Happy Birthday To You

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Do you sing the Birthday Song to a friend or relative?

History of  “Happy Birthday To You”

Everyone knows the Birthday Song, from the time we’re little kids. It’s the song we always sing when someone has a birthday; it’s the song we always hear when it’s our birthday. Have you ever noticed in the restaurants where they sing to you on your birthday, that they don’t sing the usual one we’ve always heard? There’s a reason for that and it’s this: Until this year, the copyright to the song belonged to a company who stopped any commercial establishment from using the song without paying for its use. Most restaurants and establishments of that nature did not want to pay for the use of the song, so they created their own.

Two Sisters Wrote The Original Song

The song was first published in 1893, as “Good Morning to All,” with lyrics by Patty Smith Hill and melody by her sister Mildred J. Hill. Patty was a kindergarten principal and her sister Mildred was a pianist and composer. The song was created to be a tune that could easily be sung by young children in school. The Hill Sisters were raised in a home that placed a high value on education.

The Tune Was Used In Movies Without Accreditation

In the early 1930s, the song with the revised lyrics familiar to all of us as “Happy Birthday to You,” was used in several movies, without credit or copyright to the Hill sisters. A third sister, Jessica Hill decided to take a stand on behalf of her sisters and filed a lawsuit. The results of the suit were never decided, but tossed out of court. Some say there was a settlement between the parties involved, but it is not known with certainty.

The original music and lyrics for "Happy Birthday To You"

The original music and lyrics for “Happy Birthday To You”


No Copyrights In The Early Years

The song is first known to have appeared in print as “Happy Birthday to You” in 1912, but may have existed much earlier. None of these early appearances included credits or copyrights and it became rumored that no one really knew who wrote the lyrics. The Summy Company, in conjunction with a third sister, Jessica Hill, registered for copyright in 1935, crediting authors Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R.R.Forman. In 1990 Warner Chappell purchased Summy for $15-million dollars, with the value of “Happy Birthday” estimated at $5-million. The copyright basically says that public performances of the song for a commercial venue are illegal unless royalties are paid to the company.The copyrights have remained in dispute, with the passage of the Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998. But read on, there’s more to the story.

“Happy Birthday to You” Beatles Style

The Beatles sang “Happy Birthday to You” celebrating the birthday of a program called The Saturday Club. Contrary to rumors, Paul McCartney’s company MPL Communications, although one of the largest of its kind, does NOT own the rights to the perennial birthday song. But they certainly sang it just fine, as shown in this video below.


My 15th birthday with my Mom and Dad

Celebrating my 15th Birthday with my Mother and Father

Celebrating my 15th Birthday with my Mother and Father, from my family album

Birthdays are fun and should be celebrated as another year you’ve grown, not just in body but also in knowledge. This is one of my favorite memories, with my Mom and Dad. Mom baked wonderful cakes, and always managed to get it all done and hidden away before I came home from school. Then at the appropriate time, TA DA! The cake would be brought to the table as if it just magically appeared. Where on earth did she hide it? I still don’t know to this day.

What day was your birthday?

We know our birthdate but not always the day. For some reason, with the passage of time, that seems to be a detail many of us aren’t sure of, unless we have a birth certificate. But without that, there is another way to find out in this modern age. I was always curious for some reason, because of the old poem about the traits someone would have on being born on a specific day. So I looked for and found this link. Just put in your birth date and it will tell you what day the date fell on. I was born on Friday. Try it for yourself at this link but be sure to hit your back button to return to this page:  Zeller’s Algorithm

Does This Mean You Can’t Sing The Song to Someone?

Of course not, but it used to be that you could sing it as long as you weren’t using it to make money. But if you were using it in a movie, video, or any other commercial venue, even a restaurant, you had to have permission to use it from the copyright holders. This is no longer true, according to author Jeff Zarronandia on Snopes.com. Federal Judge George H. King recently ruled that the company that collected royalties for decades from “Happy Birthday to You” does not hold a valid copyright to the song. The copyright the Clayton F. Summy Company filed in 1935 granted the company rights only to the melody and certain arrangements, but not to the actual song, because Summy never copyrighted the lyrics. It remains to be seen if the copyright enforcing company, Warner/Chappell, will have to pay back money it collected for all those years. It took in some $2 million a year for the company for decade upon decade. That would be a pricey sum to repay.

Ultimate Birthdays Don’t Just Happen, They Are Planned!

Next time you plan a birthday party, you can sing “Happy Birthday to You,” in good conscience, no matter where you are. And to help you plan a great birthday, here’s my picks for hints, ideas and tips. They’re also  great gifts for someone who likes to remember birthdays of their friends and family.



Nancy Hardin is a highly experienced writer and author. A retired journalist, she is also a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother with a wealth of experience in many fields. In addition, she is a retiree veteran, having spent many years in the Women’s Army Corps. She is also an experienced ghostwriter and you can see more about her skills at the The Writers’Door. YOu can visit Nancy’s website here and discover more of her work at this site.

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Author: Nancy Hardin

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