Children helped to write ‘Happy Birthday’ song
“HAPPY birthday to you, happy birthday to you.”
I bet you can hear that song in your head when you read those words. Practically everyone knows the song Happy Birthday to You. Experts say it is sung more than any other song in the English language, and maybe more than any other song in the world.
But did you ever stop to think that someone actually wrote the birthday song? It seems as if it has been around forever. In fact, an early version of it was written by two sisters, a teacher and a musician, in the early 1890s.
The really cool thing about the song is kids like you helped write it.
Patty Smith Hill taught preschool in Louisville, Kentucky. Her sister Mildred Hill was a musician and composer. They decided to write songs that would be fun and easy for young pupils to sing. They came up with one that sounded like the happy birthday song, except the words were “good morning to all”.
Robert Brauneis, a professor at George Washington University Law School in Washington, DC, has studied the history of the song. He said the Hill sisters would work on writing their song in the evenings. The next day, Patty would teach it to her students, watching and listening as the kids sang. She noticed parts that were hard to sing and parts that didn’t sound quite right. Then the sisters would rework the song, fixing the tricky parts. Eventually, the words “good morning to all” changed to “happy birthday to you”.
Until recently, anyone who used the happy birthday song in a movie, play or other public performance had to pay a company that claimed it owned the song. That’s why many restaurants came up with their own happy birthday songs for servers to sing to customers.
But a judge in California recently decided the company didn’t own the song and that it’s not clear who does. Because no one else has claimed the song – at least for now – anybody can sing it for free.
Of course, relatives and friends have always been allowed to sing the song to birthday boys and girls without paying. That hasn’t changed.
So the next time you sing happy birthday to someone, keep in mind that kids played a special, important role in creating the song that is considered the most popular in the world. – Washington Post