December 12, 2017

Only Known Manuscript of an Early Version of ‘Happy Birthday’ Song Discovered in a University of Louisville Library

OnFrom U. of Louisville:

The only known manuscript of Louisville native Mildred Hill’s song “Good Morning to All,” which evolved into the world-famous “Happy Birthday” song, was recently uncovered in the Dwight Anderson Memorial Music Library at the University of Louisville.

Hill, along with her sister Patty, co-authored the piece originally known as “Good Morning to All,” in the early 1890s as part of their publication “Song Stories for the Kindergarten.” The words evolved over the years but the tune has remained the same and eventually became known as “Happy Birthday.” The song has grabbed national headlines recently as the subject of a high-profile copyright and public domain court case.

The manuscript was discovered by library director James Procell, who found it in Hill’s sketch book. The manuscript, along with several additional musical compositions and papers belonging to Hill, were donated to the library in the 1950s by local philanthropist Hattie Bishop Speed, a friend of the Hill sisters. These documents weren’t cataloged upon receipt and were thus filed away and remained hidden in the library’s archives for decades.

Some differences from the familiar “Happy Birthday” tune are noticeable. The song is written in a different key, and has a slightly different melody, though the rhythm and words remain the same as the published version.

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The Mildred Hill papers are a significant addition to the UofL music library’s collection, which is the largest academic music collection in Kentucky and considered one of the best in the U.S.

Procell plans to fully catalog and digitize Hill’s materials in the coming months and is working with School of Music faculty and students to organize a concert of her music in 2016, a century after her death.

Read the Complete Announcement

Learn More About the Dwight Anderson Music Library Special Collections

See Also: Pitt Library Songbook Key to Lawsuit Over ‘Happy Birthday’ Rights (July 30, 2015)

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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