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Saturday 23 September 2023 Dublin: 12°C
Shutterstock/Romiana Lee
An alternative tune for Happy Birthday has been found
Did you know it was originally called Good Morning to All?

THE STORY OF the Happy Birthday tune is an interesting one: written by two sisters, Mildred and Patty Hill, in the 1890s, it was originally called Good Morning to All.

It’s also – perhaps unexpectedly – become the focus of an ongoing legal case over copyright.

Now comes another twist in the tale: the only known manuscript of Good Morning to All has been uncovered in the Dwight Anderson Memorial Music Library at the University of Louisville, USA.


The Hill sisters originally authored Good Morning to All in the early 1890s as part of their publication Song Stories for the Kindergarten.

Although the lyrics changed over the years, the song remained the same.

The manuscript was discovered by library director James Procell, in Hill’s sketchbook.

It had been donated, along with several additional musical compositions and papers belonging to Hill, to the library in the 1950s by local philanthropist Hattie Bishop Speed, a friend of the Hill sisters.

Sheet Music_4137

But because the documents weren’t catalogued when they arrived, they were filed away and hidden in the library’s archives.

This newly found version of the song is written in a different key, and has a slightly different melody.

“The question is, is this the original version of the song, or was Ms Hill somehow unhappy with the published version and this represents a revision of the song?” Procell said.

James Procell_4140 James Procell James Procell

He added that the first page of the manuscript is missing, which adds to the questions.

That’s a mystery in itself. Where is page one?

You can hear both of the versions below:

University of Louisville / YouTube

A court case is ongoing into whether Warner Music Group has a valid copyright to Happy Birthday, reports Reuters.

A group of artists taking the class action say that the song has been copyright “for decades”.

Warner has been collecting royalties on the song, because of a recording by Clayton F Summy Co which was acquired by Warner.

Procell plans to fully catalogue and digitise Hill’s materials in the coming months. He’s also planning a concert of her music to take place in 2016, which will be a century after her death.

What do you make of the different version of Happy Birthday?

Photos courtesy of James Procell

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