Happy Birthday to You

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Happy Birthday to You is sometimes sung when a birthday cake is brought to a party table.

"Happy Birthday to You" is an American song which is sung to celebrate the anniversary of a person's birth. Non-English speakers have translated it into other languages.

The melody of "Happy Birthday to You" was written by American sisters Patty and Mildred Hill in 1893 when they were school teachers in Louisville, Kentucky. The verse was originally intended as a classroom greeting entitled "Good Morning to All". The lyrics were copyrighted in 1935, 11 years before Patty's death, and the ownership has swapped hands in multi-million dollar deals ever since; the copyright is currently owned by Time Warner (a subsidiary of which bought the rights in 1988) and is scheduled to expire in 2030. It thus follows that unauthorised public performances of the song are technically illegal. It is not completely certain who wrote the lyrics to "Happy Birthday to You."

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, "Happy Birthday to You" is among the top three most popular songs in the English language, along with "Auld Lang Syne" and "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."

One of the most famous performances of "Happy Birthday to You" was Marilyn Monroe's rendition to U.S. President John F. Kennedy in May 1962.


"Good Morning to All" lyrics

Good morning to you,
Good morning to you,
Good morning, dear children,
Good morning to all.

"Happy Birthday to You" lyrics

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear (name)
Happy Birthday to you.

This traditional version of the song generally known is actually the chorus to the original. The first verse goes like this...

So today is your birthday
That's what I've been told
What a wonderful birthday
Now you're one more year old
On your cake there'll be candles
All lighted, it's true
While the whole world is singing
Happy Birthday to you ....

(then what we know as Happy Birthday is sung as the chorus)

Some add another phrase to the end, sung to the same tune:

How old are you now,
How old are you now,
How old are you (name),
How old are you now.

Many alternate versions exist, most commonly sung as a joke, for example:

Happy Birthday to you,
You live in a zoo,
You look like a monkey
And you smell like one, too.

And the other version of the above:

Happy Birthday to you,
I went to the zoo,
I saw a big monkey,
And I thought it was you.

Some versions of the song add the line "And many more" as the final lyric.

Happy Birthday to you
You live in a zoo,
You look like a goat
And you chew like one, too

"Happy Birthday to You" copyright status

There is a 1935 copyright registration for "Happy Birthday to You," but "Good Morning to All" was published in 1893 and is public domain by U.S. statute. One cannot use the "Happy Birthday to You" lyrics for profit without paying royalties. 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.

"Good Morning to All" is printed in Song Stories for the Kindergarten, published 1893 (revised edition published 1896). It credited Patty Hill for the lyrics and Mildred Hill for the music.

Neither the words nor the music of "Good Morning to All" are copyrighted under U. S. federal statute.

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.

Later the "Happy Birthday to You" lyrics combined with the Hills' published melody showed up on stage. The Broadway musical The Band Wagon used "Happy Birthday to You" in 1931. The Hill family won a 1934 law suit granting them the 1935 copyright for "Happy Birthday to You," which does not affect today's public domain status of "Good Morning to All."

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 legal protection for one split note.

Whether or not changing the words "good morning" to "happy birthday" should be protected by copyright is a different matter. The words "good morning" were substituted with "happy birthday" by others than the authors of "Good Morning to All."

An interesting earlier songbook is Golden Book of Favorite Songs (Chicago, 1915). It includes the song "Good Morning to All" printed with the alternate title: "Happy Birthday to You." However, the "Happy Birthday to You" lyrics are not actually printed along the staff.

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.

Copyright issues and Public performances of HBTY

Many restaurants such as Applebees and Shoney's have corporate-developed songs that are used instead of the birthday song. These were specifically developed to prevent copyright infringement and having to pay royalties.

External links

These sites also have the Coleman songbooks in their archives:

Sources for "Good Morning to All" sheet music:

This page offers an MP3 sample of "Good Morning to All":

Other editorials about "Happy Birthday to You"

The "Classical Archives" has a "Happy Birthday to You" MIDI file with variations:

Copyright and public domain in the U. S.:

Public domain research services:

Comments regarding the Copyright Information:

Other instances of the use of the title Happy Birthday:


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