Sunday, January 28, 2007

Where did THAT lyric come from?

We just had a birthday party at my house. Unsurprisingly, this involved the singing of the song "Happy Birthday to You". I won't reproduce the lyrics here, since (as you are probably know) despite being of quite ancient provenance and perhaps the most obvious example of what members of the public would consider "public domain", the song is in fact copyrighted. How fiercely the copyright is defended I do not care to find out.

We sang the song, and got to the second verse* - not covered by copyright:

May the dear Lord bless you
May the dear Lord bless you
Happy birthday, dear...etc.

(Alternate versions include "the good Lord" or "our dear Lord".)

"Where did that lyric come from?" my cousin asked. "None of my friends have heard of it."

I found this odd. Was it a sign of declining religiosity and increasing secularism in the world? Was this some sort of special lyric invented in the dim past by some ancestor and passed down through the generations in our family?**

The truth is, I don't know. A Google search for "happy birthday"+"may the dear lord bless you" turns up only 66 hits. Not unique, but not common enough to be universal. The "good lord" variant yields 309 hits, and the "our dear lord" version turns up a whopping 10 results.

So where did this come from? I don't know. I don't mind carrying it on, though.

Nor do I mind our other variant verse:

Happy birthday to you
You live in a zoo
You look like a monkey
And you smell like one too!

*Fellow Felbernaut Hedera's comment made me realize that I had used the word "lyric" where I should have used "verse". I have changed two occurences of this. In defense of my grammatical error, I should point out that the second verse consists of a single line, or lyric, repeated twice and then combined with the last two lines of the previous verse. But I also know beans about music and its terminology. My mistake!
**It is also possible this is simply something that was drilled into our heads by the nuns during dozens of birthday parties in Catholic school each year. Any other Catholic school survivors out there who can back this up?


hedera said...

I never heard the second verse; but my dad always used to sing, "Without a shirt" after the last "to you". We also had a family variant, sung to the melody of the "Volga Boatmen":

Happy Birthday!
Happy Birthday!
Grief, misery and despair,
People dying everywhere,
Happy Birthday!

I don't know why we all considered that so funny, but it was regularly performed at family celebrations...

dee said...

Oh this was definitely the Catholic school version. Some nun, somewhere, came up with it and it spread like wildfire through convents all over the country. i remember singing it in grammar school.

Someday I'm going to write a book with all the stories they told us to illustrate some principle of Good Behavior.

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

This is the first time I have ever heard of a second verse, although I did know the song was copyrighted.

hedera said...

A Catholic version would certainly explain why formerly Baptist I, attending a public school, never heard the "other" version.