It’s the song that everyone knows. From the time we are babies clear until we are old, singing Happy Birthday is a tradition that sticks. You’d think that it has been around for hundreds of years. Surprisingly, it hasn’t.
Fun Fact: ‘Happy Birthday To You’ is the most recognized song in the English language.
In 1893, sisters Patty and Mildred Hill sang a song to Patty’s Kindergarten class. It was called “Good Morning to You.” The lyrics went:
It was set to the tune of the song we know as ‘Happy Birthday.’ Patty and Mildred later published the song in a children’s music book. The song was so popular with her students, they often sang it everywhere. And eventually they sang it at birthday parties, but changing the lyrics to ‘Happy Birthday To You’.
Fun Fact: Many believe the sisters copied an older song called ‘Happy Greeting To You’.
The new song was officially published in 1918, but not by the sisters. Instead, a book called Children’s Praise and Worship took credit.
In 1935, ‘Happy Birthday’ was finally copyrighted by the Summy Company as a work for hire by Preston Ware Orem. Why Orem received credit is unknown.
In 1998, Time Warner Co. bought the company that held the copyright to the song. And in 2005, it is estimated that Warner made $5000 a day in royalties.
Fun Fact: August sees the most birthday celebrations. Oct. 5th is the most popular birth day. And it makes sense; conception would have happened on New Year’s Eve.
With so many movies, television shows, birthday cards and countless others using the song, it racks up quite a bit in royalties. Many people have challenged that it still holds a copyright though. As it stands right now, in the U.S. the song will become public domain in 2030. In Europe, it will happen earlier on Oct. 31, 2016. This is because their copyrights last until the author dies plus an additional 70 years. Patty Hill is credited as the author and she passed away in 1946.
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Lisa Coronado is a web content writer for Promotional Pencils and writes specialty articles for Birthday Pencils.