NEW YORK — The song that helps you get older every year is getting a little older itself.
Yes, happy 94th birthday, Happy Birthday Song.
It’s a tune more people sing than any other in the English language, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
What you may not know — this simple, little song has one complicated past.
Louisville Sisters Mildred and Patty Hill wrote a precursor for kindergarten students called “Good Morning to All” in the late 19th century.
New lyrics were eventually written to celebrate birthdays instead of mornings.
But by whom?
The Hill sisters maintained they wrote them.
“Happy Birthday to You” was first published on this day in 1924, although the lyrics were used earlier.
Then in the 1930’s The Summy Company registered the copyright.
But it’s Marilyn Monroe’s version that registers in our memory.
Warner/Chappell Music purchased the copyright to “Happy Birthday to You” in 1988 — Then the song was valued at $5 million.
It could be the highest earning single ever, reportedly bringing in around $50 million in licensing fees.
So singing happy birthday in public — say in a restaurant for grandma’s birthday — would technically have meant having to pay up.
That’s why places like Red Lobster and Outback Steakhouse wrote their own versions.
Movies and television also avoided the costs by never finishing the song when it came time for a scene with candles and cake.
In 2016, a federal judge finally made the tune part of the public domain, in part because of all the confusion.
So now you can sing “Happy Birthday” whenever you like, free of charge.
That’s definitely something to celebrate.
You can start by wishing these famous faces Happy Birthday: Brooklyn Beckham, Patricia Heaton and Catherine O’Hara are all celebrating today.