steve ivory (2014)

Steven Ivory

*Well, it’s here. “It” rolled in  blurry-eyed and calm, sexy and sensible all at once, a little after seven PM here on the west coast and just after 10 in the east.

I was surprised that the last gasp of an often rebellious and ornery summer 2014 was actually courteous enough to stick around and assist “it” with its luggage—a ton of it, mostly simple sweaters and scarves, but also some downright fabulous wool and cashmere pieces and shoes and boots and, for good measure, an overcoat or two. “It” is all ready to seduce,   and I’m ready to surrender.

I am in love with fall.

While its shorter days, chilly weather and leaves changing color may be viewed by some as hallmarks of a melancholy existence, fall—it also answers to the moniker Autumn–has the magical distinction of being gateway to the best holidays of the year.  In fact, fall itself hosts one of the most sentimental of those days, Thanksgiving.  Of course, being born in October might also have something to do with my inherent affection for this time of year.

The season officially kicks off with Halloween, which, unless you’re a witch, warlock or ghoul, I wouldn’t call a legitimate holiday. Its dark origins notwithstanding, Halloween and Trick Or Treat—the dressing up, the parties, the over-the-top adornment of the local IHOP–are the clarion call to weeks of time-honored festivities to come.

When I was a child,  I was convinced calendars were invented solely for counting down the days to fall and the holidays proper. To a kid, that delicious period of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve seemed to last forever, which, of course, was never long enough.

When you’re an adult, it’s different.   Life is filled with so many things–raising kids, making a living, meeting the general challenge of each day. Holidays that once resembled epic chunks of time now seem like weeks. You never hear kids, with a measure of annoyance, say, “I can’t believe it’s the holiday season already!” That’s a mantra uttered exclusively by grown ups.

As an adult, though, I can now recognize that  Fall is cool. Yes, cool temperature wise,  but I mean cool, as in hip. What other season would commission none other than Earth, Wind & Fire, at the height of its success, to create what would become fall’s unofficial theme song, the 1978 classic, “September”?

EW&F guitarist Al McKay, one of the song’s creators, recalls that  when he first played what he’d come up with  for band founder/producer Maurice White,  the bandleader  grinned in his trademark approving way, listened intently and then asked McKay to play it again. “The second time,” said  McKay, “when it got to that first break,  Reese, right on cue,  sang the words, “Do you remember…,” which would end up as the song’s opening line.

Lyricist Allee Willis, during a recent interview on NPR, said the evening she walked into the studio to work  with the band for the first time,   the sound monitors blared an instrumental track that “I prayyyyyed was the song they wanted me to help write.” It was.

One of the first lines they  worked on went, “Do you remember/21st night of September.” According to Willis,  21st had no special significance; they used that particular number simply  because it fit,       without consideration that  fall does officially  begin that next day, on the 22nd.

Willis noticed that as she and White worked on the lyrics, he kept singing “Ba-de-ya” as part of the chorus. “I thought to myself, ‘He’s just singing that to fill the space; surely we’re going to put actual words there.’”

When it became clear that White was going with ba-de-ya as an actual lyric, Willis pleaded with him over and again to let her put real words there, but White resisted. Finally, in a last ditch effort, Willis, practically on her knees about this, asked White: “What the fuck does Ba-de-ya even mean?” To which White replied, “Who the fuck cares?”

“September” went on to be one of EW&F’s most enduring songs.   Even though it was released in November.   Like I said, fall is magic.

And I’m determined to savor every day of it. A great philosopher—well, okay, Jermaine Jackson—once mentioned that people our age “only have about 30 Christmases left.” He said this to me more than ten years ago, which now means we’ve got even less.   I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow any more holidays to sneak up on me. No sir. I’m going to inhale every hour.

I’d advise you to do likewise. You can’t consider the details of your Thanksgiving dinner too soon. Those ridiculously early Christmas TV ads and store decorations you find so annoying? Just go with it. Because, within a twinkling, it’ll be morning, 2015.   And spring, and then here comes summer again.

Fall and the holidays are usually when people find it in their hearts to care just a little more–yet another reason to get in the holiday spirit early.  Like, right now. This year has been particularly nasty and hateful. To be sure, the business of compassion and goodwill has its work cut out. Lord knows we can use some gladness.    Let the loving begin.

Steven Ivory, veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]