On Tuesday a judge ruled that "Happy Birthday"—y'know, the song—is now in the public domain. U.S. District Court Judge George F. King declared that there was no evidence that the sisters who wrote the song's lyrics ever transferred them to a publisher, including Warner Music, which has long held (and charged for) the copyright. It was a very lucrative copyright.
While it's great that a much sung ditty isn't being gripped by a weird false copyright anymore, "Happy Birthday" is still a garbage song. It's super boring. "Happy birthday to me," cool!
Fortunately, there are better birthday songs available! Not just "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow," which is also bad, but some legitimately fun songs.
In 2012 the Free Music Archive (FMA) held a competition for a new birthday song in order to try and "unseat 'Happy Birthday to You' from its cultural throne by composing possible replacements." They received more than 100 entries, all of which are Creative Commons licensed — you just gotta give credit to the creators!
The song is fine, it's fine. But it's a little twee for my taste. But there are still more than 100 songs, many of which are better than "Happy Birthday!" Here are some of my favorites.
The naming here isn't terribly original, but I like the invocation of modern birthday customs (Facebook), and the singer's got a great accent.
This song cleaves a little closely to the old standard, but the sheer joy involved makes it a good replacement. I recommend not inserting a name, and just keeping "Name Goes Here" in the lyrics.
Sternburg's entry is a little diva-y. I'd love to hear Mariah Carey sing it.
This variation has a nice voice-treatment, and reassures the person being celebrated that they don't look any older (not that there's anything wrong with looking older).
Anyone who wants to pull this off is gonna need a few bandmates. If you can manage it, though? So jazzy, so right.
Jake's Kept a Rollin is a little naughty ("Birthday song, wear a thong") and pays homage to T. Rex ("Birthday song, bang a gong"). Also, I really like the band name Gerbil Bliss.
This one has some great guitar parts, and urges you to feel okay about your birthday. What more do you want?
I want this sung to me every birthday for the rest of my life.
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org