Happy Birthday to Me, I Can Sing it for Free

What better word is there in our capitalist system than, “free?”

It’s free.  It won’t cost you a damn dime!  What?  No charge? Nada?

Yep … F-R-E-E.  Free!

But since 1988, capitalists at Warner/Chappell Music held “Happy Birthday” hostage while collecting millions of dollars in royalties.  Their case was based on the seriously shaky claim that the original publisher, Clayton F. Summy Company, never published or allowed anyone to publish the lyrics to Happy Birthday.

Surprisingly, there is no evidence W/CM ever ordered police to use flash-bang grenades or battering rams to raid birthday parties where gleeful kids led by their slightly tipsy moms sang the iconic song.

Thank God for that.  I guess Mitt was right, “Corporations are people, too.”

But … digging into the corporate dirt of W/CM, it turns out that the case had a bit of TV court room drama in it.

Apparently W/CM, as a collection of “people-who-are-corporations” are wont to do, “forgot” to file some relevant documents until just before judgment day.  The most important info in one of the docs was also mysteriously blurred.

Guess what?  A little closer examination revealed a smoking gun.

The original title of the song was not just “Good Morning” as claimed by W/CM.  The blurred original title was clearly “Good Morning and Birthday Song” … and just below the title it also stated the “Clayton F. Summy Company gives permission” for the song to be published.


My, my, my … does anyone still think “corporations are people?”  For sure I do … nasty, greedy, lying people living to cover-up their tracks.

Do I hear someone mumbling “Fahrvergnugen all over again?”

Karma’s a B**ch, as the saying goes.  The plaintiffs are also considering a nasty class action suit to reclaim the millions in ransom W/CM illegally collected.

The plaintiff’s attorney speculates that the suit could be for way more than the self-reported royalties.  Whatever gives him the idea that W/CM might try to fudge the total amount collected in royalties?

With “Happy Birthday” no longer held hostage maybe Warner-Chappell Music should set sights on “The Star Spangled Banner.”  Somebody better check to make sure Frances Scott Key maintained his rights or we could be shelling out big bucks again.

The SSB is sung at almost every U.S. athletic event, miniscule to giganto.  Wow… That’s a pot of gold!  Time to call W/CM and feather up the nest egg.

Just sayin’.

11 thoughts on “Happy Birthday to Me, I Can Sing it for Free

  1. Your sense of humor is “seriously” enjoyable. Thank you for the thoughts, and for the fun of reading your musings. I always look forward to your next post.

    • Emalou … thanks for reading my stuff and for your kind words.

      I figure we have enough to worry about without me contributing to what’s wrong in our lives. I prefer to poke fun and take our logic, flawed as it is, to the absurd.

  2. I like it when those chipmunks sing this song – oh, wait, maybe that’s another equally inane tune!

  3. The only version of Happy Birthday that I approve of is the breathless one sung to JFK by Marilyn Monroe.

    But, I’m glad the Bastards at W/CM got caught, will have to pay (hopefully) and the song can be sung without paying for it.

    That’s almost as low as the RCC charging you for an electric “candle” to pray for a loved one you’ve lost! I think they still do that.

    Thanks for reading.

  4. Is it really your birthday, Huss? Happy, Happy Birthday if it is!!! So many of my friends are Libras it’s hard to keep myself in balance. love, marthaxx

  5. Thanx, PMartha for the kind wishes … but the facts surrounding the day of my birth were mysterious upon occurrence and shall always remain so. But, your wishes are accepted with gratitude.

    I was simply celebrating the liberation of the iconic Happy Birthday song for all of us to enjoy … for free, the key word!

    As for keeping yourself “in balance,” waste no more of your precious time. A balanced PMartha would bore me to tears … and probably hubby Ron, too!

    Thanx for reading my stuff.

    • Whoo-hooo! Nothing’s better than being loved for being exactly who you are!!! Here’s a laugh: Ron’s outside my study window trying to uproot creeping juniper with my hedge-trimmers, the manual ones. I once did a hillside of creeping juniper and the roots are huge, long and deep!! Fun to watch!

  6. Sounds like a good submission for Reader’s Digest “That’s Outrageous” section. It really IS outrageous.

  7. Thanx for reading, Gail

    What a good idea … I’ll give that some thought … look into it.

    The primary motivator for me to write this one was being pissed at W/CM for stealing millions from people who didn’t have to pay a dime. Plus, for years we had to sit thru horrible variations on an already trite and bad song when we were in restaurants! Almost made me not to want to tip!

    Appreciate your support.

  8. What idiot (s) were actually making these payments? I read about this travesty and could not figure out who or what corporations were forced to pony up.

  9. Hi Janet … Thanx for checking in.

    Since W/CM only pulled in 2+ million per year, I’d say that in the scheme of their overall earnings, the Happy Birthday song wasn’t a big revenue generator.

    I didn’t pay anyone and I sang Happy Birthday probably 100+ times since 1988 … so take that W/CM!

    My guess is the “collection” process gave W/CM’s corporate legal eagles something to monitor and to chase.

    I think the only real accomplishment of the mess was the generation of a lot of shitty variations of the shitty original birthday song, sung at chain restaurants. Just sayin’

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