Watch, but dont Touch!

by Hannah Klomp

Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you.. Wait, wait, wait.

I think it is safe to say that everybody in the Western world (maybe even beyond) has had witness or been sung this song, whether it be on your own birthday or while you were attending somebody else’s birthday. Have you ever really stopped and thought about the repeated words and tune you were singing?

I, personally had never thought about this song before my BCM112 lecture this week. I usually just sung the song, said hip, hip horray and the thought of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song would not have came about until the next time I had to wish somebody a happy birthday so while I was listening to this weeks lecture, and as I have been researching this seemingly simple song, it becomes not so simple after all. In fact, it is actually quite complicated.

The tune of the song goes back to about the 1890s, where two Hill sisters from Kentucky wrote a song called “Good-morning to All” and has continued whereas the lyrics have been altered transforming from ‘Good-morning to you ” to the common lyrics of Happy Birthday. Although this transformation is unclear to how it evolved, the first copyright for the song was in 1935 by the Clayton F Summy Publishing Company and Jessica Hill and has been under copyright ever since. Nowadays the song of Happy Birthday is copyrighted by Time Warner, bringing in more than USD $2 million in royalties every year. (Yep, while you’re celebrating your birthday by singing a song, Time Warner is receiving all the gifts!!)