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.
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.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.