Chil­dren helped to write ‘Happy Birth­day’ song

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPOSTER - JEN­NIFER LARUE HUGET

“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

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