‘Happy Birthday To You’ Was Created by Two Sisters in 1893

SIXTEEN CANDLES, Molly Ringwald, Michael Schoeffling, 1984
Universal Pictures/Everett Collection

Whether you like it or not, likely every year on your birthday, at least one person belts out the song “Happy Birthday” to you on your special day. The song is so intertwined in our culture and sung in tons of different languages, that it begs the question, where did it come from? There are two sisters named Patty and Mildred J. Hill who may be responsible for the tune being sung every day around the world.

While it is unknown if the sisters actually wrote the song, the legend has it that they wrote it and used the melody from the song “Good Morning to All” because it was easy for kids to sing. Patty was a kindergarten principal while Mildred was a pianist and a composer, making them the perfect duo to create children’s songs. It is said that they registered the song for copyright back in 1893 and included it in their songbook “Song Stories for the Kindergarten.” Over the years, several people have claimed copyright on the song, and it can be credited as the highest-earning song in history.

Since the song’s melody was based on another song, The Summy Company (which later became Warner/Chappell Music), the publisher of “Good Morning to All,” claimed copyright for “Happy Birthday.” They received money for many years until a 2015 lawsuit found their claims baseless. In 2016, Warner/Chappell paid a settlement of $14 million, and the song is now considered public domain.

BIG, front form left: Tom Hanks, Jared Rushton, 1988,

20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection

In honor of the song, let’s reminisce with perhaps the most iconic version of the song:

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