Did you know that the “Happy Birthday Song” started out as “Good Morning to You”? Did you know this song was created by two sisters from Louisville, Kentucky?
Mildred J. Hill, a composer, organist, concert pianist, and musical scholar was teaching at the Louisville Experimental Kindergarten School where her sister, Patty Smith Hill, was principal. Mildred came up with the melody to what we now know as “Happy Birthday” and Patty added the lyrics. They created a song for teachers to use to welcome students to class each day. The song was created in 1893 and called Good Morning To You and went like this:
Good morning to you, Good morning to you, Good morning, dear children, Good Morning to all.
Nobody really knows who changed the words to Happy Birthday to You and put them to the melody of Good Morning to You but the song was being used in all kinds of musicals, on radio, in telegrams and for birthday celebrations. The Hills were not getting any compensation for the use of the song. Jessica Hill, another sister, who had copyrighted the song on behalf of her sisters filed suit and secured copyrights to Happy Birthday To You.
The Clayton Summy Company, working with Jessica Hill, published and copyrighted “Happy Birthday” in 1935. This copyright will not expire until 2030 but the Company was bought by a New York accountant named John Sengstack in the 1930s and renamed Birch Tree Ltd. Warner Chappell, purchased Birch Tree in 1998 and is now a part of the giant AOL Time Warner conglomerate. The song brings in about $2 million a year and the Hill Foundation’s share goes to charity or to a nephew of Patty and Mildred.
So, to all my lovely blogging friends out there the next time you sing Happy Birthday to a friend or relative just remember this little ditty written by two Southern sisters from Kentucky and sung hundreds of millions of times each year is the most recognized song in the English language and has been translated into at least 18 different languages.