Birthdays have been on my mind today.  It’s no surprise, since we’re celebrating MusicSparks’ second birthday this week.  Because of its old age, we gave the site a little bit of a facelift, complete with updated blog categories and fun musical widgets for your enjoyment!

Birthdays have been an important social milestone for centuries.  After all, we get to gather together with loved ones and celebrate the start of a life.  We can eulogize on successes, laugh over humorous mistakes and mull over all the possibilities that….

Oh who am I kidding?  I’m all about the birthday cake.  What’s not to love about birthday cake? There’s cake.  With frosting.  And it’s okay to eat it because hey, it’s for someone’s birthday!

Sorry.  Got distracted there for a second by stray thoughts, wonderful chocolaty stray thoughts.  With raspberry filling.

Ahem, anyway, we all know that while the most important part of a birthday is the flavor recognizing and celebrating the anniversary of a life, the most iconic part is definitely the Happy Birthday song.   The melody is simple, the lyrics repetitive and the song is a central part of the birthday tradition.  But did you know that every time you belt out that famous chorus, you’re committing copyright infringement?

Indeed, the rights to that song belong to Time Warner, who purchased them from the Hill family.  Sisters Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill are credited with the melody and the original words; Jessica Hill secured the copyrights on behalf of the family when the birthday version of the song took off.  The tune actually has kind of a shady past when you factor in the melodic similarity to other songs published that year and the unknown origin of the words sung today.

However, any hint of scandal from the composers of the Happy Birthday Song was immediately overshadowed once Mariliyn Monroe sang her sultry chorus of “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”.  The blonde icon wasn’t the only one to take liberties with the song.

There are alternate lyrics for the Happy Birthday song that talk about zoos, monkeys and extreme old ages.  My family used to hold out the last note of the song and crescendo it to a nearly unbearable level.

Did your family have an offbeat version of the Happy Birthday song?  What other birthday traditions did you celebrate?

Thanks to R and Y and Will Clayton for use of their images!


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