September having begun, let us listen to its song. Rather, let us listen to 38 of its songs. Or, speaking even more precisely, 38 versions of one of its songs: “September Song,” originally written by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson for the 1938 musical Knickerbocker Holiday, which has since made its way into the American pop songbook. A few Septembers ago, Ken Freedman of famed independent radio station WFMU tried to spin every version of “September Song” he possibly could on his show. Toward the end of the month, he posted on WFMU’s Beware of the Blog a roundup of the 38 finest versions he found. “Nothing beats the James Brown version from his 1970 LP Soul on Top,” says Freedman, ”on which he was backed up by the Louis Bellson Big Band, with arrangements by Oliver Nelson.” You can hear it just below:
Some of these 38 only broadly count as a version of “September Song,” which, of course, only makes the collection more interesting. Take, for instance, John Lennon’s “cover,” which occurs accidentally in the course of an unrelated recording. Freedman describes it as “a work in progress called ‘Dear John,’ reportedly one of the last songs Lennon was working on before his death. It's included here only because his melody and lyrics stumble into ‘September Song’ mid-way through the tune, eliciting a chuckle from Lennon.” Listen to it, and continue your month’s true musical beginning, below:
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.