Happy Birthday song

Have you heard this Happy Birthday song?

Reading the novel The Hate U Give this year, which I didn’t even think of as a young adult book, I came across a reference to “all the black people” singing the Stevie Wonder of “Happy Birthday.”

Angie Thomas’s book has been lauded for providing perspective and emphasizing the need to speak up against injustice. Still, I wasn’t expecting to find a new perspective on birthdays! Nevertheless, I’ll admit I didn’t know about there being a Stevie Wonder birthday song.

Have you Heard This Happy Birthday?

Of course, with YouTube, it easy to enjoy Wonder’s 1981 release still today.

In the song, per Azlyrics.com, he sings:

…we all know in our minds
That there ought to be a time
That we can set aside
To show just how much we love you
And I’m sure you would agree
It couldn’t fit more perfectly
Than to have a world party on the day you came to be

While this is how I feel about birthdays overall, the song actually reflects Wonder’s campaigning to have Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday become a national holiday. The single was produced and released to raise awareness of the idea.

Encouraging the recognition of King Jr.’s birthday as a way to celebrate peace, he wrote:

It should be a great event
And the whole day should be spent
In full remembrance
Of those who lived and died for the oneness of all people.

The song did not reach Billboard’s Hot 100 that year, but it did chart for R&B and became one of Wonder’s biggest UK hits.

Birthday Song Success

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into existence. The first official MLK Jr Day, held annually the third Monday in January each year, was later commemorated with Stevie Wonder headlining a large-scale concert.

And despite my enthusiasm for birthdays and reading on the topic, I’d never encountered this before reading Thomas’s novel. This tells me something about where I have been looking for birthday information, but it also reminds me of a main reason I read so much. Picking up a book is a way to expand my perspective on the world.

I not only recommend listening to the Wonder song, but also checking out the book featuring a 16-year-old girl trying to balance two separate worlds. She lives in a poverty stricken neighborhood and early on a friend is shot by a police officer, igniting racial tensions in the area. While keeping her experience a secret from her white boyfriend and other friends at her private suburban private school, Starr Carter grapples with grief and decides whether or not to speak up as the sole witness of the shooting.

In the meantime, I hope you continue enjoying reading this blog and its many perspectives on birthdays customs.

Stretching the Birthday Suit Idea

I regularly follow social media with the hashtag #birthday. You can see what I find if you follow me @birthdaysarebest. In the meantime, I want to weigh in on a phenomenon I’ve noticed — women posting selfies of their birthday outfits.

To begin, let me clear, I do not want to body shame any one in this blog. I am thoroughly impressed with the confidence these women have in posting their barely clad bodies on twitter.

What shocks me is the lack of fabric in the outfits of choice. I didn’t realize I was such a prude until I started seeing these grinning young women in scanty clothes. I have done a mental cataloging of my own past birthday outfits — notice I don’t say birthday suit — and even when I was their age I don’t remember a day where I wore so little fabric!

Birthday Skin

Without naming any names (or twitter handles), I’ve seen an awful lot of birthday skin by virtue of following the #birthday tag.

Apparently birthday outfit means you have to:

  • Show your belly button
  • Barely cover your breasts
  • Keep skirt hemline thigh high at best
  • Wear shoes that are sure to kill you if you have any drinks and attempt to dance.

I may have done one of these at most in my younger days — Ok, maybe two in my wildest days — but all four at once? Man, clearly I am over the hill (and should probably start regretting my age at birthdays more).

I am certainly over the hill enough to regret the evening when I ended up viewing an unexpected eggplant shot. Some guy thought it was a great gift to a girl to share his engorged self on social media. For a hilarious take on this phenomenon check out Famous Authors Reply to Your Unsolicited Dick Pic on McSweeney’s.

Hey! hint…that is not really something that gets many girls going…dress sharp and take a photo. Tell her you dressed up for her because she’s so classy. See where that gets you instead. You can thank me later.

In the meantime, I have come across a song that probably inspires some of the birthday outfits I’ve seen. Thanks Rihanna:

 

Reactions to Singing the Birthday Song

Birthday song

Photo credit: mag3737 via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

What do you do when someone sings you the “Happy Birthday” song?

The last time I heard it directed at me, I danced and sang along. But, I am seldom afraid to make a fool of myself if it earns laughs, and I love being celebrated on my birthday.

Recently, though, I was part of a group of women singing out loud to a friend. She had told us in advance that this group meeting would coincide with her birthday. She had reminded us the week of when we were planning the buffet contributions. She had welcomed the cake bought in her honor. Yet, when the singing started, she became completely embarrassed. Head in her heads, she tried to make herself small, as we sang around her. Please note: this was not in public and we weren’t that off key!

She said, blushingly after, she didn’t know what do when people sang to her. Other women suggested singing along. Sometimes you’ll see a person fixate on the cake as if she could cut it with the force of her stare. But, what do you do? What’s your reaction to the attention? Is it different if you’re home, among family and friends, or out in a public space celebrating?

The question intrigues me because I’ve recently encountered a psychological study on birthdays that talked about narcissists and their birthdays. This article made me question my own mental health a little — is my love for birthdays a sign that I have a narcissistic personality disorder? Here I am, after all, sharing my thoughts about birthdays with the world via this blog as if my ideas matter…

Oh well, in the meantime, I will continue to comfort myself with the knowledge that I love not only my birthday but those of others too. I enjoy the opportunity to share the joy of birthdays with my friends, family members and co-workers and doing what I can to make them feel special. Yes, even if that means singing while they hide behind their hands in embarrassment!

 

 

 

Birthday Party Song Disruption

Those who read The Verge will know the publication regularly covers disruptive technologies and innovations. Much to my surprise, though, there was recently an article on a man seeking to “disrupt the Happy Birthday song.”

Of course, I had to read on. I expected I would want to be sarcastically dismissive (you probably did too if you’re a loyal reader of this blog). Yet, I like Greg May’s idea.

He has recorded thousands upon thousands of versions of a personalized “Happy Birthday” song he wrote. As of this writing, May’s YouTube channel, named 1HappyBirthday, featured over 310,000 videos for 31,479 different names.

The Verge reported: “All of the songs have been individually recorded by only two singers. The first singer quit after two years; the second, a part-time singer, has recorded nearly 20,000 of May’s birthday songs. Which, intentionally or not, makes her one of the most prolific recording artists of all time.”

May started out with his project by looking up the 400 most popular names in America and writing and recording his own birthday songs for those names. Now, though, he’s expanded internationally, and his site claims more than a million people have enjoyed a personalized birthday song.

The site announces: “It’s fun. It’s one of a kind. It’s wild. It’s catchy. It’s 1 personalized Birthday song just for your birthday.”

May himself told Verge: “Some people just hate it and write that the song is out of tune or ridiculous. Others write to me with amazing stories of how important the song was to them or a child or friend. I recognize that the song may not be for everyone [..] If taken too seriously, is just plain weird. But it also features a person’s name 10 times, so hopefully they like at least that part of the song.”

My own name was the most popular girl’s name in 1972, so I didn’t even bother checking the list for that. Instead, I searched for my niece Kiera. The song for the name with that spelling has a different pronunciation. I tried Kiara as well, but it is the Kiira version that suits. Good thing, because the request form actually says no more name can be added to the production list until 2017!

100_0432.jpg

My niece turned 18 last month! This was her 10 years ago; I didn’t want to get in as much trouble for putting her picture on the blog!

Birthday Songs Just for You

My birthday doppelgänger?

Is Cleopatra Stratan my birthday doppelgänger? Image source

How about this for an audio adventure? See who was born on your birthday to determine what you might want to tune into next on Spotify, Pandora or iTunes.

Credit a librarian in Santa Clara County for this idea: Pat Oey posted on that county’s library blog about singers and band members with birthdays on June 3. Oey suggested that the June 3 birthday celebrant then, should be listening to Curtis Mayfield, The Birds, Phish, Suzie Quatro and No Mercy. In fact, by the blog’s logic, June 3 birthday peeps ought to listen to No Mercy twice as twin band members Ariel and Gabriel Hernandez were both born June 3.

In turning to FamousBirthdays.com to see who was born on my special day, I inadvertently typed in October 3. I was excited to see Gwen Stefani pop up – she has many a party tune. But, I had the wrong date.

So, what did that leave me for my beloved October 6?

  • Rappers Leondre Devries ad Lil Wyte
  • Pop singers Cleopatra Stratan, Aaron Pierce, Tae Brooks, Joey Diamond, and Joe Woolford
  • World music singer Millie Small
  • Neck Deep guitarist Lloyd Roberts
  • R&B singer Devvon Terrell

Not one of these artists had I actually heard of; and the fact that the majority of them are under the age of 20 was a bit depressing for middle-aged me. Turns out that Cleopatra is a Moldovian child with her own video channel. Joe was part of the UK’s Joe and Jake who competed in Eurovision 2016 (and the song wasn’t too bad). Devon Terrell is not what I would think you’d describe as “R&B” unless his rapped “Keep It Pushin’” is a marked detour from the norm.

Still, the real surprise was that I recognized Millie Small’s My Boy Lollipop from 1965.

You too can enjoy my new birthday theme song:

 

There is a dearth of good birthday music out there. As someone who on a probably too regular basis makes a mix tape, later a mix CD, and now an MP3 playlist to mark her own birthday, I am particularly happy to have this new idea of how to create a celebratory soundtrack.

Plus, with the Happy Birthday song finally going public we can look forward to some great new versions of the tune, don’t you think? After all if Google has AI that makes music now, can’t someone bring new life to this familiar ditty we all know and love. I vote for a Bruno Mars mashup or maybe a raucous rendition by Pink or a more moving adaptation by Iron and Wine.

Who would you like to hear singing the birthday song?

The Happy Birthday Song Goes Public

Birthday Song

Photo credit: Shawn Hoke via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

A longstanding copyright dispute over public access to the birthday song was resolved late last year in favor of the song entering public domain.

A Los Angeles judge ruled invalid the copyright claim of the companies collecting royalties on the “Happy Birthday” song for the past 80 years. The LA Times reported, Warner/Chappell never had the right to charge for the song’s use, as it had been doing since 1988, when it bought Birch Tree Group, the successor to Clayton F. Summy Co., which claimed the original disputed copyright.

The paper also offered a thorough history of the controversy surrounding the song that “evolved into the well-known birthday song, with lyrics by Patty Smith Hill, and became what the Guinness World Records book has said is the most widely sung song in the English language.”

I am, of course, happy to think nothing untoward will happen to me for singing happy birthday in public. Well, not legally anyway, I cannot blame anyone who questions my enthusiastic yet often dischordant efforts.

Nevertheless, this may lead to a loss in the world of eateries. After all, the way in which all assembled waitstaff serenade a dining guest is part of a restaurant’s character.

I am clearly not alone in this theory, as I found a blog about birthday song experiences by an If You’re Wondering author, Connor, who decided Chuck E. Cheese has the best version with these lyrics:

Clap your hands!
Now stomp your feet!
You’re a Birthday Star at Chuck E. Cheese!
You’re our special guest,
We all aims to please
You’re big time, big stuff, going far
Here’s to you our Birthday Star!

Connor also checked out Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Chili’s, Texas Roadhouse and more.

Despite the silliness he finds in the derivations, I still believe that if everyone turns to the same familiar song, it will take away the flair! I am all for public access to the song, but I hope to see restaurant owners continue to strive for creativity in the ways in which they celebrate their celebrant diners.

Birthday celebration

Photo credit: Peter E. Lee via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

 

“We Love You Every Day” — Mr. Rogers

North America’s favorite neighbor, Fred Rogers, would have celebrated his birthday March 20th. Just seeing his picture again made me smile. Especially this one with the make believe trolley.

The pics made me do a little digging. Now, I didn’t remember this from my own avid watching of the show as a child, but check out the lyrics to his birthday song:

“Happy birthday, happy birthday
Dear friend, we sing to you
Happy birthday, happy birthday
Happy birthday to you

We thought we’d try to tell you how we love you on your birthday
We thought we’d try to sing and dance and play today
We wanted to surprise you on your birthday and say
We love you every day, not just today…”

How lovely is that? We love you every day, not just today. What a fantabulous idea. It’s even better to hear him sing it.

Thanks Mr. Rogers for still teaching me how to be a better person decades after your show went off the air.