The History of the Happy Birthday Song

For today’s American Culture and History lesson, we’re going to learn about The History of the Happy Birthday Song.

So you probably all know the song Happy Birthday. According to Wikipedia, it was mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most recognized song in English in 1998 and I guarantee it’s probably still the most recognized song in English.

So as of 2010, it had been translated into at least 18 languages. Some countries kept the tune and altered the lyrics.

There’s absolutely no doubt about its popularity, but where did this song come from?

Legend has it that Mildred and Patty Hill, sisters from Louisiana, wrote the happy birthday tune for their elementary school students. It didn’t originally contain the lyrics of Happy Birthday but actually Good Morning To All. It went like this:

"Good morning to you. Good morning to you. Good morning dear children. Good morning to all."

All right. I’ll have my husband edit my voice. Apparently they thought it was a pretty catchy song and so did the kids in their classroom. The lyrics were short and easy to remember and as time passed the song’s lyrics were altered to fit a variety of different occasions and eventually morphed into the birthday song that we know today.

American Culture and History Lesson - The History of The Happy Birthday Song

The first written music sheet with Happy Birthday was written in 1893. The first recorded text of Happy Birthday was documented in 1912. However, it still remains unclear who changed the lyrics from good morning to all to happy birthday to you, and when exactly those lyrics were changed.

It seemed like the end of the story, right? But no, listen to this….

The full transcript with annotations and bonus material can be found in the American Culture and History Course (Part 2).

English Lesson

Each lesson is much more than just the audio. Premium content in the American Culture and History Course (Part 1) will push you to improve your language level from an intermediate to advanced level.

Additional Lesson Material includes:
– Full PDF Transcript w/ definitions of challenging words.  
– Exercises + quizzes
– Shadowing exercises
– Challenges

You can access this lesson in Season 1 OR get the bundle at a discount.