Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I want to tell you about something that happened to us a few weeks ago, regarding something in your column.

On February 12th, my father and mother celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary. That very night, my father went to bed and never woke up.

Several days later (February 27), my brother was riding with a friend who commented that he had seen “that thing” dad had written in the paper the night before. Since none of the family had seen it, we found the previous night's paper and, sure enough, your “Mr. Music” column featured a headline pointing out a letter from my father.

He had inquired about finding “Just As Much As Ever,” by Bob Beckham. What a special surprise!

About one week later, we found a message on our answering machine from Jack Potter, a reader of your column living in Bartlett, Tennessee. He explained that he had a copy of the very song that my father had asked about and that he would send it along right away.

You cannot imagine the comfort my mother has found in the words of that song that says, “Even though we two are parted, my feelings for you never drop, for loving you is something I started and don't know how to stop. Just as much as ever, I love you, and always will, my dear.”

I realize that the song is referring to a couple who has apparently broken up but there is an added meaning in those words for my mother under the current circumstances.

These lyrics have provided one last message from my father to my mother in such a trying time and I wanted you to know about your part in this unusual set of events. Thank you so much,
—Christopher Wyant, Murray, Ky.

DEAR CHRISTOPHER: This situation, as well as your wonderful letter, stand alone among the many thousands I have received over the past 15 years. I also received a similar recap of this story from Mr. Potter, who, like your family, found it both uncanny and triumphant. He had no idea how timely and significant his gift would be.

I am pleased to have had a role in these events.

DEAR JERRY: At a girlfriend's birthday party recently, after we sang the requisite “Happy Birthday to You” song, a discussion began about that very song.

Even though people have been singing it for hundreds of years, none of us can ever recall anyone actually putting out a hit record of “Happy Birthday.”

Please tell us if we are right about this, as well as who wrote this song, if that fact is known.
—Madeline Rabon, York, Pa.

DEAR MADELINE: Renditions of “Happy Birthday to You” exist on vinyl, though they are usually children's records. While it may be one of the world's most recognizable tunes, there has never been a hit version.

“Happy Birthday to You” is officially credited to two sisters, Mildred J. and Patty S. Hill. Both taught kindergarten classes in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1893 they wrote this piece of music as a morning sing-a-long for the students.

Then it had completely different lyrics, and the title, “Good Morning to All.”

The Hills first published the melody in a collection titled ”Song Stories of the Kindergarten and Primary School,” also in 1893.

Shortly after Mildred's death (1916), and without contacting Patty, Robert H. Coleman added the “Happy Birthday” lyrics and published the song as his own.

Through the courts, Patty and her family successfully regained ownership of the song.

Since then, when “Happy Birthday to You” is performed commercially — such as in a movie — credit and compensation is made to the Hill sisters and their heirs.

However, I made some calls, and for singing it at your girlfriend's party you owe nothing.

IZ ZAT SO? As common as the phrase “Happy Birthday” has been in popular music, not until 1961 did anyone have a hit record with a title beginning with those exact two words. In fact, there were two that year.

In February, Kathy Young and the Innocents charted with “Happy Birthday Blues.” A few months later, Hank Locklin followed with the hit, “Happy Birthday to Me.”

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