« Stuff You Missed in History Class

The Story of 'Happy Birthday to You'

2013-04-10 | 🔗

When teachers Mildred and Patty Hill's song "Good Morning to All" was published in 1893, there was no public performance right for songs. After the tune was paired with the birthday lyrics, its popularity soared and sparked a tremendous copyright battle.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Welcome to stuff. You missed in history class from how supports darkened and walk into the pond calf on Hollingford, and I am Tracy Wilson until they were going to talk about a thing that everybody knows. Yes, everybody song, happy birthday, you pretty! to everybody. If you don't think for whatever reason. probably know. I guess I don't enjoy it, that my birthday I would rather people saying you're older than you ve ever been and I'm going older, oh yeah, fine thanks, they might be giants. Mine is mostly a problem of people, start happy birthday too high and then, when they get to that third line, they really have to stretch- and everybody sounds a little dicey.
Mine is that I don't like this thing in front of other people out on me and I'm very self. Conscious about my voice and whether I am off key. that's a whole other follow acts. For me, I'm singing did not happen from other people. Now by so happy birthday. The EU is one of the three most popular songs in the english language. In it's been translated and published in so many other languages bites People are still surprised that the song is actually protected, nor copyright and cannot be sung in a public performance without paying royalties things that we hear so often surely it must be in the public domain. No, it is not. It is mine It came from a place, it was written by people and you know so we wanted to you kind of examined the history of it and where this simple little tune came from and why waiters glancing at a restaurant right? What enough? It's? A thing that people can easily into
It is ridiculous that you can't sing happy birthday linked. That's one of those little dumb legal requirement, thing that people will say TAT So yet, how did we get to this point? Well, clarity and we'll talk about it. A little bit more towards that end. Only talk about the current legal state of examination around it copyright law. You can't sing it at a birthday party, Brad's considered a private affair. You just can't sing it for a public foremans anytime, you would golly or indirectly be profiting from it, etc. Can't put it in your movie correct, without licensing right so the sisters behind the song, Mildred, J Hill and Petty Smith Hill were actually the daughters of Presbyterian Minister, your William Hill, and he actually founded the bell. Would female seminary and their mother was Martha Hill, who studied college courses through private tutoring? It centre college, but she was never painted a formal degree because of her gender and Actually have an interesting family, they have six children
So there was Mildred Jane who was the eldest. She was born in June of eighteen, fifty nine Mary Downing Hill, who was born in eighteen, sixty four William Wallace Hill born in eighteen, sixty six patty, the other, stir germane to this songwriting story was born in March of eighteen. Sixty eight Archibald Alexander was born in eighteen. Seventy one and Jessica material, the youngest who also factors into this story, was born in seventy four. So we have to pay six children and what was really pretty progressive approach to raising children at the time the hill encourage their children to play. They encouraged free play and independent thought an exploratory learning, so it wasn't. A lot of children should be seen and not heard. Here read this book. They were much more into their children being active in creative and they also encourage their daughters to pursue careers, which was not unheard. That was also not super common at the time,
the two sisters that road happy birthday, actually work Aren't you really interesting careers of their own Patty Psmith Hill became a very renowned educator and she's really recognize for pioneering some new approaches to early childhood learning and we often credited with being the modern kindergarten. As we know, it hurts stir Mildred J Hill was an accomplished music, scholar and a composer. She several pieces on the importance of Negro spiritual as a cornerstone of american music believed to have written groundbreaking analysis on the subject under the pen name: Johan Tonsure. put a link to that article in our show notes, so that was under a pen name, not a hundred percent sure on that the identity the person he wrote it, but if I believe to be the work of Mildred J Hill, Their legacy really is for most people. The happy there the? U song
and the song didn't quite start as a birthday celebration song. So it started when the sisters were both teaching in Louisville in eighteen, eighty nine, and at that point Patty just gotten out of school and was just starting her job teaching, to originally conceived of a song a little did he called good morning to all that would be selling as a classroom greeting with a very simple lyrics of good, more Do you good morning to you good morning, dear children, good morning to all I remember thinking this in pre school, except we didn't say all at the end. We just said you another time, a word of student, did similar things He wrote the lyrics Imelda wrote, wrote the music to its end,
you're good morning, song was published in a song, but called song stories for the kindergarten in eighteen. Ninety three and it's one of those things that I think people here and there like that's a really simple song did, really claim anybody wrote back, but you can it simple, but it's designed to be because they were trying to come up with tunes that could teach children music very easily, like a kid, can repeat that song. Having heard it only once or twice at the most re, it does not take long to learn, happy birthday to you and it actually is a little deceptive in its simplicity. This is one. Favorite, they with that I learn about happy birthday in this whole outline. That Holly has has given to me the day Stephanie an Goldberg who was writing for the smart set and we published in the new reader and twenty ten pointed out but the song you really hasn't subtle, complexity to it and to call
her. Maybe you never realized it, but inside the happy birthday song is a waltz reminiscent of the blue Danube Waltz Alternates singing the two as events to get a better sense of their similarity that it's me pretty cool. I did not realise ever having been singing. You know, birthday for thirty something years that the wealth and she in her article, which is another one, the only two in the shone out. She kind of talks you through how to do the bar tapping count the number, so you can do them at the same time, which I did not tests, but it made sense Yet, as I read it is like a kind of invasion doing now and now now I really want to happy birthday poker limit. We can all see who behave like a step from walks to poker guarantee. There's a recording of import there has to be, and the beauty of such a simple tune as well is that it's really easily adaptable, which is why, for example, your school growing up,
the lyrics little bit, because a lot of people do the songs publication in eighteen. Ninety three became popularly used in education and it did evolve. You note we can easily switch outwards and it also kind of change to the come away for students to greet their teachers rather than the apparent initial intent of the lira. Which was sounded much more teacher greeting students, but it it took on a life of its own in the education Rome at the time, because again it was easily adaptable, though, today, when the song was first published in eighteen. Ninety three, there was no public performance right for musical compositions composed didn't have any kind of legal right or recourse to prevent other people from performing their music. They could only prevent other people from printing and selling sheet music, so ass cap, which is the american society of composers, authors and publishers
which is the organisation that deals a lot with these kinds of music rights, whether founded until nineteen fourteen. So in eighteen. Ninety three, the whole question of who can sing happy birthday and where was really illegal question will and it was a happy birthday. Yet it was growing at that point. so when exactly good morning to all transition from me, classroom greeting to a birthday standard is actually not a hundred percent clear. at some point, a second stanza, the happy birthday you lyrics that we all know began appearing and publications of the song. The first note including the combination, is the beginning book of songs which was published by a piano, manufacture, company, the cable company in length Twelve, and it was later we published by the cable company in the one hundred and one best songs and probably in some other additions of those two books. It also appears in some other places, though, is the two good morning unhappy good morning and happy birthday versions.
First of these is the golden book of favorite songs, which was compiled and edited by an age h in ninety Fifteen and the other the children's book of praise and worship, which was published by the wonder, press and nineteen. Twenty eight and there are several hymnals and complications that were edited by Robert each Coleman as well, those years that include both stances and there's also there's actually been some debate about Common wrote the happy Birthday Lyrics Robert Brown, who will talk about a lot in this pon cast wrote a paper on copyright in the world's most popular song, and he mentions in his erotic, paid for the article that coalmines grandson has actually asserted that his grandfather penned the lyrics, but since then lyrics had been published. As early as nineteen twelve, which has long before coalmines compilations, it seems a little bit unlikely.
however, a lot of articles on the subjects seem to incorrectly site nineteen nineteen, twenty four song book that common edited as the first appearance of the second stage of the birthday greeting Burma is really he's pretty much a happy birthday scholar at this point and he is unearth these, like the cable company, patience and some of these others where it showed up. So it doesn't really seem likely that common actually wrote that stand the, although in his own notes, brown, mentions it's there, very simple words, it's entirely conceivable that he wrote them. That they already existed, like two people, could have. With those same lyrics right, however, that we live in a world where someone can be the happy birthday. Scholar he's really done a great deal of research on it. So thanks to radio and talkies the happy birthday version of the song became really popular. It sort of filled a nature of birthday. Fellow thanks
Yeah they're really wasn't another to the best of my knowledge. Prior to that, there doesn't really seem to be another now, except for they might be giants which we just talked about, which is only a replacement if you're a nerd. Well, there's a version from the simpsons that I like to think that that completely different I think it's only on their because they didn't want to pay the licensing. Did you happy birthday right, but the time. The song was becoming a standard part of earthly celebrations. We should note that Mildred was already deceased. She died at the age of fifty six in June of nineteen. Sixteen This episode of stuff you missed in history class, is brought to you by Norton three hundred and sixty with Lifelock. Let's just say, you're shopping online with your smartphone. I do it all the time that sure feels like your personal info is right there in your hand, but that's not was the case because, as soon as you hit submit your purse,
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is always that guy who joined your game, he never passes the rock. He instantly bricks theories and who can we have you and then put his hands up and say no foul, no foul, with Geico it's easy to switch and save on car insurance, no need to fake an angel sprang because you're, absolutely exhausted. So which in save with back up its own. Better than sports? But, songs popularity expanded, it started showing up in films and plays, and it was actually even used for western unions. First singing telegram The sun was kind of taking on a life of its own as the happy birthday song right and then, as often happens, people kind of realise that their work was being appropriated without there being compensate, for it so Jessica, the sister, the Third Hills sister. But then, after in nineteen, thirty four,
when the song appeared in the Irving Berlin Musical, as thousands sheer with no credit or compensation going to Patty. Who was at that point the surviving of the two sisters who had created the song. so Jessica wanted to ensure that her sisters received credit for their creation in any compensation they were do and so in August of nineteen thirty four she actually filed suit against Broadway producer, SAM Harris and then eventually also named in that suit, with his production company, the composer Irving Berlin Playwright, MOSS heard that worked on his thousands cheer and the case never got to judgment it kind of petered out. They didn't pursue it, but it did get it the deposition stage and Vote Jessica Am Patty gave deposition and this is a bit of patties deposition. So do you agree, These Maria either little role play, padding said
while only the words good morning to all were put in the book. We used it for goodbye to you happy journey to you a happy Christmas to you happy new year to you, happy vacation to you and so with and so on, Did you also used the words happy birthday to you? We certainly did with every birthday celebration in the school. So oh Patty was establishing that when they were using this as a teaching song back in the good morning to all days, they were really changing of the lyrics as needed to fit virtually any occasion, because again they were still using it to teach children, and it was easily easy for children to repeat back right. So Jessica testified that, while there were many versions of the lyrics to her sister song, she particularly remembered thinking good morning to all and happy birthday to you and I the key seems to petered out. There was neither a judgment nor a settlement in it. came up later. In addition, all copyright d
action that the case could be revisited, but despite the did it kind of got, put on pause? point Jessica went ahead and secured the copyright happy birthday you in late nineteen, thirty, four, And then she worked with the Clayton of some company of Chicago to publish copyright, the Tunis Happy birthday in nineteen, thirty, five so the time. Copyright laws would have given them at one eight year term, plus one renewal of the same length, and that would have seen the song move into public domain and ninety ninety one, but copyright law has changed through the year. So much so in the copyright act of nineteen, seventy six. The law was amended to grant copyright for seventy five years after the date of publication, which then would have me expiration to twenty ten then the passing of the copyright term Extension ACT and ninety ninety eight added another twenty years to the copyright, so that time now extends to twenty thirty.
what's interesting now is to kind of sea where the ownership has landed. On this on a few years, The Clayton have some company publishing copyrighted in New York Mountain named John Thing Stack purchase the company and renamed it Birch tree limited in now. Nineteen. Eighty eight Warner Chapel purchased birch tree, which then became semi, burkhard, music, semi, Bert It is time as part of Time Warner, which makes happy birthday a part of the time Warner groups. Holdings so now royalties for performances of happy birthday, our action. Split between Time Warner and the Hill Foundation Jesse EL died in eighteen, fifty one so royalties for happy birthday has since been paid into the whole foundation, trust which she published as part of her will- and this is the part that we becomes pivotal moment in the hall, you can't sing happy birthday. Is it I'm mourners big companies that enormous company to own something as simple as happy birthday to you so
how do died. Eleven years after happy birthday was copyrighted, which was on May twenty fifth eighteen, forty six. That was her death. That was when she died neither see nor Mildred had married or had children and who receives the hell foundations. Money is disclosed anywhere, but its belief that it goes I either to charity or to the hills, nephew or maybe a split between the two of them and estimated that their rights to the song her licence approximately two hundred times per year, and that's on a sliding payment scale kind of lake. What your audience reaches in what you are likely to make off of it will determine how much they charge you to perform in public right, but it brings in roughly two million dollars annually, which I think is over mind boggling, it is, and it makes me wish. I had written a four lines that could be licensed by everyone.
There have been a number of legal actions through the years to enforce their rights, to happy birthday and if any of our listeners ever watched the show sports night. They actually had an episode about where one of them you're, saying it to his co host on the brain. ass, not knowing that it was a copyrighted peace and then, of course yours got involved, and there was much incur There was talk of no really that's copyrighted by though we gotta be involved in this song has actually come into question in recent years. Going back to the work of Robert Brown eyes and his paper copyright in the world's most popular song and establish sort of his credentials he's the kind Rector of the intellectual Property LAW programme, he's co, director of the Dean Dinwiddie Centre for intellectual property studies, and he is a member of the managing Board of Munich Intellectual Property LAW centre. Oliver, George, Washington, university or the first you, and he is
We question the legitimacy of this copyright receive. You know, law. Professor, who studies, copyright law specifically, and he has like we said, really become a scholar on his manner. His work is impeccable in terms of like the records he keeps will to all of this. To you. Can follow along his research that he's gone through through the years and he then his array page online gets updated constantly with when Peter written in with other pieces of the puzzle or things that they have heard that can be verified about, things that have happened along the way with happy birthday, those I'll get updated. It seems constantly so fascinating red, particularly if you are into law. So, in addition to being the happy birthday, scholar he's also essentially an expert on intellectual property and is actively looking at this all the time. Yet and he makes the case of the song- is really similar to folk music, the predated it to quote part of his
for he says, moreover, many have suggested that now standing the attribution of this onto the hill sisters. It is so much like other previous songs that it should be treated as having arisen from a folk tradition, rather than the native talents of a particular author Some cases they even link that back to Mildred Expertise in Negro, spiritual rules and how she studied folk music extensively and how clearly feeding into her writing of this, because at first She wrote, theoretically, as Johan Tonsure was happening that was published close to the time of the song was also published. So there some discussion layer right round eyes also points out that there is no clear authorship of the happy birthday lyrics, so Patty said in her deposition that they sang the happy birthday version of the song. It's never explicitly stated that she wrote those exact words and she also draw attention to the fact that he has never been able to find a renewal of the nineteen thirty five copyright. He
I'm filing for other specific arrangements of the music that this suggests that the tune wouldn't have qualified to benefit from the extension afforded by the copyright ACT of nineteen seventy six. So they they had actually kind of drop the ball. Someone had dropped the ball on there in terms of that, she'll twenty eight years and a renewal that we're? I allow the renewal? Never did it didn't happen. If ever did happen, we don't have a clear documentation of that. The brown eyes research is extremely thorough. He finds all kinds of flaws in the life of the composition and all of its various layers. Apart from the major wine of not being able to find the original renewal of the copyright, so he he's pointed out lots and lots problems in its cause. Ike Status and don't worry about it. As we said, you could still thing it at a private birthday party, because I consider public performance and nobody
making money off of singing happy worth eight dear friend ray and in the erotic. The brown eyes mentions here, says that there's a grey area even for wait, staff at a restaurant, preferring the song forget some people have argued like that's an We're thing: it's not something those people are being paid for, like you're, not paid performers. He points out that we consider that an indirect profit making thing, because it's like a value add to your meal. But in most establishments err on the side of caution and that's why, when you go out to you, you know your friendly neighbourhood or chain grill. They sing like a really weird custom birthday song right. They sing another nerd boat there's a running joke on a nerd boat, which is a vacation that I take annually that, but it always MIKE fireman's birthday. My firm communion a musician. If you don't know who that is an answer there were, there was more than one singing of happy birthday on the boat to MIKE Vermin.
In various different version. Now there was very was the normal one, just with somebody holding the final you for as long as possible. So I kind of wonder now is the courteous line are they paying some kind of royalty or are they hoping her grey area there in international waters, though, who knows well in one of the things that brown eyes mentioned to you and it's come up? If you, Google, the legality of happy birthday in its copyright, it will in a lot of legal blogs, because it has been discussed a lot in recent years and Several people point out that at this point, passive all bad Has been a little bit of a back off on trying to follow through and make sure people pay licensing going after people that don't get licence to perform it because it could draw attention to the fact that there might be some sort of improperly now form some black holes in the legal
line of ownership of this song inside this point, it's kind of like no, that's fine. You can t get we're. Ok with you any. It would mean brown eyes mentioned specifically in his paper that even if someone wanted to go after this, you could, because it is, there are problems, but it extremely costly prettily, because at this point, there have been so many licensees and so money paid too time Warner and the previous earnest before that did it would get legally very messy and caused us a lot of time and money to be spent, and most people don't think it's worth it right with. You would need to just know from now that you needed to have more money than Time Warner, which is quite a That's a lot of money! That's a pretty high borrowed offset the star of legal proceedings right, maybe not more money than Time Warner, but more money than time Warner would be real willing to spend on it yeah. So, yes, I would probably be alive yeah certain
simple song with such a sort of fascinating history. I think it's failing to read sort of the depositions about there's much more than what we read these people. You know being asked about the simple, simple kindergarten song fascinating right. I like how some other other people have written their own little birthday thongs. Maybe in response to this maybe just be fun and maybe will puts them out on our Facebook and twitter. After this episode, when your call breaks down dude
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And I believe we have listener mail. So this one comes from are listener hastily and she says high treason him only presuming to see if its, not thanks for your recent pot cast on austrian history as an australian listening to your pod cast sometimes get lost in the details of american history, so I was particularly excited to hear you talk about the rather profits, though I had never heard of the emu or emu. We ve had meant much discussion about the correct pronunciation wars and the United States, either as by either, is fine but apparently not overseas. Don't worry, I've informed everyone. I know about this Corky part of our history. Now
and she offers to tell a story which is that today, rabbits are indeed a huge past and problem. Where I live in the suburbs of northern Sidney. I cross at least one rabbit ass. I walked home from the bus stop every day, but my grandmother remembers them quite fondly for her family and many others. Rabbits during the great depression kept families alive, as their population was so large and at that time and Australia, firearms were widely available. Rabbits were used for food and blankets for those who can afford to buy new things, they could also be used to supplement your income. This was done most famously by the members of this house. Didn't Rugby league team in this era earning them the nicknames, the rabbit whose which is still the official name of their club today, the prize you didn't refer to mix up mitosis disease that was introduced in the nineteen fifty to curb the rabbit population. It was actually successful until the resistant population went on to breed and the population got back to about the same by the end of the century,
so. I thought I was the research doers on that one. That's the disease that we were talking about when we mentioned that today, disease is one of the ways that Australia tries to control rabbit population. The reason that I didn't get into that is because, in my research I unearthed papers about other diseases that maybe could be good to introduce two rabbits to control their population and they were full of these heartbreaking images of thick rabbits. And it just made me very sad. So I didn't want to go into more detail about particular aspect of it. In the park asked Turkey with, I recognise that their path, but it's hard they're gonna until we ready to deal with one when I, when I sent the outline over to highly to look at, I had a note by the one of the links that said: Holly dont, look at this it's full of pictures of sick rabbits, yeah
I'm crazy animality Tracy. I couldn't handle it, but if you would like to write to us, you can also do so, and that is that history podcast at discovery dot com. You can also connect with us on Twitter, missed in history on Facebook, at Facebook, dot, com, slash history, class stuff. We also have a tumbler which is missed in history, the cobbler dot com, numerous foreign countries. If you'd like to learn more about what we discussed today, you can go to our website and taken lords happy birthday, and you will turn up an article called how music licensing works, which does discuss happy birthday a little bit you'd like learn about that or anything else. Your mind can culture you can do so,
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