- Happy Birthday to You
"Happy Birthday to You", also known more simply as "Happy Birthday", is a traditional song that is sung to celebrate the anniversary of a person's birth. According to the 1998 "
Guinness Book of World Records", "Happy Birthday to You" is the most well recognized song in the English language, followed by " For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" and " Auld Lang Syne" [Citation | title=The Guinness Book of World Records 1998 | page=180 ] . The song's base lyrics have been translated into at least 18 languages [Citation | last=Brauneis | first=Robert | title=Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song | url=http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1111624 | date=2008-03-21 | accessdate=2008-05-08 | page=17] .
The melody of "Happy Birthday to You" comes from the song "Good Morning to All", which was written and composed by American sisters
Patty Hilland Mildred J. Hillin 1893. They were both kindergarten school teachers in Louisville, Kentucky, developing various teaching methods at what is now the Little Loomhouse. [Citation | last=Brauneis | first=Robert | title=Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song | url=http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1111624 | date=2008-03-21 | accessdate=2008-05-08 | pages=4-15] [ [http://www.ket.org/cgi-bin/fw_louisvillelife.exe/db/ket/dmps/Programs?do=topic&topicid=LOUL030013&id=LOUL KET - History: Little Loomhouse ] ] The sisters created "Good Morning to All" as a song that would be easy to sing by young children [Citation | last=Brauneis | first=Robert | title=Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song | url=http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1111624 | date=2008-03-21 | accessdate=2008-05-08 | page=14] . The combination of melody and lyrics in "Happy Birthday to You" first appeared in print in 1912, and probably existed even earlier. [Citation | last=Brauneis | first=Robert | title=Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song | url=http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1111624 | date=2008-03-21 | accessdate=2008-05-08 | pages=31-32] None of these early appearances included credits or copyrightnotices. The Summy Company registered for copyright in 1935, crediting authors Preston Ware Oremand Mrs. R.R. Forman. In 1990, Warner Chappell purchased the company owning the copyright for US$15 million, with the value of "Happy Birthday" estimated at US$5 million. [ [http://www.princetoninfo.com/200303/30326p04.html#%60Happy%20Birthday'%20Connection Uncorking that Joyful Noise] ] Based on the 1935 copyright registration, Warner claims that U.S. copyright won't expire until 2030, and that unauthorized public performances of the song are technically illegal unless royalties are paid to it.
In European Union (EU) countries the copyright in the song will expire December 31, 2016.
The actual U.S. copyright status of "Happy Birthday to You" began to draw more attention with the passage of the
Copyright Term Extension Actin 1998. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Act in " Eldred v. Ashcroft" in 2003, Judge Breyer specifically mentioned "Happy Birthday to You" in his dissenting opinion. [ [http://laws.findlaw.com/us/537/186.html 537 US 186] , Justice Stevens, dissenting, II, C] Professor Robert Brauneiswent so far as to conclude "It is doubtful that 'Happy Birthday to You', the famous offspring of 'Good Morning to All', is really still under copyright", in his heavily researched 2008paper. [Citation | last=Brauneis | first=Robert | title=Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song | url=http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1111624 | date=2008-03-21 | accessdate=2008-05-08 ]
One of the first bands to have a hit with a variation of the traditional song were the R&B group The Tune Weavers, who hit #5 on the Pop charts and #4 on the R&B charts, with their song "Happy, Happy Birthday Baby".
"Good Morning to All"
:Good morning to you,:Good morning to you,:Good morning, dear children,:Good morning to all.
"Happy Birthday to You"
The lyrics to "Happy Birthday to You" can be found on the [http://www.warnerchappell.com/wcm_2/song_search/song_detail/songview_2.jsp?esongId=126621000&view=fulllyrics Warner Chappell Music website] .
History of the song
The origins of "Happy Birthday To You" date back to the mid-nineteenth century, when two sisters, Patty and Mildred J. Hill, began singing the song "Good Morning To All" to their
kindergartenclass in Kentucky. In 1893, they published the tune in their songbook "Song Stories for the Kindergarten". However, many believe that the Hill sisters most likely copied the tune and lyrical idea from other songs from that time period.cite web | author=Barger, Tom | title= Except from "Freedom of Expression (R): Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity" | publisher="Boycott-RIAA" | url=http://www.boycott-riaa.com/article/15999 | accessdate=2008-05-24] There were a number of popular and substantially similar nineteenth-century songs that predated the Hill sisters' composition, including Horace Waters' "Happy Greetings to All"; "Good Night to You All", also from 1858; "A Happy New Year to All", from 1875; and "A Happy Greeting to All", published 1885. The copyright for both the words and the music of "Good Morning to All" has since expired and both are now a part of the public domain.
The Hill Sisters' students enjoyed their teachers' version of "Good Morning To All" so much that they began spontaneously singing it at birthday parties, changing the lyrics to "Happy Birthday". In
1924, Robert Coleman included "Good Morning to All" in a songbook with the birthday lyrics as a second verse. Coleman also published "Happy Birthday" in "The American Hymnal" in 1933. "Children's Praise and Worship", edited by Andrew Byers, Bessie L. Byrum and Anna E. Koglin, published the song in 1928.
1935"Happy Birthday to You" was copyrighted as a work for hire by Preston Ware Orem for the Summy Company, the publisher of "Good Morning to All". A new company, Birch Tree Group Limited, was formed to protect and enforce the song's copyright. In 1988, the rights to "Happy Birthday to You" and its assets were sold to The Time-Warner Corporation. The company still strongly believes that one cannot sing the "Happy Birthday to You" lyrics for profit without paying extremely high royalties(by some accounts, upwards of $10,000 for a single use in a film or television program). This includes use in film, television, radio, anywhere open to the public, or even among a group where a substantial number of those in attendance are not family or friend to whoever is performing the song.
Except for the splitting of the first note in the melody "Good Morning to All" to accommodate the two syllables in the word happy, melodically "Happy Birthday to You" and "Good Morning to All" are identical. Precedent (regarding works derived from public domain material, and cases comparing two similar musical works) seems to suggest that the melody used in "Happy Birthday to You" would not merit additional copyright status for one split note. Whether or not changing the words "good morning" to "happy birthday" should be covered by copyright is a different matter. The words "good morning" were replaced with "happy birthday" by others than the authors of "Good Morning to All". Regardless of the fact that "Happy Birthday to You" infringed upon "Good Morning to All", there is one theory that because the "Happy Birthday to You" variation was not authored by the Hills, and it was published without notice of copyright under the 1909 U. S. copyright act, that the 1935 registration is invalid.
Many question the validity of the current copyright, as the melody of the song was most likely borrowed from other popular songs of the time, and the lyrics were improvised by a group of five and six-year-old children who never received any compensation. The song is currently set to pass in to the public domain in 2030.
Copyright issues and public performances
Royalty amounts sought
The documentary film "
The Corporation" claims that Warner/Chappell charges up to US$10,000 for the song to appear in a film.Fact|date=July 2008 The Walt Disney Companypaid the copyright holder US$5,000 to use the song in the birthday scene of the defunct Epcotattraction Horizons.Fact|date=July 2008
In the 1987 documentary "
Eyes on the Prize" about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., there was a birthday party scene in which Dr. King's discouragement began to lift. After its initial release, the film was unavailable for sale or broadcast for many years because of the cost of clearing many copyrights, of which "Happy Birthday to You" was one. Grants in 2005 for copyright clearances [cite web | url=http://www.wired.com/news/culture/digiwood/0,68664-0.html | title=Cash Rescues Eyes on the Prize | last=Dean | first=Katie | date=2005-08-30 | publisher=wired.com | accessdate=2008-05-11 ] have allowed PBS to rebroadcast the film as recently as February 2008. [cite web | url=http://www.pbs.org/aboutpbs/news/20080110_blackhistory.html | title=PBS News: PBS Celebrates Black History Month with an Extensive Lineup of Special Programming | date=2008-01-10 | publisher=PBS | accessdate=2008-05-11 ]
Notable instances of the song in public
Due to the copyright issue, filmmakers rarely show complete singalongs of "Happy Birthday" in films, either substituting the public-domain "
For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" or avoiding the song entirely. Before the song was copyrighted it was used freely, as in "Bosko's Party", a Warner Brotherscartoon of 1932, where a chorus of animals sing it twice through.
One of the popular audience lines in "
The Rocky Horror Picture Show" alludes to this. After Dr. Frank N. Furterhas captured Brad, Janet and Dr. Scott, he hosts a dinner for them. At the beginning of an apparent birthday celebration, the audience calls out "Start to sing 'Happy Birthday' but don't finish it", and indeed, Dr. Furter cuts it short midway through the song.
The Zucker brothers learned about the copyright issue unwittingly when they decided to include a gag in "
The Kentucky Fried Movie" that had made them laugh growing up: A man sings "Happy Birthday" to remind himself of his own name. Recording the DVDcommentary in the late 1990s, Jerry Zuckerwatched the singing of the song and then announced: "That's ten thousand dollars right there!"
David Gilmour DVD" Remember That Night" has a scene in the documentary where the band and crew celebrate Richard Wright's birthday, and the song is muted, and a message informing viewers to sing it themselves is shown.
King of the Hill" uses a song written to the tune of " Up on the Housetop" for birthday-related scenes and flashbacks.
Cold War-themed 1987 episode of " The Golden Girls", Blanche sings the song to an unseen Mikhail Gorbachevá la Marilyn Monroe in a fantasy sequence set in Red Square.
The Beatles' Christmas Album" had John Lennonsinging an impromptu parody on the 1963 greeting. Oliver Stone's 1987 "Wall Street" was one of the rare films that played enough of the song to justify a royalty payment. Bud's computer plays the melody early in the film to remind him it's Gordon Gekko's birthday, and the song is included in the music credits at the end of the film.
Igor Stravinskyarranged a variation of the song, called "Greeting Prelude", to commemorate the 80th birthday of Pierre Monteux. The Russian-born composer wrote that he had been introduced to the tune only five years earlier, when members of an orchestra with whom he was rehearsing, to his bafflement at the time, played the tune in honor of a recent birth among the orchestra members.
One of the most famous performances of "Happy Birthday to You" was
Marilyn Monroe's rendition to U.S. President John F. Kennedyin May 1962.
The song was also sung by the crew of
Apollo IXon March 8, 1969.
Many restaurants have original, modern, corporate-developed songs that are used instead of the old-fashioned "Happy Birthday to You" when serving patrons the traditional cake on their birthdays. Originally, these songs were specifically developed to prevent
copyright infringementand having to pay royalties.
In the "
Homestar Runner" cartoon " [http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbsings.html Strong Bad Sings] ", there is a scene where The Cheat plays "Happy Birthday to You" on the piano while Strong Madstruggles to remember the words to the song. When the toon was released on DVD, "Happy Birthday to You" was replaced with the public domainsong "Hot Cross Buns". On the DVD commentary, Mike Chapman remarked: "Those Nazis!"
In the first season of the show "
Sports Night", Dan Rydell is told that his company will have to pay $2,500 in legal costs because he sang "Happy Birthday" to his co-anchor Casey on air. The two are baffled that it took two people to write such a simple song.
On the show "
Upright Citizens Brigade", the cast created their own birthday song which became a running joke throughout the three seasons. During the commentary on the DVD release the cast cites the copyright of "Happy Birthday to You" as their inspiration.
The show "
Aqua Teen Hunger Force" originally was to have the song played in an episode for Meatwad's birthday. When the writers were made aware of the copyright issues they decided to mock it by creating their own version that Master Shake wanted people to start singing so he would get all the royalties. It was co-written by Zakk Wylde.
Authorized sheet music for the song to be sung for a new baby was included in a lesson on addition in a widely adopted 2nd grade
standards-based mathematicstextbook developed by TERCin the late 1990s. Stewart Copeland, best known as drummer for The Police, says in the commentary track to the DVD version of his documentary film "" that he had to overlay a music soundtrack and use the image only in one shot where "Happy Birthday" was being sung in the original footage, because the rights to the song are "incredibly expensive".
In the "
30 Rock" episode "Black Tie", the German variation of "Happy Birthday to You", known as "Zum Geburtstag viel Glück", is used to serenade an Austrian princeplayed by Paul Reubens. Jenna Maroney, Jane Krakowski's character, almost manages to sing the first lyric in English.
On the July 23, 1985 episode of Super Password, Tom Poston, Who was one of the celebrity guests, told Bert Convy to look at the puzzle board which asked whose birthday it was that day. the answer was Bert Convy. Everybody in the studio sang and a cake came out the entrance door.
Futurama" episode "I Second That Emotion" parodied the copyright issue with a distinctly similar-tuned song with new lyrics and ending with "Now let's all have some cake". Fry, the who is from the 20th century, sings on past the rest of the group, "and you smell like one too." This alludes to a well-known parody of "Happy Birthday" which ends with that line. In the DVD commentary for the episode, it is mentioned that the primary reason for the new song was the high cost of licensing "Happy Birthday to You".
In an episode of "
Curb your Enthusiasm", the characters are singing "Happy Birthday to You" to Ben Stiller, but Larry Davidrefuses to sing the song to him.
January 9, 2008" Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson", during the "It's Email Time Again" section of the show where host Craig Ferguson answers viewers' emails, one viewer told Craig it was her birthday and asked if he would sing her "Happy Birthday". Ferguson went on to explain that every time the song was sung on TV you had to pay a royalty to the copyright holder and it would cost money to wish her happy birthday, then sang the complete song with the line "take that CBS" in place where one's name would go.
Thousands of spectators sang happy birthday to
Pope Benedict XVIat the White Houseon April 16, 2008, his 81st birthday. [ cite news|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/16/catholicism.usa
title=Thousands gather to greet Pope at White House
date=April 16, 2008 ]
On the May 28th, 2008, broadcast of "
The View", Whoopi Goldbergled the audience in singing the song to celebrate the birthday of Elisabeth Hasselbeck, to the obvious discomfort of Joy Behar. After finishing, Behar remarked, "They're going crazy behind the scenes. You have to pay a lot of money to sing that!" Goldberg responded, "Take it out of my check. It was worth it." Whoopi was then the one wary of singing the song on the July 17 broadcast; Barbara Waltersled the singing in celebration of show executive producer Bill Geddie's birthday.
On June 27, 2008, hundreds of people in London's Hyde Park sang the song to
Nelson Mandelaon the occasion of his 90th birthday. [ cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7475717.stm
title=Mandela joins stars at London gig
author=British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
date=June 28, 2008 ]
200 mgold medal performace at the 2008 Summer Olympics, the crowd at Beijing National Stadiumsereneded Usain Boltwith "Happy Birthday", as his birthday began at midnight that night.
Happy Birthday, Mr. President" – Marilyn Monroe's famous variation
List of birthday songs
Canadian Intellectual Property Office: http://www.ic.gc.ca/sc_mrksv/cipo/cp/copy_gd_protect-e.html#11
* [http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1111624 Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song] is a very thorough history and copyright analysis by Robert Brauneis, Associate Professor of Law at
George Washington UniversityLaw School
*A [http://docs.law.gwu.edu/facweb/rbrauneis/happybirthday.htm collection of nearly 200 scanned documents] relating to the history and copyright of the song. Part of Robert Brauneis research.
* [http://www.littleloomhouse.org/happybirthday.htm The Happy Birthday Song and The Little Loomhouse]
* [http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/7/5/112441/6280 Kuro5hin - Exposing the Happy Birthday story]
*Sources for "Good Morning to All" sheet music:
** [http://www.a2zguitar.com/2007/09/happy-birthday-for-guitar-beginners.html Happy Birthday for guitar beginners]
** [http://www.easybyte.org Easybyte]
* [http://www.a-cappella.com/product/828/doowop-mens MP3 sample of "Good Morning to All"]
* [http://www.unhappybirthday.com/ Unhappy Birthday]
* [http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.07/posts.html?pg=7 Creative Commons staff attempt to distribute a recording of the song on the web]
* [http://www.snopes.com/music/songs/birthday.htm Other editorials about "Happy Birthday to You"]
* [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/12/fashion/sundaystyles/12age.html?ex=1297400400&en=34f151b1cdb0d572&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss Don't Sing Me That Song] - New York Times
*http://chart.copyrightdata.com/ch13.html has a sound clip of "Good Morning to All" recorded in 1935 and a link to supplementary documentation to one of the arguments in support of the position that whatever change was made in the melody for the 1935 copyright, it was not such a substantial change to the melody to warrant copyright protection beyond that entitled to "Good Morning to All."
* [http://www.k-international.com/happy_birthday Happy Birthday in 53 Languages.]
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Look at other dictionaries:
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