Happy Birthday is Richest Song!

I have just discovered an interesting fact about the song Happy Birthday (To You) – which, as I mentioned in my article Playing Piano Without Music – is the one piece I believe all pianists should learn to play off by heart.

There was a programme on BBC4 the other day (The Richest Songs in the World – originally shown in 2012) about the highest-earning pieces of music of all time.

The programme revealed that Happy Birthday is not only the most frequently sung song in the world (which many of us could have guessed) but it is also the highest earner. Incredibly, Happy Birthday (to You) beat classics such as Lennon and McCartney’s Yesterday and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas into the top spot. The song – which is believed to have been created by teachers Patty and Mildred Hill in 1893 (with the lyrics ‘Good Morning to All’) – has earned about £30 million.

When you teach your pupils to play Happy Birthday it may be worth pointing out that public performances of the song should be paid for (although they are, of course, allowed to play it freely in their own homes). Warner Brothers bought the rights in the 1930s and Happy Birthday is under copyright in the EU until 2016 and in the US until 2030. (For more about the history of this song visit en.wikipedia.org).

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