When Marilyn Monroe sang, Happy Birthday Mr President, no one complained. In fact, President John F Kennedy went up on stage to say he was ready to retire.
This was in May, 1962 when anyone could sing the song and go scot-free. Especially Monroe. The melody of Happy Birthday To You goes back in time to 1893, when sisters Patty and Mildred J Hill wrote Good Morning to All for a kindergarten class in Kentucky.
In 1935, a piano arrangement was copyrighted by Clayton F Summy Publishing Company, and in 1988, Warner Music Group acquired the song from them for $25 million. That’s when you had to start paying to sing the song.
Warner made millions since, collecting about $2 million a year in licensing fees. But all that changed when Rupa Marya took Warner to court. Last week a California court ruled that Warner/Chappel music could not enforce its copyright on the song, Happy Birthday To You. The song is free and back in the public domain.
It is time once again to sing the Birthday song which has been missing from films. Here’s a montage of fake birthday songs when people did not want to be sued but had to sing the ditty anyway.
How did Hindi films fine tune the melody? Remember these?
Hum bhi agar bacche hote from Door Ki Awaaz (1964) is perhaps one of the earliest versions of the song to appear in Hindi films. Johnny Walker reminding us to celebrate our birthdays by eating our laddoos and drinking our doodh. Primarily aimed at tiny tots.
In Farz (1967), Jeetendra adulterates the ditty when he dedicates it to his heroine, Sunita (Babita). Lots of cool moves were involved in Happy Birthday To You Sunita.
In Ek Phool Do Mali (1969), the song goes back to its kiddie roots as Sanjay Khan sweats it over a piano, singing the original line for a little child.
So what happened to the desi versions of the birthday song after the 1960s? It’s been a long hiatus. Perhaps it will return soon.
But after Mallika Sherawat tried to do a Monroe, singing Happy Birthday To You Modiji for the social media to amplify, no one retired.