Sunday, September 05, 2021

Wake Me Up When September Ends

It’s Sunday, the day of the week I often published “Weekend Diversion” posts. This is not one of those, even though it’s about a song. Well, not about it, exactly, but it kind of is.

The song in question here is “Wake Me Up When September Ends”, the 2005 song by US rock band Green Day. It was the fourth single from their 2004, and seventh studio album, American Idiot. I think the song has a lot of merit, but the reason I’m mentioning it is because it’s my personal theme song for the month of September, the month that contains the horrible anniversary of the day that my life changed so completely. That’s reason enough for me to adopt that song as my personal September theme song, but there’s the thematic connection, too.

The song was written by the band’s lead singer and guitarist, Bille Joe Armstrong, and it’s about his father’s death from esophageal cancer in September 1982, when Armstrong was 10. Armstrong has said that the title comes from something he actually said to his mother soon after his father’s death.

The personal connection for me is, of course, that I had a terrible loss in September, too, but there’s one thing more: My mother also died of esophageal cancer, though in a different month. Put those two things together, and the thematic connection that I feel is pretty strong.

That doesn’t extend to the music video, however, which I’ve included above, but it’s set to begin playing when the song really starts going. That’s because I don’t like the video (directed by Samuel Bayer) at all (and that’s not common for me; I can separate a video from its song, if I like one more than the other; they’re different art forms, after all). In this particular case, I think the video’s prologue is far too long and I don’t think that the storyline of the video sufficiently reinforces the song's theme of loss and, especially, the implicit grief. But, that’s me: It’s easy enough to play the whole thing rather than the arbitrary starting point I chose (to avoid the issue of the video altogether, I’ve also included the Spotify widget with the song below).

Two years after that horrible month in 2019, I hate September every bit as much as I did last year. It doesn’t help that the horrible anniversary itself is around three weeks after Nigel’s birthday, so basically I realistically have maybe six weeks where losing Nigel is very often front of mind for me, and sometimes to the exclusion of nearly everything else. As August begins, that focus picks up strength and it lasts pretty much to the end of September before it starts to ease a bit (the month changing to one called “October” helps with that).

In a way, this actually makes me kind of “lucky”: The most potent reminders of my loss are grouped together into a relatively short few weeks, meaning the rest of the year has moments, not a sometimes unrelenting awareness of my loss. Many people have major reminders pop up throughout the year, but, for me, most of the big ones are all in August and September. And that’s why I’m always anxious to see September end.

There’s a cruel irony in that. Nigel would often talk about how anxious he was for the seasons to change, especially for winter to arrive and end the “hot” summer weather. I always said to him some variation of, “Stop wishing your days away, because sooner or later, you’ll get to the last one and find you wished away so many you could’ve had”. I didn’t really take myself seriously, but I wish he had.

Still, everything is what it is, and I can’t change any of it now. I should, possibly, heed my own advice and stop wishing September away. I should, but I won’t. Just wake me up when September ends.

Footnote: In actual “Weekend Diversion” posts, I talk about chart performance. While that might seem a bit crass regarding a song in this context, that sort of thing always helps me keep things more balanced. So: The song hit Number 13 in Australia, 1 in Canada’s Rock Top 30 (Platinum), 10 in New Zealand, 5 on the UK’s Rock and Metal chart (Platinum), and 6 on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” (Platinum).


Roger Owen Green said...

American Idiot is one of my favorite albums of the 21st century, especially the title song, which seems MORE true today than in 2004.

Hmm - favorite albums of the 21st century. If I had a blog, I might write about that.

I don't think of months in the 'terrible' category. But if I did, it'd be February. 1975 was the worst for me emotionally, post-marital separation. My mom died in 2011. And it's damn cold.

Arthur Schenck said...

I bought the "Deluxe Edition" of the digital album earlier this year. I was watching some music documentary and they were talking about the album, and I'd forgotten how many songs I'd liked, like "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", the title track, "Wake Me Up When September Comes" (which I liked back in the day, before it resonated with me personally), and "Jesus of Suburbia", which I think is a fascinating song structurally.

I think the cold is more than enough reason enough to dislike February.