Happy birthday to you

The song "Happy birthday to you" is one that is known to us all. It has been sung several times a year, and it has been translated to various languages. Regarding this, with reason we can say it is a universal song. According to the Guinness books of Records, it is the most recognized song in the English language, followed by "For he's a jolly good fellow. The lyrics of "Happy Birthday have been translated into at least 18 languages.

The melody and lyrics were written by two sisters from Kentucky: Mildred (born 1859) and Patty (born 1868) Hill. Patty was a schoolteacher, who developed the "Patty Hill blocks", and a faculty member at Columbia University Teachers College. Mildred was also an educator, who later became a composer, organist and pianist. The melody Happy Birthday was written by Mildred and the lyrics came from Patty.
Originally the song was ment to be a classroom greeting song and it was titled "Good morning to all". The sisters hoped that it would positivily involve children as they began a new day. This song was part of the book "Song stories for the Kindergarten" which the sisters co-wrote and published in 1893. Soon the song was the official morning greeting song in school all over America.

From then on the lyrics were changed, first to "Goodmorning to you" and then to "Happy birthday to you". It is unknown who changed the lyrics into a birthday song. This was first published in 1924 in a book edited by Robert H. Coleman. Ever since then the song became popular and in 1934 Jessica Hill, another sister, filed a lawsuit because of the unauthorized use of the Happy Birthday melody, which clearly remembers the Good Morning song her sisters wrote.
In 1935 Jessica copyrighted and published "Happy Birthday to you". It is reported that the song braught in about 2 miljon $ a year in royalties, with half going to the publisher, Summy-Birchard Music, and half to the Hill Foundation. Under a revised copyright law, works created after 1928 are guaranteed under copyright for 95 years. In this way the birthday song could remain under copyright untill 2030. This is why in restaurants the staff never will use this song when celebrating a birhtdayparty: when sung in public copyrights must be payed. 

The sisters Hill were posthumously inducted into the "Songwriters Hall of Fame" on June 12, 1996.


Click the link to hear Happy Birthday on accordeon