Hear 38 Versions of “September Song,” from James Brown, Lou Reed, Sarah Vaughan and Others


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:

But do none of the oth­er ver­sions real­ly beat it? Why not test Brown’s ver­sion against avant-rock­er Lou Reed’s:
Or beloved jazz singer Sarah Vaughan’s:
Or Fleet­wood Mac singer-song­writer-gui­tarist Lind­sey Buckingham’s:

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:

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