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The origins of the “Happy Birthday Song”

26 October 2017

On June 27, 1859, teacher Mildred Hill was born. You may not know her name but you will almost certainly have sung the song she helped write. Hill was the co-composer of Happy Birthday to You, which is the song millions of people sing around a candle lit cake.

"Happy Birthday to You", more commonly known as simply "Happy Birthday", is a song that is traditionally sung to celebrate the anniversary of a person's birth. According to the 1998 Guinness World Records, "Happy Birthday to You" is the most recognized song in the English language.

Patty Hill was a kindergarten principal in Louisville, Kentucky, developing various teaching methods at what is now the Little Loomhouse; her sister Mildred was a pianist and composer. The sisters used "Good Morning to All" as a song that young children would find easy to sing. The combination of melody and lyrics in "Happy Birthday to You" first appeared in print in 1912, and probably existed even earlier.

Both the music and lyrics are in public domain in both the European Union and United States. The copyright expired in the European Union on January 1, 2017. In the United States, a federal court ruled in 2016 that Warner/Chappell's copyright claim was invalid and there was no other claim to copyright.

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