"Happy Birthday to You" is one of the first songs we learn to sing, and the song we continue to sing year after year after year. Many people loathe the song and beg their friends and family not to sing it to them. Beyond the hatred of this song, there is good reason not to sing it: "Happy Birthday to You" is copyrighted and public performances of the song are subject to financial penalties.
Reasons Not to Sing "Happy Birthday To You"
Time Warner receives over $2 million annually in royalties from "Happy Birthday to You." The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers ( ASCAP) issues licenses to establishments like restaurants so they can legally perform the song. ASCAP also fines establishments that illegally perform the song. The website UnhappyBirthday.com is devoted to educating the public on the copyright terms of the song, and urging the public to report infringements. The financial ramifications for unlicensed public performances of the song is one reason many restaurants adopt their own versions of the "Happy Birthday" song. The other reason, of course, is that "Happy Birthday to You" can be downright annoying and has been known to bring children to tears.
How to Pick an Alternative
When picking an alternative to “Happy Birthday to You,” consider the group who will be singing and the person they will be singing to. Ask yourself these questions: Can the group carry a tune? Does the birthday guy or girl like to be the center of attention or does he or she get embarrassed easily? What is the birthday guy or girl’s style? Are they more traditional or non-conformist? What is the formality of the event? Is this a formal party or a fun, casual affair?
It is also important to consider how the group will learn the alternative song. One of the main reasons everyone sings “Happy Birthday to You” is that everyone knows the song. You can pick an alternative that everyone knows like “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” or you can try one of the more obscure options listed below. Consider printing the lyrics in the party invitation if the tune is not universally known. For a last resort, pass around copies of the lyrics when it’s time to cut the cake.
Alternative Song Options
The Jolly Good Fellow Song
Sing this popular, well-known option for the birthday fellow, guy or girl (just replace “he” with “she”).
For he's a jolly good fellow. For he's a jolly good fellow. For he's a jolly good fellow! Which nobody can deny. Which nobody can deny. Which nobody can deny. For he's a jolly good fellow. Which nobody can deny.
The Party Song
Try this short and fun option for the birthday guy or girl who doesn’t like to be the center of attention. This is also a nice alternative for tone-deaf singers.
Happy, happy birthday, from all of us to you. We wish it was our birthday, so we could party too!
The Religious Song
Chose this option for church functions or for the religious birthday boy or girl.
It’s your birthday, It’s your birthday, so have a happy day. It’s your birthday, It’s your birthday, so have a happy day. It’s your birthday, It’s your birthday, and that is why I say, Have a happy birthday, and god, bless, you!
The Army Song
Non-singers love this option. Chant this tune using the army call-and-response march method.
I don’t know but I’ve been told, Someone here is getting old. Happy (repeat happy) Birthday (repeat birthday) Happy birthday….to you!
The Captain Zoom Song
Finally, If you're looking for a song that is out of this world, try a Captain Zoom personalized song. At CaptainZoom.com You can purchase a CD, DVD or MP3 of Captain Zoom singing a birthday song specifically to the birthday guy or girl. Captain Zoom mentions the birthday person's name eight times in the song.
Here is an example of the song for birthday girl Laura.
Space command to Zoom All systems are go for your message to Laura!
Hey, Laura! It's your birthday! I'm in charge of the stars And I'm here to say, 'cause Laura, You're the BIG STAR today!
My name is Zoom And I live on the moon But I came down to earth Just to sing you this tune Hey, Laura, It's your birthday today!
A present for you I wanted to find An outerspace creature A one of a kind! A wild whop or a kukelchoo, An apple drop or a buzzardstew Or maybe a 3-eyed tickleshay For your birthday
Did you ask: "uh, what's a kukelchoo?" Well, up on the moon it's nothing new But that won't do for you, On your birthday!
I searched behind the clouds and stars I even zoomed my bike to Mars And met my friend the saucer man And he said: "Hey Zoom I got the bestest plan! What your friend needs is something new, So how about a song, just from YOU?"
And so tonight when you're in bed I'll be singing to you as I zoom overhead Singing, Laura! Happy Birthday Singing, Laura! Happy Birthday Singing, Laura! Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday, Laura! See you next year!
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Ivy Morris specializes in health, fitness, beauty, fashion and music. Her work has appeared in "Sacramento News and Review," "Prosper Magazine" and "Sacramento Parent Magazine," among other publications. Morris also writes for medical offices and legal practices. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in government-journalism from Sacramento State University.