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'Happy Birthday to You' Gets Fresh Legs Delivers New Versions of Old Classic (February 08, 2012)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- (Marketwire) -- 02/08/12 -- If only Patty and Mildred Hill could see their simple song today: universally known and translated, a birthday mainstay, a large revenue stream.

Quite the legacy for a song dating back to 1893 originally titled 'Good Morning to All' and used to welcome Patty's kindergarten class to their day.

"The Hill sisters probably didn't foresee the phenomenon," laughs Mike Fiol, founder of, a firm licensed to produce original versions of the song.

Copyrighted in 1935 and eventually sold to Time Warner, the melody is not only fare for the everyday birthday party, it is a licensing bonanza, reportedly earning $2m annually in usage fees for its owners.

In fact, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, "Happy Birthday to You" is the most recognized song in the English language. Something else the sisters could hardly fathom in their day -- before the advent of radios, TVs, the Internet.

For his part, Fiol commissioned various musicians to record their own interpretations and is offering them online via the HBS site, the iTunes store and a Facebook app.

From a James Brown-type funk rendition to pure reggae and techno, the service lets users send any version via email or SMS while Facebook members can post songs directly on their friend's wall.

"It's homage to a classic Kentucky tune," says Fiol, who recently sent his sister a version for her birthday. "I mean, what's not to love about a funky version of that great song?" he concludes.

Yes, perhaps something even the Hill sisters, though unimagined at the turn of the century, could love.

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M. Mitchell
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