Happy Birthday To You

First published as "Good Morning To All" in 1893 with music by Mildred J. Hill (1859-1916) and lyrics by Patty Smith Hill (1868-1946). Melody apparently based on "Happy Greetings To All" and/or "Good Night To You All" (both published in 1858). "Happy Birthday To You" lyrics written by an anonymous author c. 1915 or in the 20's, but copyrighted in 1935 by the Hill family.

FZ album(s) in which song has appeared


Tour(s) on which song is known to have been performed (main source: FZShows, v. 7.1)



Marc De Bruyn (emdebe@village.uunet.be), September 6, 2003

"Happy Birthday to You", originally called "Good Morning To All" (later "Good Morning to You"), is a four-line ditty that was written as a classroom greeting in 1893 by two Louisville teachers, Mildred J. Hill (1859-1916), an authority on Negro spirituals, and (her sister) Dr. Patty Smith Hill (1868-1946), professor emeritus of education at Columbia University.

For more than a century, this tune has been the traditional piece of music sung to millions of birthday celebrants every year—everyone from uncomprehending infants to US presidents; it has been performed in space, and it has been incorporated into millions of music boxes, watches, musical greeting cards, and other tuneful products. It therefore surprises many to discover that this ubiquitous song, a six-note melody composed in the 19th century and accompanied by a six-word set of repetitive lyrics, is still protected by copyright—and will be for decades to come.

The "Happy Birthday to You" lyrics first appeared in a songbook edited by one Robert H. Coleman in 1924, where they were published as a second stanza to "Good Morning to You"; with the advent of radio and sound films, "Happy Birthday" was widely popularized as a birthday celebration song, and its lyrics supplanted the originals. By the mid-'30s, the revamped ditty had appeared in the Broadway musical "The Band Wagon" (1931) and had been used for Western Union's first "singing telegram" (1933), and when Irving Berlin's musical "As Thousands Cheer" made yet another uncredited and uncompensated use of the "Good Morning to All" melody, Jessica Hill, a third Hill sister who administered the copyright to "Good Morning to All" on behalf of her sisters, sprang into action and filed suit. By demonstrating the undeniable similiarities between "Good Morning to All" and "Happy Birthday to You" in court, Jessica was able to secure the copyright of "Happy Birthday to You" for her sisters in 1934.

"Happy Birthday to You" was copyrighted in 1935 and renewed in 1963; in 1988, Birch Tree Group, Ltd. sold the rights of the song to Warner Communications (along with all other assets) for an estimated $25 million (considerably more than a song). In the '80s, "Happy Birthday to You" was believed to generate about $1 million in royalties annually. With "Auld Lang Syne" and "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow", it is among the three most popular songs in the English language. "Happy Birthday to You" continues to bring in approximately 2 million dollars in licensing revenue each year, at least as of 1996 accounting, according to Warner Chappell and a Forbes magazine article.

Recorded by Cliff Richard, Duke Ellington, Milt Buckner, the Monkees, Stan Kenton, and many more...

Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill are postumously inducted into The Songwriter's Hall of Fame (1996).

More interesting readings regarding the authorship of the song:



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This page updated: 2019-04-19