Allee Willis’ “The 365 Days Of September” – Day 1, September 21, 2010

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People always ask me what my favorite song I’ve written is. I hate to favor any of the babies but pound for pound I’d have to shout “September”!  I think it’s an eternally uplifting song. It makes people HAPPY, not just with a capital H but ALL CAPS!! I write a lot of happy songs but even perennial foot tappers like “Neutron Dance” and “Boogie Wonderland” don’t inspire the immediate mood shift that “September” does. I’ve never been in a room where people’s toes didn’t start tapping or heads start bobbing as soon as it comes on. I’ve never been to a Bar Mitzvah or wedding where it wasn’t played, including Beyonce and Jay-Z’s, where I wasn’t but learned from US Weekly that that’s what they danced their first dance to. And they didn’t even get married in September.

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Without question, the original Earth Wind & Fire version is and will always be my favorite.

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With EWF founder and lead singer, Maurice White, and EWF guitarist, Al McKay, I started writing “September” the first day we met, in the summer of 1978. It was actually written as the third song in a trilogy that  Maurice and Al had already created, EWF’s “Sing a Song” and The Emotions’ “Best of My Love”,  two of my favorite Pop Soul records of all time.

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Although most of the music to “September” was completed that first day, it actually took a couple months to finalize the lyric, during which time I was also working with Maurice on all but two songs that became their (thankfully) legendary crossover album, I Am.

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I used to be hung up that the “September” lyric was a little sing-songy, not the most intelligent I’d written. But seeing the effect it has on people I’m happy I took Maurice’s advice:  Never let a lyric get in the way of the groove. If a lyric isn’t grammatically correct or even if it’s nonsensical -  like the key words in the “September” chorus, “Ba-de-ya” -  don’t replace it with something that is.  If you marry the lyric to the music just right, the meaning will come across in the feel.  I have no doubt that the love expressed in the chorus of “September” comes across even better with this nonsensical phrase than it would have had we merely filled those syllables with “I love you”.

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The first time I ever went on YouTube just months after it launched in 2005, there were already tons of versions of the song there. Over the years I’ve watched “September” videos multiple like rabbits, some good but mostly a little on the lame side – Bad bar bands, jazz bands, marching bands, people in their living rooms, bathrooms, underwear, at auditions, dance classes, birthday parties, on lawns, mountaintops, in line dances, in lines at stores, playing solo bass, drum, keyboard and guitar parts, making animations and short films with it, in all varieties of languages, styles and quality.

Most songwriters are tortured when they hear cheesy versions of their work. As the Grand Master of Kitsch however, I LOVE it. I love that something I’ve created inspires someone to perform it despite an apparent lack of talent or rhythm. If it makes them happy it makes me happy.

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And, trust me, this is a song that’s still making me happy. In one of my YouTube searches I stumbled onto Pomplamoose, a band that completely deconstructed the song and did it so distinctively I suggested we work together. The resulting “Jungle Animal” song, video and game went live TODAY.

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But back to “September”… 1978 wasn’t the first time I placed my bet on a song that glorified September. Four years earlier, my first and only album, Childstar, came out on Epic Records. It contained the first 10 songs I ever wrote. The tune the label thought had the most single potential was called “What Kind of Shoes Does September Wear?”.

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Although my career didn’t get off to the running start I had hoped it would then, I’d have to say that, in retrospect, September did, indeed, have some very nice shoes!

A few nights ago I went back on YouTube to see if any new versions of “September” had been done. To my astonishment, it was like the song had In vitro and gave birth to enough versions that if I played one a day for a year I would never run out. So I made it a goal to chronicle the madness. From this day forth, the 21st of September, the date in the opening line of the song, until the 21st of September, 2011, I shall feature one (brilliant, alarming, innovative, ridiculous) version of the song a day.

So here now, I offer you the most definitive version of all, the Godhead, “SEPTEMBER” by EARTH, WIND & FIRE on this, the 21st day of September, 2010, the first of 365 days of September. It pretty much goes downhill from here…

Badeya!

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Categories: 365 Days Of September, Discography, Earth Wind & Fire, Forgot to Categorize, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, LPs, Lyrics, Music, September, Songwriting, video

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – The 21st Of September Jubilee!

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Because the opening line of my very first hit song, “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, is “Do you remember the 21st night of September?” I constantly get asked the significance of that date, the very day it is TODAY.  People are always looking for some great meaning, especially those whose birthdays are today and to whom the song has held a special place. Sad to say, the only real significance is that that it felt so perfect to sing. Those three syllables – twen-ty-first -  hugged those notes tighter than an angora sweater and once that happens any good songwriter knows they need to just leave it alone because it works. What I’m most proud of achieving with my co-writers, Maurice White and Al McKay, is the transformative effect the song seems to have on people. I could be at a funeral and if “September” even came on as a ringtone most people’s lips would curl into a smile and their toes would automatically start to tap.  Beyoncé and Jay-Z even chose it to dance their first song to at their wedding. And that makes me very happy.

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Categories: 365 Days Of September, Creativity, Earth Wind & Fire, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Lyrics, Music, People, Pomplamoose, Self expression, September, Songwriting, video

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Allee Willis’ Soul O’ Day – Earth Wind & Fire At the Hollywood Bowl with a Seventy Piece Orchestra and Fireworks!

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Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t go to concerts. I don’t like the crowds, I don’t like the walking, I don’t like someone singing next to me or standing up in front of me dancing. I understand this is the nature of concerts and I’m not out to change that so I was always happier sinking my head under a set of headphones and listening to the intricacies of the music rather than the  idiosyncrasies of the crowd. This includes concerts where my own music is being performed. Of the hundreds and hundreds of songs of mine that have been cut I’ve seen maybe ten of them performed live. One of the most memorable nights ever for me was in 1979 at the Los Angeles Forum when half of the songs performed by Earth Wind & Fire were mine, including “September”, “Boogie Wonderland” and “In the Stone”.  Although I’m blessed to have some of my tunes among their most popular I never saw the band perform live again. Until last Friday night when I saw a performance that blew my head off my shoulders and still has me skipping along the sidewalks of Los Angeles, a very happy girl.

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Categories: Afro, Boogie Wonderland, Celebrity, Creativity, Dance, Disco, Earth Wind & Fire, Hollywood, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Lyrics, Music, Party, People, September, TV/Radio, video

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – 1968 Right On’s 100 Super-Soul Stars Book and Saturday Night with Earth Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder, 2010

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Categories: Afro, Boogie Wonderland, Book, Detroit, Disco, Discography, Earth Wind & Fire, Music, September, TV/Radio

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – 1970′s Disco Suitcase Set & Pomplamoose

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I’m supposed to be traveling today but won’t know if I’m going until a couple hours before the flight due to complications on my collaborator’s side. I’m not the world’s most eager traveler to begin with but having a suitcase that makes me smile every time I look at it sure helps if one is of the nature that their traveling psyche can be affected by aesthetics.

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Categories: Accessories, Disco, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, Musical Instruments, Pomplamoose, Self expression, September, Songwriting, The Color Purple, Travel

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Giant Coffee Cup

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I never drank coffee before I was 21 and almost fainted in a doctor’s office after he gave me a shot and a big cup of coffee to keep me from going down all the way. Slowly but surely over the next few months I built up a taste to it and by the time I started living in recording studios in the late 70′s when I got my big break with Earth Wind & Fire I was up to 20+ cups a day as social breaks at the coffee machine and playing Pong was the only time I ever saw sunshine.

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Categories: Drink, Earth Wind & Fire, Furniture and Housewares, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – PARTY VIDEO! Me, Earth Wind Fire and Luenell at the opening of The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch!

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It was the 21st night of September, the opening line of my very first hit song as well as the date of the grand opening party celebrating the launch of awmok.com, my mini social network and ongoing museum exhibit of all things Kitsch. I am SO NOT the songwriter type to get up at a party and perform but this was the night that tradition broke. As it was a special night in my musical history as well as a night to celebrate kitsch I decided to let anyone who wanted to sing sing bad karaoke versions of September.I also brought a bunch of cheap, thrift shop instruments with me – a knockoff Beatles Apollo bass with three strings, a 1981 Casio keyboard with 2 1/2 octaves and a missing middle C. key – just in case any of the famous musicians in attendance might want to play along my style.
As any of you familiar with me know, I’m a massive fan of smooshing together very high and very low elements of art that most people would create, perform or perpetuate in very different spaces and times. I live for moments where the incredible thinking, technology and execution at the top collide with the passion and dedication (and not necessarily talent) at the bottom. 
Moments like these have allowed me to see some of my Greatest Hits performed by the best and the worst at once. Like when my discoveries, the Del Rubio Triplets, octogenarian identical triplets in miniskirts and go-go boots and of questionable musical prowess, performed “Neutron Dance” with The Pointer Sisters the very week the record was in the Top 10. I’m elated to report that the 21st night of September a couple of weeks ago was an opportunity for another such performance. 
In walks Larry Dunn, original Earth Wind & Fire keyboard player extraordinaire who played on every single significant EWF hit, and Verdine White, cofounding member who’s still in EWF, greatest bass player who ever lived and the man who discovered me and brought me to the group back in 1978. And there’s Luenell, hysterical off-color comedienne who is literally the number one Earth Wind & Fire fan in the world. She carries their Greatest Hits CD with her wherever she goes and watches aEWF Collection DVD every day, swear to God. She’s been in love with Larry Dunn since she first caught sight of his perfectly carved Afro in the early 1970s. 
Here are three 6 minute videos documenting one of the best times I’ve ever had in my life at a party. Part 1 is a set up, where Luenell meets her idols NI announced that anyone who has the balls to sing September with Earth Wind & Fire in the house is welcome to him. Part two is September and part 3 is Boogie Wonderland. I have video cameras going almost every minute of the day. It’s moments like they that would never translate unless you were there to see it that make me thankful I spend every dime I earn on tape, cameras and people to point them.
Last thing I’ll say here is to make sure and go to AWMoK.com, the reason everyone was here to celebrate and where so many people have gone to keep the party going

It was the 21st night of September, the opening line of my very first hit song as well as the date of the grand opening party at LA’s Ghettogloss celebrating the launch of AWMoK.com, The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch, my mini social network and ongoing exhibit of all things Kitsch. I am SO NOT the type to get up at a party and perform my own songs but this was the night that tradition broke.

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Categories: Afro, Art, bad art, Boogie Wonderland, Celebrity, Creativity, Disco, Earth Wind & Fire, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, Musical Instruments, Party, Self expression, September, Songwriting

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Photos from Party #2 for the Grand Opening of The Allee Willis Museum of Kitsch!

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Seems like there are hundreds of photos circulating on the Internet from my party Monday night where, among a zillion other things, members of Earth Wind & Fire performed in a parking lot for anyone who wanted to sing my EWF hits, “September” and “Boogie Wonderland”. 

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Categories: Art, bad art, Boogie Wonderland, Celebrity, Earth Wind & Fire, Hollywood, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, Party, People, September

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What Social Networks And Songwriting Have In Common

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What’s to make me join yet another social network when I’m already a member of so many, dragging myself ’round the clock to fulfill my duties as a responsible citizen on each of them? What’s to make me listen to a record that sounds like everything else – same beat, loop or intellectually challenged lyric? It’s one thing to be first. It’s another to be 43rd.

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Categories: Afro, Boogie Wonderland, Earth Wind & Fire, Lyrics, Music, Social networks, Songwriting

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Boogie Wonderland In The White House tonight

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I know you are all watching the Oscars tonight but you weren’t invited to the White House anyway so no conflict.

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Categories: Afro, Boogie Wonderland, Earth Wind & Fire, Kitsch, Music, Party, Songwriting

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