Happy Birthday to You (Chords)

Happy Birthday (Chords in C)

Copyright of Happy Birthday has been freed from the clutches of Warner/Chappell (who were incorrectly claiming ownership of the lyrics and making an estimated $2 million a year from people singing the words “Happy Birthday to you” a few times). There are a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous so it’s not technically public domain but no one is claiming ownership of it anymore so it is for practical purposes.

One illustrative detail: the original documents are so old no one involved in the case had copies. They had to go hunting in the British museum amongst the statues of Ramesses and Olmec masks to find them. When copyright lasts so long the paperwork is a museum it’s time to think about shortening them.

Now that the piece is free I’ve written up four versions: two sets of chords (one in C up top and one in F below) and two sets of tabs here. And I’ve kept them as simple as possible so everyone can play them.

Happy Birthday (Chords in F)

Suggested Strumming

Just downstrums will work perfectly well. You can keep it ultra-simple and just do one strum per chord.

Or you can play three downstrums per chord on the first three lines. Then on the final line do two downstrums on the C (or F in the second version) and one each on the next two chords.

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View Comments


  1. Mike Shearing September 30th, 2015 8:17 am

    A day early, but thanks, Al C:-)

  2. Woodshed September 30th, 2015 4:34 pm

    Mike: Many happy returns!

  3. tjvonp October 3rd, 2015 4:48 am

    First things first, huzzah for this being (sort of) public now!

    Second things second, thanks for the chords, and for the accompanying tabs!

    Third things third, am I crazy, or should the chord sheet in the key of F have an F, C7, and Bb instead of an F, C7, and D? (My ear really went crazy trying to figure what I did wrong when I got to that D.)

  4. Woodshed October 3rd, 2015 7:45 am

    tvonp: Dangit! Thanks for letting me know. Fixed it.

  5. tjvonp October 3rd, 2015 11:25 pm

    Woodshed: No worries! I’m just glad I hadn’t gone insane.

  6. Woodshed October 4th, 2015 12:10 pm

    tjvonp: Not in this particular instance!

  7. Julia October 10th, 2015 3:13 am

    My favourite thing about this post is the Game of Thrones references

  8. Woodshed October 10th, 2015 7:24 am

    Julia: Glad you got a kick out of it!

  9. Des October 11th, 2015 5:46 pm

    I have now got a child’s birthday party for Tywin Lannister in my head. All was going well until he ordered the chef killed!

  10. Woodshed October 12th, 2015 6:22 pm

    Des: At least it wasn’t a wedding!

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