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JM Berry’s Songs of Autumn

The seasons are changing, you can feel it in the nights, and smell it during the evening, the “Sonoma aroma” that is a mix of the traditional manure spreading, the fermentation of the grapes, and the latest Sonoma crop to be harvested, no, that’s isn’t skunks your smelling, it’s cannabis.

The second equinox of the year, which happened on Sept. 22, signifies the crossing of the sun across the celestial equator, and many festivals occur around the world in celebration. The “Harvest Moon” makes an appearance as well soon after the sun sets, enabling the bright moonlight to help farmers finish their harvest.

Many songs and folklore exist around the changing of the season, around the world and in many religions, so we’ve decided to come up with eight of our picks to, well, harvest by.

8) ‘November’ – Tom Waits. Tom Waits has one of those voices that is unique in every way – sultry, salty, whiskey toned; there’s really no one like him. Born in Pomona, California on Pearl Harbor Day, 1949, Waits is now a Sonoma County resident, and even has a room named after him at the famed Prairie Sun recording studios in Cotati. Waits released this song in 1993 on “The Black Rider” album. The song is short, with a haunted vibe of a female howling throughout the track. “November has tied me, to an old dead tree, get word to April, to rescue me.”

7) ‘September Song’ – Frank Sinatra. An American pop standard composed by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson and debuted by Walter Huston in the musical “Knickerbocker Holiday” in 1938, and has since been recorded by just about every crooner since, including Bing Crosby, Pat Boone and Mel Torme, along with pop artists Lou Reed and Jeff Lynne. Sinatra liked it so much he recorded it three times, in ‘46, ‘62 and ’65.

6) ‘September’ – Earth, Wind and Fire. “Do you remember, the 21st night of September? Love was changing the mind of pretenders, while chasing the clouds away.” Earth Wind and Fire sure does, as the song hit Billboard’s No. 1 in 1978. The record label liked it so much, they re-recorded it and changed the title to “December” and the date to the “25th,” with the rest of the words and music unchanged. Recorded many times since, the song is still a staple of dance bands to this day.

5) ‘Seasons of Wither’ – Aerosmith. Released in ’74, the song was one of the first rock power ballads that set the stage for the rock and metal eras to follow. We recall first hearing of the act when a friend who had moved here from Boston raved about them, so we had no choice but to listen, as that’s all she played. Perseverance is hardly the word to describe the band, but after 47 years of touring, performing, fighting, breaking up and enduring countless musical genre changes around them, the band consists of the same five members that started the band back in Boston.

4) ‘Harvest Time’ – Luke Bryant. Released in 2011, the song has just about every country music cliché in its lyrics and represents the “New Country” sound that has taken over the genre in recent years. The official video could be a John Deere advertisement, with visions of tractors, grain silos and trucks a-plenty. “It’s harvest time in this little town, time to bring it on in, pay the loans down, fill the diesel tank up, and make another round, there’s a big red moon coming up in the sky.” The only thing missing is the dog.

3) ‘Indian Summer’ – Poco. The title track of the ’77 album, the song has a decidedly Eagles vibe. “There’s a full moon in the sky, it’s got a hold on me, I’m hypnotized. Like your love it’s getting stronger, please keep my heart a little longer.” Perfect.

2) ‘November Rain’ – Guns and Roses. Lawsuits, drug use, personnel changes and bad decisions by just about all involved doomed the act, but not before they recorded their most epic album since the band’s debut in ’87. “November Rain” was the longest song to ever enter the Billboard top 10 singles chart, topping out at number 3. Yes, even longer than “Freebird.” The video alone had a budget of over $1 million and plays like a short movie. “Nothin’ lasts forever, and we both know hearts can change, and it’s hard to hold a candle, in the cold November rain.”

1) ‘Harvest Moon’ – Neil Young. You had to know this one would be on the list somewhere, and having been a fan of Neil Young basically since the first time I heard “Old Man,” it lands No 1. Much like Waits above, there are many that will say Young’s voice matches the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, but we beg to differ. Released in ’92, it was the 20th studio album released by Young and was also the title track of the album. “Because I’m still in love with you, I want to see you dance again, because I’m still in love with you, on this harvest moon.” We heard you singing those words.

On a personal note, and we likely could have included a number of his songs in this list, the world lost an American music icon this week with the passing of Tom Petty. In our mind, easily one of the top three songwriters of this generation. Our thoughts go out to all that loved him and his music, which to many, became the soundtrack of their lives.