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The Song That Never Ends: Why Earth, Wind & Fire's 'September' Sustains

How the Earth, Wind & Fire hit "September" came into being, and why it continues to unite the generations on the dance floor.

I asked Jeffrey Peretz, a professor of music theory at New York University's Clive Davis Institute, what makes that groove so powerful. He says a lot of it has to do with how the music unfolds. The song's very structure is an endless cycle that keeps us dancing and wanting more.

"There's four chords in the chorus that just keep moving forward and never seem to land anywhere — much like the four seasons," he says. "It's the end of summer, it's the beginning of fall, it's that Indian summertime, it's the transition from warm to cool."

The trigger for that yearning feeling, Peretz says, is the opening line. White asks, "Do you remember?" and we supply the memories. It's a song that can bring all of the generations together, which makes it perfect for family gatherings. The true meaning is up to us — including, Allee Willis says, that strangely specific date.

"We went through all the dates: 'Do you remember the first, the second, the third, the fourth ... ' and the one that just felt the best was the 21st," Willis explains. "I constantly have people coming up to me and they get so excited to know what the significance was. And there is no significance beyond it just sang better than any of the other dates. So ... sorry!"

That's OK, Allee. Maurice was right. It doesn't matter what it means. When we hear it, it's September 21st, and we are dancing again with our family, in a song that never really ends.