.