When it comes to equality, one thing is certain – the one thing we all have regardless of Race, Creed, Culture, Socio-Economic status, High School clique – we all have a birthday. Each of us has one day in the year that is ours to take stock of our lives…to celebrate the fact that we’re here in this place…at this time…to eat cake…
While some treat the day as an excuse for all-out extravaganzas, others see it as just another day…
Today’s quiz is focused on that special day…the day that is all yours…
Ready to learn what your answers mean…?
“Good Morning to All”
Good morning to you,
Good morning to you,
Good morning, dear children.
Good morning to all.
Does this sound familiar to you…? Try adding a tune to it.
Those are the original lyrics to “Happy Birthday”…written by sisters Mildred and Patty Hill back in the mid-1800’s. Mildred was a painist/composer, and Patty was a Kindergarden principal down in Louisville, Kentucky who wanted a song that would be easily remembered and sung by her students. Years later, in 1893, they published the tune in their songbook Song Stories for the Kindergarten. Some think the Hill sisters likely copied the tune and lyrical idea from other popular and similar nineteenth-century songs that predated theirs, including Horace Waters’ “Happy Greetings to All”, “Good Night to You All” also from 1858, “A Happy New Year to All” from 1875, and “A Happy Greeting to All”, published 1885.
(There’s been some dispute over that claiming that those songs had different melodies)
It was first registed for copywrite back in 1935 by…well not by the sisters and citing Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R.R. Forman as the authors.
Fiftey-three years and $25 Million later, Warner/Chappel Music purchased the Birch Tree Group Limited and with it: the copywrite and estimated the value of that one simple song to be $5 million and claims that the United States copyright will not expire until 2030, and that unauthorized public performances of the song are technically illegal unless royalties are paid to Warner.
The company continues to insist that one can’t sing the “Happy Birthday to You” lyrics for profit without paying royalties: in 2008, Warner collected about $5,000 per day ($2 million per year) in royalties for the song. Warner/Chappell claims copyright for every use in film, television, radio, anywhere open to the public, and for any group where a substantial number of those in attendance are not family or friends of whoever is performing the song.
Sooooo that’s why we didn’t play it before…or why it’s not used in most forms of media.
For those that DO….
The Walt Disney Company supposedly paid the copyright holder $5,000 to use the song in the birthday scene at Epcot’s attraction Horizons…I believe it’s closed down now – go figure…
The documentary film “The Corporation” made mention that Warner/Chappell charges up to $10,000 for the song to appear in a film. Because of the copyright issue, filmmakers rarely show complete singalongs of “Happy Birthday” in films, either substituting the public-domain “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” or avoiding the song entirely.
The use of the song is a problem even if it is sung in a made up language, as a Klingon-language version was nixed in pre-production from the 7th season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Parallels”, replaced with “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” in Klingon…yeah, that’s just as much fun, isn’t it?
In the 1987 documentary “Eyes on the Prize” about the US Civil Rights Movement, there was a birthday party scene in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s discouragement began to lift. After the film was released, the film was unavailable for sale or broadcast for many years because of the cost of clearing many copyrights, of which “Happy Birthday to You” was one. Grants in 2005 for copyright clearances have allowed PBS to rebroadcast the film as recently as February 2008.
However…some television and tv shows have found ways around it…for example:
The copyright status of “Happy Birthday to You” is directly referenced in “iMake Sam Girlier”, a 2009 episode of the TV series iCarly, in which a character begins to sing the song but is prevented from doing so by another character who points out the song isn’t public domain; singing “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow” instead.
The copyright is also referenced frequently in a Disney “A.N.T. Farm” episode where characters repeatedly try to sing the song, only to be stopped by others reminding them of the price.
In the Futurama episode “I Second That Emotion”, they poke fun at the song and its copyright by making their own version with the lyrics “What day is today? / It’s (birthday person)’s birthday / What a day for a birthday / Let’s all have some cake.”
In the 30 Rock episode “Goodbye, My Friend”, TGS cast members begin to sing the song following an announcement about the royalty fee for singing “Happy Birthday to You” on a television show. The cast is interrupted after the first line by a character entering the scene.
In the Community episode “Mixology Certification”, a scene starts with the last two words of the song (“…to you”), implying it had been sung in its entirety, but it is then revealed that the characters sang only those two words, because the birthday boy comes from a culture in which birthdays are not celebrated.
Gotta share this, because this was soooo cool… a few years back on August 5, 2013 the first anniversary of its landing on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity rover celebrated its “birthday” when engineers at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD used the Sample Analysis at Mars (“SAM” for short) instrument to cause the rover to “sing” Happy Birthday on the Martian surface.
Know why I found this to be cool…? Because it happened on MY birthday…