Ever wonder where the "Happy Birthday" song come from?

Posted by GoGo Goodie on September 25, 2011.

I was recently wondered where the Happy Birthday song came from.  Especially given that the Guinness Book of World Records stated it is the most recognized song in the English language.  So, I did a little investigating and found the following;

The origins of "Happy Birthday To You" date back to the mid-nineteenth century, when two sisters, Patty and Mildred J. Hill, introduced the song "Good Morning to All" to Patty's kindergarten class 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 popular and substantially similar nineteenth-century songs that predated theirs, 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. In the EU and other countries in which copyright lasts for the life of the author(s) plus 70 years, the copyright will expire after December 31, 2016, as Patty Hill died in 1946.


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".  Children's Praise and Worship, edited by Andrew Byers, Bessie L. Byrum and Anna E. Koglin, published the song in 1918. 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.

In 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 1998,[10] the rights to "Happy Birthday to You" and its assets were sold to The Time-Warner Corporation. In March 2004, Warner Music Group was sold to a group of investors led by Edgar Bronfman Jr.  The company continues to insist that one cannot sing the "Happy Birthday to You" lyrics for profit without paying royalties: in 2008, Warner collected about $5000 per day ($2 million per year) in royalties for the song.  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 friends of whoever is performing the song. For this reason, most restaurants or other public party venues will not allow their employees to perform the song in public, instead opting for other original songs or cheers in honor of the birthday celebrant.

Well there you have it, the detailed history of the Happy Birthday song.  It might take a little more digging, but perhaps I'll research the history of goodie bags (loot bags) one day!

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