Ten Songs to Smile about in September


Music mirrors our culture and our culture changes with the seasons.  The month of September hosts the date for the Autumnal Equinox (the official beginning of Fall), which inspires both profound songwriting and balancing eggs on hard surfaces.


Sports fans will tell you the Fall represents football season, but the musical community considers the Fall to be songwriting season.  While wide eyed parents and anxious students prepare for new math and ‘Friday Night Lights‘, skilled songwriters are hard at work writing noteworthy music (pun intended) to help memorialize the next batch of meaningful moments in our lives.

Bruce Springsteen-Writing

Like Mom and Dad said, it’s always better to “be prepared”, so If the back to school blues have got you down, consider adding a couple of these songs to your September playlist and welcome the Fall with open arms!

10. September Grass – James Taylor

Released in August of 2002, “September Grass” is the first track on James Taylor‘s October Road album.  The album debuted at number 4 on the Billboard 200, and within three months was certified Platinum.   James Taylor‘s charming and mellow rendition of John Sheldon’s tune helps us say goodbye to Summer and puts us on the “October” road to happiness.  Grab the one you love, locate a patch of green, pour some apple wine and enjoy the final throes of Summer 2016.

9.)  What a Wonderful World –  Sam Cooke


What a Wonderful World,” composed by Lou Adler and Herb Albert, offers a theme that centers around the idea that neither knowledge nor education can dictate feelings; love itself will make the world a better place.

It seems almost ironic that Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” was released in 1960, 7 years prior to the other similarly titled (and possibly more famous) “What A Wonderful World” recorded by Louis Armstrong.


Louis Armstrong‘s signature ballad has definitely stood the test of time, but did you know that punk rock legend Joey Ramone released his own rendition of “What A Wonderful World?”  Give it a listen and see if you think it deserves an honorable mention on this list.


8.)  Check Yes or No – George Strait

george strait

Country music legend George Strait released “Check Yes or No” in September of 1995 and it became the lead single from his box set Strait Out of the Box.  The song is an affectionate detailing of the romance between a man and a woman and takes us back to the days of passing notes in class.

7.)  Hot For Teacher – Van Halen


At lucky number seven, “Hot For Teacher” is the obvious guilty pleasure and least politically correct song on this list.  The song’s primary lyrics are “got it bad, got it bad, got it bad, I’m hot for teacher” and the music video features scantily clad women dancing in front of school children.  Hollywood has no shame.  The only pure poetry here is Eddie Van Halen’s legendary guitar work.  I’m sure many of us were in fact tardy while listening to this song.

 6.)  Walking on Sunshine – Katrina & The Waves


Released in 1985, “Walking on Sunshine” is a favorite of Philip J. Fry, the dim-witted protagonist from the Futurama TV show.  He loves to sing the song in the shower, though he typically only remembers the main chorus “I’m walking on sunshine,” and proceeds to hum the rest.   Royalties for Walking on Sunshine (one of EMI’s biggest earners from advertisers) are estimated at around $1 million per year for the last decade or two.  Good thing the band members kept the publishing rights…right?

An ardent lover of the song, Dolly Parton recorded a bluegrass version of “Walking on Sunshine” for her 1996 album Treasures.


5.)  We’re Going To Be Friends’ –  The White Stripes


Written by Jack White, “We’re Going To Be Friends” (released in 2002) reminds us of the innocent times during our early days of school when our biggest concerns were meeting new friends and going to class.  The song is featured in the opening credits of the 2004 film Napoleon Dynamite and was later covered by singer-songwriter Jack Johnson for his album Sing-A-Longs-and-Lullabies-for-the-Film-Curious-George.

During the final episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien on February 20, 2009, at Conan’s request, The White Stripes proudly performed the song, and instead of playing the drums, Meg White played guitar and sang harmonies with Jack.

4.)  Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby Mcferrin

Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is the first a cappella song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.  The song’s title is taken from a famous quotation by the Indian mystic and sage Meher Baba (1894-1969) who often signed off his communiques to his Western followers with the expression.  Don’t Worry, Be Happy is ranked No. 31 on VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s and also appears on Rolling Stone’s list of the 15 Best Whistling Songs of All Time.  Despite being released twice in 1988, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” ultimately won multiple Grammy awards including Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

Bobby Mcferrin performed the easily identifiable lead vocal with an affected accent and overdubbed the entire song using only his body to make all the sounds.  The comedic music video for “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” stars McFerrin, Bill Irwin, and the late Robin Williams.

3.)  Fifteen –  Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift - Fearless

Released as the fourth single on Taylor Swift’s Fearless album in 2008, “Fifteen” was inspired by Swift’s freshman year of high school.   The song reprises the first love experiences of both Taylor and her best friend, Abigail Anderson (who is also featured in the music video), and as Swift and Anderson become heartbroken, it is revealed that Anderson “gave everything she had” to someone who later changed his mind.  Swift cried aloud while recording the emotionally charged “Fifteen” and the song continues to be one of her most challenging tunes to perform live.

2.)  Learn to Fly – The Foo Fighters

foo fighters

This epic hit for The Foo Fighters has the word “Learn” in the title, but other than that the song has very little to do with going back to school.  I just love this song.  The Grammy-winning music video takes place on a commercial airliner and parodies three classic comedies.  See if you can guess which ones they are.

Speaking of videos, last year, a video was published on YouTube featuring 1000 Italian musicians in Cesena Italy all playing and singing the song in unison.

 1.)  September –  Earth, Wind, and Fire

Earth Wind and Fire - the song September

The top song in our list and most recognizable tune relative to the month it represents, ” September“, by Earth, Wind, and Fire, reached number one on the US R&B chart and number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978.  This song is the epitome of joyful music with rhythmic lyrics like “Bada-ya” (the first words in the chorus) which substantiate Maurice White’s notorious claim that lyrics shouldn’t get in the way of a good groove.  

Even in an election year, “September” will bring people together.  Case in point, in 2008, “September” played at both Republican and Democratic national conventions.

Some of these songs are closer to me than others, but they are all fantastic tunes. A few of them bring back fond memories of driving my red mustang with the windows down, wind in my hair, radio cranked up, and fully believing the world is my oyster.  How about you?  Any of these songs ring a bell in your catalog of musical memories?  Care to confess if you were hot for teacher? Let me know!


David L.Brehm

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