Happy Birthday is a song that I like to have each of my students learn at various levels appropriate to their level. When a friend or family member has a birthday, it’s great to be able to sit down and play.
It’s only been fairly recently that piano students could have this music in their books.
“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, followed by “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”.
The melody, or part you sing, of “Happy Birthday to You” comes from the song “Good Morning to All”, which has traditionally been attributed to American sisters Patty and Mildred J. Hill in 1893, although the claim that the sisters composed the tune is disputed.
Patty Hill was a kindergarten principal and 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.
“Happy Birthday” in the style of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, Dvorak, and Stravinsky. Find the melody!
Lots of legal stuff below which you can skip…
None of the early appearances of the “Happy Birthday to You” lyrics included credits or copyright notices. The Summy Company registered a copyright in 1935, crediting authors Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R. R. Forman. In 1988, Warner/Chappell Music purchased the company owning the copyright for US$25 million, with the value of “Happy Birthday” estimated at US$5 million. Based on the 1935 copyright registration, Warner claimed that the United States copyright will not expire until 2030, and that unauthorized public performances of the song are illegal unless royalties are paid to Warner. In one specific instance in February 2010, these royalties were said to amount to US$700. By one estimate, the song is the highest-earning single song in history, with estimated earnings since its creation of US$50 million.In the European Union, the copyright for the song expired on January 1, 2017.
The American copyright status of “Happy Birthday to You” began to draw more attention with the passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Act in Eldred v. Ashcroft in 2003, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer specifically mentioned “Happy Birthday to You” in his dissenting opinion. American law professor Robert Brauneis, who extensively researched the song, concluded in 2010 that “It is almost certainly no longer under copyright.”
In 2013, based in large part on Brauneis’s research, Good Morning to You Productions, a company producing a documentary about “Good Morning to All”, sued Warner/Chappell for falsely claiming copyright to the song. In September 2015, a federal judge declared that the Warner/Chappell copyright claim was invalid, ruling that the copyright registration applied only to a specific piano arrangement of the song, and not to its lyrics and melody.
In 2016, Warner/Chappell settled for US $14 million, and the court declared that “Happy Birthday to You” was in the public domain.
Legal stuff is finished and people can now sing and play “Happy Birthday to You” whenever and wherever they want.
One of my all-time versions of Happy Birthday, in duet form – and I have the music if you want to tackle it.
He’s the master of harmony and counterpoint, he could effortlessly compose an amazing concerto or cantata, but what if Johann Sebastian Bach was on social media?
To celebrate the 333rd anniversary of the great composer’s birth (it’s either today or March 31, depending on Old Style and New Style dates), we’ve imagined what his Facebook page might have looked like.
So sit back and enjoy the Baroque master’s status updates and life events in full Instagram, wall-post and emoticon glory.
1685 ~ Johann Sebastian Bach, German composer birthday (Old Style)
Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in d minor was featured in the Walt Disney movie Fantasia and the new Fantasia 2000
Read quotes by and about Bach
More information about Bach Grammy winner
1791 ~ Carl Czerny, Austrian pianist and composer whose vast musical production amounted to over a thousand works.
His books of studies for the piano are still widely used in piano teaching.
More information on Czerny
Czerny is in the center top of this image. He influenced many!
At the age of fifteen, Czerny began a very successful teaching career. Basing his method on the teaching of Beethoven and Muzio Clementi, Czerny taught up to twelve lessons a day in the homes of Viennese nobility.
His ‘star’ pupils included Theodor Döhler, Stephen Heller, Sigismond Thalberg, Leopoldine Blahetka and Ninette de Belleville.In 1819, the father of Franz Liszt brought his son to Czerny.
Liszt became Czerny’s most famous pupil. He trained the child with the works of Beethoven, Clementi, Ignaz Moscheles and Johann Sebastian Bach. The Liszt family lived in the same street in Vienna as Czerny, who was so impressed by the boy that he taught him free of charge. Liszt was later to repay this confidence by introducing the music of Czerny at many of his Paris recitals.
Shortly before Liszt’s Vienna concert of 13 April 1823 (his final concert of that season), Czerny arranged, with some difficulty (as Beethoven increasingly disliked child prodigies) the introduction of Liszt to Beethoven. Beethoven was sufficiently impressed with the young Liszt to give him a kiss on the forehead. Liszt remained close to Czerny, and in 1852 his Études d’exécution transcendente (Transcendental Études) were published with a dedication to Czerny.
Statistically, people who’ve ‘liked’ Mozart on Facebook have a higher IQ. It got us thinking… what would Mozart ‘like’ on Facebook? And what would his profile look like?! On the tenth anniversary of the social network’s launch, we’ve imagined what the composer might have posted online throughout his life.
Wolfgang Amadeus Theophilus Mozart lived between 1756 and 1791. He is considered to be a classical composer. Mozart, born in Salzburg, Austria, began composing before most children go to kindergarten. By the time he was six he had played the piano and violin in public.
A Wunderkind, a prodigy of the first rank before the age of five, Mozart astounded the musical world with compositions of unsurpassed brilliance. His father Leopold had recognized his talent at the age of three and immediately set out to teach him to play the harpsichord, violin, and organ. Mozart and his sister made their debut in Munich when he was just six and traveled about Europe together, performing at courts and before royalty, always with success. While still a little child Mozart was inventing symphonies, sonatas, and his first opera. Legends abound about how Mozart could hear an entire work in his head and write everything down without making even one change.
As a child performer he was often treated as a freak. People would cover his hands as he played the piano, make him compose tunes on the spot and perform all sorts of other musical tricks.
In 1787 Mozart became court composer to Joseph II. He played for royalty, received commissions from aristocrats and in his short lifetime composed nearly a thousand masterpieces, including symphonies, operas, serenades, sonatas, concertos, masses, vocal works, and church works.
Mozart was a prolific composer writing masterpieces using every form of music, including his operas “The Marriage of Figaro” (based on a play by Pierre Beaumarchais), “Don Giovanni”, “Cosi fan tutte” and “The Magic Flute”. His mastery of instrumental and vocal forms, from symphony to concerto and opera, was unrivalled in his own time and perhaps in any other.
Composing the Requiem Mass commissioned for Count Walsegg, he felt he was writing his own requiem and he died before it was finished.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer, died in Vienna Austria at the age of 35, penniless, on December 5th, 1791, of malignant typhus. Mozart, the precocious child prodigy, composed several pieces that are deemed central to the classical era. Though he ranked as one of the greatest musical genius, he did not live a life of affluence as none of his compositions earned him a decent commission but the world is forever enriched by such works as Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the Symphonies No. 38 through 41 and the Coronation Mass.
Eugene Bertram “Gene” Krupa lived from January 15, 1909 to October 16, 1973. He was an American jazz and big band drummer, actor and composer, known for his highly energetic and flamboyant style.
One of my all-time favorite non-piano songs is Sing Sing Sing. Krupa joined Benny Goodman’s band in 1934, where his featured drum work made him a national celebrity. His tom-tom interludes on their hit “Sing, Sing, Sing” were the first extended drum solos to be recorded commercially.
The Benny Goodman big band playing Sing Sing Sing, featuring Gene Krupa at the end. We get the added benefit of hearing Mr. Harry James play a trumpet solo.
Alfred Brendel was born in 1931 in Wiesenberg, Czech Republic.
After World War II, Brendel composed music, as well as continuing to play the piano, to write and to paint. However, he never had more formal piano lessons and, although he attended master classes with Edwin Fischer and Eduard Steuermann, he was largely self-taught after the age of six.
He made his debut in Graz (1948), and has since performed widely throughout Austria, where he lives.
Victor Borge was born in 1909 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was an entertainer and pianist – a deliciously funny performer. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen, and in Vienna and Berlin.
He made his debut as a pianist in 1926, and as a revue actor in 1933. From 1940 until his death in 2000 he worked in the USA for radio, television, and theatre, and has performed with leading symphony orchestras on worldwide tours since 1956.
He was best known for his comedy sketches combining music and narrative. He used his classical training to skew serious music and performers.
From his obituary:
Pianist Victor Borge, died in his sleep Dec 23, 2000 at his Greenwich, Connecticut home, was known as the unmelancholy Dane of international show business. He would have turned 92 on Jan. 3, 2001.
“The cause of death was heart failure,” his daughter, Sanna Feirstein, told Reuters.
“He had just returned from a wonderfully successful trip to Copenhagen … and it was really heartwarming to see the love he experienced in his home country,” she said.
Borge was one of five performers selected for the Kennedy Center Honors in 1999.
“He went to sleep, and they went to wake him up this morning, and he was gone,” said his agent, Bernard Gurtman.
“He had so much on the table, and to the day he died he was creative, and practicing piano several hours a day,” Gurtman told Reuters. “He was just a great inspiration.”
Funeral services will be private, his daughter said.
Borge made a career of falling off piano stools, missing the keys with his hands and getting tangled up in the sheet music.
One of his inspirations was a pianist who played the first notes of the GriegA Minor Concerto and then fell on the keys dead.
He said that the only time he got nervous on stage was when he had to play seriously and adds that if it had not been for Adolf Hitler he probably would never have pursued a career as a concert-hall comedian.
Until he was forced to flee Denmark in 1940 he was a stage and screen idol in his native country.
But as a Jew who had lampooned Hitler, Borge — his real name was Boerge Rosenbaum — was in danger and fled first to Sweden and then to the United States, where he arrived penniless and unknown and by a fluke got booked on the Bing Crosby radio show. He was an instant success.
He became an American citizen in 1948, but thought of himself as Danish. It was obvious from the numerous affectionate tributes and standing ovations at his 80th birthday concert in Copenhagen in 1989 that Danes felt the same way.
In the concert at Copenhagen’s Tivoli gardens, Borge played variations on the theme of “Happy Birthday to You” in the styles of Mozart, Brahms, Wagner and Beethoven — all executed with such wit that the orchestra was convulsed with laughter that a woman performing a piccolo solo was unable to draw breath to play.
“Playing music and making jokes are as natural to me as breathing,” Borge told Reuters in an interview after that concert.
“That’s why I’ve never thought of retiring because I do it all the time whether on the stage or off. I found that in a precarious situation, a smile is the shortest distance between people. When one needs to reach out for sympathy or a link with people, what better way is there?
“If I have to play something straight, without deviation in any respect, I still get very nervous. It’s the fact that you want to do your best, but you are not at your best because you are nervous and knowing that makes you even more nervous.”
His varied career included acting, composing for films and plays and writing but he was best known for his comic sketches based on musical quirks and oddities.
His routines were unpredictable, often improvised on stage as his quick wit responded to an unplanned event — a noise, a latecomer in the audience — or fixed on an unlikely prop — a fly, a shaky piano stool.
Borge was born in Denmark on January 3, 1909, son of a violinist in the Danish Royal Orchestra.
His parents encouraged him to become a concert pianist, arranging his first public recital when he was 10. In 1927 he made his official debut at the Tivoli Gardens.
Borge’s mischievous sense of humor was manifest from an early age. Asked as a child to play for his parent’s friends he would announce “a piece by the 85-year-old Mozart” and improvise something himself.
When his mother was dying in Denmark during the occupation, Borge visited her, disguised as a sailor.
“Churchill and I were the only ones who saw what was happening,” he said in later years. “He saved Europe and I saved myself.”
From 1953 to 1956, he appeared in New York in his own production “Comedy in Music,” a prelude to world tours that often took him to his native Scandinavia.
On radio and television, Borge developed the comedy techniques of the bungling pianist that won him worldwide fame.
Many of his skits were based on real-life events. One of his classics evolved from seeing a pianist playing a Tchaikovsky concerto fall off his seat.
Borge’s dog joined the show after it wandered on stage while he was at the keyboard — an entrance nobody would believe had been unplanned.
One incident could not be repeated. A large fly flew on to Borge’s nose while he was playing. “How did you get that fly to come on at the right time?” people asked. “Well, we train them,” Borge explained.
Borge’s book, “My Favorite Intervals”, published in 1974, detailed little-known facts of the private lives of composers describing Wagner’s pink underwear and the time Borodin left home in full military regalia but forgot his trousers.
In 1975, Borge was honored in recognition of the 35th anniversary of his arrival in the United States and his work as unofficial goodwill ambassador from Denmark to the United States. He celebrated his 75th birthday in 1984 with a series of concerts at Carnegie Hall and in Copenhagen.
Borge received a host of honors from all four Scandinavian countries for his contributions to music, humor and worthy causes.
Borge, who had lived in Greenwich since 1964, is survived by five children, nine grandchildren, and one great grandchild. His wife of many years, Sanna, died earlier that year.
• 1894 ~ Ernest John Moeran, English composer who had strong associations with Ireland.
• 1904 ~ Nathan Milstein, Russian-born American violinist and composer
• 1908 ~ Jonah Jones (Robert Elliott Jones), Trumpeter, singer, played with Cab Calloway and threw spitball that got Dizzy Gillespie fired from a band
• 1922 ~ Rex Allen, ‘The Arizona Cowboy’, entertainer, rodeo star, singer, songwriter who published over 300 songs
• 1923 ~ Singer Eddie Cantor opened in the lead role of Kid Boots. Broadway critics called the production, “A smash musical hit!” Eddie made several of the songs from that show into smash hits also, like Alabamy Bound and If You Knew Susie. Three years later, If You Knew Susie became the title song for a movie starring Cantor.
• 1928 ~ Ross Barbour, Singer with The Four Freshmen
• 1929 ~ Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians played Auld Lang Syne as a New Year’s Eve song for the first time. Auld Lang Syne had been the band’s theme song long before 1929. However, this night was the start of a New Year’s Eve tradition as Lombardo’s famed orchestra played at the Hotel Roosevelt Grill in New York City to usher in the new year. Where did it Auld begin? Scottish poet Robert Burns said he heard an old man singing the words, and wrote them down, but Burns is considered the original author. The literal translation means “old long since”; less literal means “days gone by”. Auld Lang Syne and Happy New Year!
• 1930 ~ Odetta (Holmes Felious Gordon), American folk-blues singer, guitarist, songwriter and actress
• 1940 ~ As a result of a dispute between the radio networks and ASCAP (the American Society of Composers and Publishers), the radio industry was prevented from playing any ASCAP-licensed music. The ban lasted for ten months. An ASCAP competitor, BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) made giant strides, expanding to include 36,000 copyrights. Many radio stations had to resort to playing public domain songs, such as marches and operas, to keep their stations on the air. Even kids songs were played over and over again until the ban was lifted. One of the most popular songs to be played was Happy Birthday to You, which was performed in many different languages just to get past the ban.
The American copyright status of “Happy Birthday to You” began to draw more attention with the passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Act in Eldred v. Ashcroft in 2003, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer specifically mentioned “Happy Birthday to You” in his dissenting opinion. American law professor Robert Brauneis, who extensively researched the song, concluded in 2010 that “It is almost certainly no longer under copyright.” In 2013, based in large part on Brauneis’s research, Good Morning to You Productions, a company producing a documentary about “Good Morning to All”, sued Warner/Chappell for falsely claiming copyright to the song. In September 2015, a federal judge declared that the Warner/Chappell copyright claim was invalid, ruling that the copyright registration applied only to a specific piano arrangement of the song, and not to its lyrics and melody.
In 2016, Warner/Chappell settled for US $14 million, and the court declared that “Happy Birthday to You” was in the public domain.
• 1942 ~ Andy Summers (Somers), Guitarist, singer with The Police
• 1943 ~ John Denver (Deutschendorf), American singer and songwriter of popular music
• 1947 ~ Burton Cummings, Jr., Singer with The Guess Who
• 1947 ~ Roy Rogers, ‘the King of the Cowboys’, and Dale Evans were hitched in marriage. They rode off into that sunset together for over fifty years. (Roy died July 6, 1998.)
• 1948 ~ Donna Summer (LaDonna Gaines), Grammy Award-winning singer
• 1951 ~ Tom Hamilton, Bass with Aerosmith
• 1960 ~ After playing California nightclubs as The Pendletones, Kenny and the Cadets, and Carl and the Passions, a new group emerged this day: The Beach Boys. The group’s first national hit, Surfin’ Safari, was soon to be. They recorded for local (Los Angeles) Colpix Records and at the height of their popularity, Capitol Records. The Beach Boys also recorded under the Reprise Records banner. The revitalized group still tours and Capitol continues to reissue various greatest hits packages. The Beach Boys were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
• 1972 ~ Joe McIntyre, Singer with New Kids on the Block
• 1975 ~ Elvis Presley performed before 60,000 fans at the Silverdome in Pontiac, MI. He earned $800,000 for the concert, a world record for a single concert by a single artist.
• 1985 ~ Over 54,500 people played kazoos in downtown Rochester, New York. The assembled multitude played A Bicycle Built for Two. Any idea why? Well, they felt it was appropriate for the last day of the year and it got the crowd listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for ‘Most Kazoo-ers’.
• 1997 ~ Floyd Cramer, American Hall of Fame pianist (Nashville Sound), died of cancer at the age of 64
• 2000 ~ Tanaquil Le Clercq, the ballerina who dazzled the world in the 1940s and ’50s before her career was cut short by paralytic polio, died of pneumonia at the age of 71. Le Clercq contracted the disease, which left her paralyzed below the waist, in 1956. At the time, she was the fourth wife of George Balanchine and had attracted an adoring public because of her long-legged elegance. She later became a teacher at Dance Theater of Harlem, wrote two books and regularly attended dance performances. The New York City Ballet, of which Le Clercq was a charter member, paid tribute to her in 1988, when it opened its 50th-anniversary season. She acknowledged a thunderous New York State Theater ovation from her wheelchair. Le Clercq was blessed with an elongated physique that she used with refinement or humor. She epitomized the modernized look in classical dancing, which enthralled Balanchine, who once cast her as a dragonfly. As the first City Ballet ballerina trained since childhood by Balanchine, she was naturally identified with the roles he created for her in his major works, such as the ballets “Symphonie Concertante,” “Symphony in C” and “La Valse,” in which her doomed heroine danced herself to death. She was equally unforgettable in the ballets of Jerome Robbins and as the white-faced allegorical figure of Sacred Love in “Illuminations” in 1950.
• 2000 ~ José Greco, the famed flamenco dancer and choreographer who founded the José Greco Spanish Dance Company, of heart failure at the age of 82. Born in Montorio nei Frentani, Italy, of Spanish-Italian parents, he moved to Seville, Spain, at the age of 3, then was raised in Brooklyn from the age of 10. He began his career in 1937 and became known as the greatest Spanish dancer in the world. In 1941, the already famous Argentine-born dancer La Argentinita (known off the stage as Encarnacion Lopez) was preparing for an American tour when she saw Greco dance and asked him to perform as her partner and the featured male performer in her company until she died in 1945. After that, Greco danced with her sister Pilar Lopez. In 1951, Greco shared with Carol Channing the title of “New Broadway Personality of the Year.” The José Greco Dance Company, which helped integrate flamenco with mainstream ballet, toured extensively in North America, and six times worldwide, over the following two decades. In 1962, he Greco was knighted by the Spanish government. In 1971, Greco formed the Foundation for Hispanic Dance. His autobiography, “Gypsy in My Soul: The Autobiography of Jose Greco,” was published in 1977.
• 2000 ~ Eddy Shaver, a guitarist who performed with his father Billy Joe Shaver and Dwight Yoakam, died at the age of 38. Eddy Shaver grew up around music because of his father, a celebrated songwriter whose songs include I’m Just an Old Chuck of Coal (But I’m GonnaBe a Diamond Someday) and Georgia on a Fast Train. Dickie Betts of The Allman Brothers Band helped teach Eddy Shaver to play and gave him his two favorite guitars, one formerly owned by the late guitarist Duane Allman. Eddy Shaver began playing guitar with his father at 13, and gradually became Billy Joe Shaver’s musical partner and sometime co-writer. Billy Joe Shaver merged from country to a more rock-influenced sound because of his son. Albums by the band Shaver include “Tramp on Your Street,” the live “Shaver: Unshaven,” and “Electric Shaver.” A new album, “The Earth Rolls On,” was released on March 20, 2001.
• 2001 ~ Marie Hartford, a well-known businesswoman on Music Row and widow of the late songwriter and performer John Hartford, died of lung cancer. She was 67. Marie Hartford worked at Glaser Publishing, booking the studios at the Glaser Brothers’ Music Row operation, where country music’s Outlaw movement was bred. John Hartford, who wrote the standard Gentle on My Mind, died June 4 after a decade-long battle with cancer. The song was recorded more than 300 times, most prominently by Glen Campbell in 1967 but also by Dean Martin, Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin.
• 2003 ~ Renata Babak, an internationally known mezzo-soprano with the Bolshoi Opera who defected from the Soviet Union in 1973, died of pancreatic cancer. She was 69. Babak gave recitals until last year, singing in a sweet but powerful and well-controlled voice described by critics as among the best in the world. Her last opera was in 1997, when she performed in Tchaikovsky’sIolanta with Opera Camerata of Washington. Babak was an international star with 10 years’ experience at the Bolshoi when she defected while the opera company was playing at La Scala in Milan, slipping out of a hotel lobby wearing a wig and dark glasses. She immigrated to Canada and went into hiding for two years. Babak’s U.S. debut at Carnegie Hall in 1975 was met with enthusiastic reviews. She moved to New York and then to Washington in the hopes of working with George London, then general director of the Washington Opera. Babak joined the faculty of the Washington Conservatory of Music when London was disabled by a stroke.