“Happy Birthday, Mr. President” — famous birthday serenades | Music | DW
When Marilyn Monroe blew her lascivious “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” into the microphone in a form-fitting sparkly dress on May 19, 1962, the media kicked into high gear.
Many rumors had already swirled about John F. Kennedy’s extramarital affairs, but none of his alleged affairs has been the subject of more gossip than the one with America’s most famous sex symbol. On the day Kennedy hosted her 45th birthday party at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Monroe was to perform her serenade.
Although she practiced for hours, she was visibly shaking with excitement. She sang for “her” president in front of running television cameras.
Press photographers, however, were not welcome.
Only one photo was taken after this legendary performance. It was anything but outrageous; it was taken by Cecil Stoughton, the White House photographer, who was the only one authorized at the party.
Her snapshot shows Monroe with JFK and her brother, Bobby Kennedy. Other supposedly incriminating photos of the president and his mistress, which the paparazzi allegedly caught on camera, never made it to the tabloids. The FBI and Secret Service kept a watchful eye on them, ruthlessly confiscating every negative. And even this unspectacular photo remained under lock and key for a long time. Still, Monroe’s serenade went down in birthday song history.
This rare image of Marilyn Monroe with Bobby Kennedy (left) and President John F. Kennedy has been hidden away for years
Elvis Presley: “Happy Birthday, Baby”
While Monroe was the idol of many men, Elvis Presley made women’s hearts beat faster with his hip swing and sultry voice.
In “Happy Birthday, Baby”, the crooner congratulates his sweetheart who left him for someone else. What woman wouldn’t feel obligated to comfort “The King” because of her grief?
However, the original song was not written by him, but by The Tune Weavers, who launched their career with it in 1957.
The Beatles: “Anniversary”
This 1968 feel-good song was created in the spirit of the hippie era. He appeared on the album “The Beatles”, better known as the “White Album”. The musicians briefly said goodbye during check-in to watch a rock ‘n’ roll movie at Paul McCartney’s, which was just around the corner. This film was “The Girl Can’t Help It”, first shown on British television. It was a cult hit featuring famous musicians such as Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino and The Platters.
“Paul was one of the first to come back into the studio,” recording assistant Chris Thomas later recalled. “And he wrote the birthday song just like that. The others joined in and sang. At 5 a.m. the song was over.”
Almost every Beatles song has become cult hits, including ‘Birthday’
Many years later, in an interview with PlayboyJohn Lennon said: “I think Paul wanted to write a song like ‘Happy Birthday, Baby’, the old hit from the 50s. But it was, kind of, composed in the studio. It was a piece of rubbish.” However, millions of Beatles fans see it differently to this day.
Stevie Wonder: “Happy Birthday”
This catchy tune from 1980 has long conquered the world and gladdened the hearts of many birthday boys and girls.
But in non-English speaking countries, most people only sing along to the chorus of Stevie Wonder’s hit and have no idea that the song is also an anthem for equal rights.
Also, it was an unofficial call to create a day to honor black civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in 1968. It happened, but not until 1986 .
Kool & The Gang: “Celebration”
‘Celebration’ was also released in 1980 – the only song by Kool & The Gang to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, although they produced other famous hits as well.
With soulful disco funk, the old school band founded by brothers Robert and Ronald Bell caused a stir in the 1970s and 1980s.
Saxophonist Ronald Bell, who was a Muslim, was inspired by the story of creation in the Quran when he composed the hit. He passed away in September 2020.
“Hello everyone” – the song that started it all
The famous melody was first composed by Patty and Mildred Hill, two sisters who taught at a school in the city of Louisville, Kentucky, in the southern United States, more than 100 years ago. Originally titled “Hello Everyone”, it was so simple that even young children could pick it up effortlessly. They published the song in their songbook “Song Stories for the Kindergarten” in 1893.
The famous melody “Happy Birthday” was first sung to the words “Hello everyone”
It wasn’t until 1912 that the song’s melody was reportedly accompanied by the words “Happy Birthday to you” for the first time. Nowadays, the song is sung everywhere from Vietnam to Armenia, including Madagascar, India and Iceland. The Hill sisters never made a dime of it, but the record companies did later. The Hill sisters licensed the rights to their music to Clayton F. Summy, whose company was later acquired by Warner Music Group in 1998.
A gold mine for record companies
Although individuals were allowed to sing the song for free at home birthday parties, Warner Chappell Music made money if it was used commercially – for example in films, on albums or in credit cards. electronic wishes.
According to estimates, the company made around $2 million (around €1.9 million today) a year in royalties. That ended in 2016 when a judge overturned the licensing rights, which Warner had actually claimed until 2030.
So here is a free version of the serenade of The puppet show: the Swedish chef really has fun with his pots and pans. And if it’s your birthday today, we wish you from the bottom of our hearts: Happy Birthday!
This article was originally written in German.