Kids Share Birthday Love with Signing and Singing

My last blog gave two examples of birthday kindness from strangers to little boys. But this one is about kiddos returning the favor for an adult in their lives. And a teacher providing her students with a valuable lesson along the way.

A Tennessee kindergarten class learned how to sign Happy Birthday to surprise the hearing impaired school custodian with the birthday song.


The custodian, identified by The Tennessean as James Anthony, immediately brought his hands to his head in disbelief, his mouth open in a stunned smile.

The cute video of the children singing and signing to a very shocked Mr. Anthony was posted on the school’s website.

Dozens commented on the video to wish a happy birthday to the custodian, who has served in the county for 20 years.

“Happiest of birthdays, Mr. James! You haven’t aged a bit,” wrote Elizabeth Fox. “What a blessing you have been to the students and staff of many Coffee County schools.”

“I am 34 years old and Mr James was my janitor at Hickerson as well!!!! GOD BLESS this wonderful man!!!!!!!!!!” Jordan Carter commented.

The teacher and students are pretty wonderful too for learning the signs to make this birthday message so special to him.


A Klingon Birthday

One of my writing gigs is to put together quizzes for Writing a foreign language one recently I thought I’d make a joke about Klingon. Well, joke’s on me apparently. There really is a Klingon vocabulary out there and available to the world. I ended up making Klingon a test question.

But, now I need to share with you my findings about Klingon birthdays!

A wiki “teaching Klingon to the galaxy” notes that “no known canon phrase to say Happy Birthday in Klingon. Nevertheless, the existing vocabulary makes it possible to translate the idea quite well.”

Apparently, the most common version is qoSlIj DatIvjaj, literally “May you enjoy your birthday.” Yet, some “people prefer to say this as a command: qoSlIj yItIv Enjoy your birthday.” After all, the Klingons are a pretty bossy race in the Star Trek universe — even I know that!

Klingon Birthday Song

The site I found went on to share translations of the famous “Happy Birthday” song:

DuQuchmoHjaj qoSlIj. May your birthday cause you to be happy.
DuQuchmoHjaj qoSlIj. May your birthday cause you to be happy.
DaHjaj bIQuchjaj [name]. May you be happy today, [name]
DuQuchmoHjaj qoSlIj. May your birthday cause you to be happy.


qoSlIj DatIvqu’jaj. May you enjoy your birthday very much.
qoSlIj DatIvqu’jaj. May you enjoy your birthday very much.
qoSlIj DatIvjaj, [name] May you enjoy your birthday, [name].
qoSlIj DatIvqu’jaj. May you enjoy your birthday very much.

There’s another one about having a splendid birthday, but that seems to be taking it too far. I just don’t think “splendid” is a word the Klingons can relate to very well.

Even the Star Trek series didn’t translate Happy Birthday — instead heralding Worf with a Klingon version of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow, which was met with his annoyed: “that is not a Klingon song!”

P.S. This blog is in honor of my older brother without whom I would likely have no idea at all about Klingon culture.

Happy Birthday song

Have you heard this Happy Birthday song?

Reading the novel The Hate U Give this year, which I didn’t even think of as a young adult book, I came across a reference to “all the black people” singing the Stevie Wonder of “Happy Birthday.”

Angie Thomas’s book has been lauded for providing perspective and emphasizing the need to speak up against injustice. Still, I wasn’t expecting to find a new perspective on birthdays! Nevertheless, I’ll admit I didn’t know about there being a Stevie Wonder birthday song.

Have you Heard This Happy Birthday?

Of course, with YouTube, it easy to enjoy Wonder’s 1981 release still today.

In the song, per, he sings:

…we all know in our minds
That there ought to be a time
That we can set aside
To show just how much we love you
And I’m sure you would agree
It couldn’t fit more perfectly
Than to have a world party on the day you came to be

While this is how I feel about birthdays overall, the song actually reflects Wonder’s campaigning to have Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday become a national holiday. The single was produced and released to raise awareness of the idea.

Encouraging the recognition of King Jr.’s birthday as a way to celebrate peace, he wrote:

It should be a great event
And the whole day should be spent
In full remembrance
Of those who lived and died for the oneness of all people.

The song did not reach Billboard’s Hot 100 that year, but it did chart for R&B and became one of Wonder’s biggest UK hits.

Birthday Song Success

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into existence. The first official MLK Jr Day, held annually the third Monday in January each year, was later commemorated with Stevie Wonder headlining a large-scale concert.

And despite my enthusiasm for birthdays and reading on the topic, I’d never encountered this before reading Thomas’s novel. This tells me something about where I have been looking for birthday information, but it also reminds me of a main reason I read so much. Picking up a book is a way to expand my perspective on the world.

I not only recommend listening to the Wonder song, but also checking out the book featuring a 16-year-old girl trying to balance two separate worlds. She lives in a poverty stricken neighborhood and early on a friend is shot by a police officer, igniting racial tensions in the area. While keeping her experience a secret from her white boyfriend and other friends at her private suburban private school, Starr Carter grapples with grief and decides whether or not to speak up as the sole witness of the shooting.

In the meantime, I hope you continue enjoying reading this blog and its many perspectives on birthdays customs.

Reactions to Singing the Birthday Song

Birthday song

Photo credit: mag3737 via / CC BY-NC-SA

What do you do when someone sings you the “Happy Birthday” song?

The last time I heard it directed at me, I danced and sang along. But, I am seldom afraid to make a fool of myself if it earns laughs, and I love being celebrated on my birthday.

Recently, though, I was part of a group of women singing out loud to a friend. She had told us in advance that this group meeting would coincide with her birthday. She had reminded us the week of when we were planning the buffet contributions. She had welcomed the cake bought in her honor. Yet, when the singing started, she became completely embarrassed. Head in her heads, she tried to make herself small, as we sang around her. Please note: this was not in public and we weren’t that off key!

She said, blushingly after, she didn’t know what do when people sang to her. Other women suggested singing along. Sometimes you’ll see a person fixate on the cake as if she could cut it with the force of her stare. But, what do you do? What’s your reaction to the attention? Is it different if you’re home, among family and friends, or out in a public space celebrating?

The question intrigues me because I’ve recently encountered a psychological study on birthdays that talked about narcissists and their birthdays. This article made me question my own mental health a little — is my love for birthdays a sign that I have a narcissistic personality disorder? Here I am, after all, sharing my thoughts about birthdays with the world via this blog as if my ideas matter…

Oh well, in the meantime, I will continue to comfort myself with the knowledge that I love not only my birthday but those of others too. I enjoy the opportunity to share the joy of birthdays with my friends, family members and co-workers and doing what I can to make them feel special. Yes, even if that means singing while they hide behind their hands in embarrassment!




Birthday Party Song Disruption

Those who read The Verge will know the publication regularly covers disruptive technologies and innovations. Much to my surprise, though, there was recently an article on a man seeking to “disrupt the Happy Birthday song.”

Of course, I had to read on. I expected I would want to be sarcastically dismissive (you probably did too if you’re a loyal reader of this blog). Yet, I like Greg May’s idea.

He has recorded thousands upon thousands of versions of a personalized “Happy Birthday” song he wrote. As of this writing, May’s YouTube channel, named 1HappyBirthday, featured over 310,000 videos for 31,479 different names.

The Verge reported: “All of the songs have been individually recorded by only two singers. The first singer quit after two years; the second, a part-time singer, has recorded nearly 20,000 of May’s birthday songs. Which, intentionally or not, makes her one of the most prolific recording artists of all time.”

May started out with his project by looking up the 400 most popular names in America and writing and recording his own birthday songs for those names. Now, though, he’s expanded internationally, and his site claims more than a million people have enjoyed a personalized birthday song.

The site announces: “It’s fun. It’s one of a kind. It’s wild. It’s catchy. It’s 1 personalized Birthday song just for your birthday.”

May himself told Verge: “Some people just hate it and write that the song is out of tune or ridiculous. Others write to me with amazing stories of how important the song was to them or a child or friend. I recognize that the song may not be for everyone [..] If taken too seriously, is just plain weird. But it also features a person’s name 10 times, so hopefully they like at least that part of the song.”

My own name was the most popular girl’s name in 1972, so I didn’t even bother checking the list for that. Instead, I searched for my niece Kiera. The song for the name with that spelling has a different pronunciation. I tried Kiara as well, but it is the Kiira version that suits. Good thing, because the request form actually says no more name can be added to the production list until 2017!


My niece turned 18 last month! This was her 10 years ago; I didn’t want to get in as much trouble for putting her picture on the blog!

Birthday Songs Just for You

My birthday doppelgänger?

Is Cleopatra Stratan my birthday doppelgänger? Image source

How about this for an audio adventure? See who was born on your birthday to determine what you might want to tune into next on Spotify, Pandora or iTunes.

Credit a librarian in Santa Clara County for this idea: Pat Oey posted on that county’s library blog about singers and band members with birthdays on June 3. Oey suggested that the June 3 birthday celebrant then, should be listening to Curtis Mayfield, The Birds, Phish, Suzie Quatro and No Mercy. In fact, by the blog’s logic, June 3 birthday peeps ought to listen to No Mercy twice as twin band members Ariel and Gabriel Hernandez were both born June 3.

In turning to to see who was born on my special day, I inadvertently typed in October 3. I was excited to see Gwen Stefani pop up – she has many a party tune. But, I had the wrong date.

So, what did that leave me for my beloved October 6?

  • Rappers Leondre Devries ad Lil Wyte
  • Pop singers Cleopatra Stratan, Aaron Pierce, Tae Brooks, Joey Diamond, and Joe Woolford
  • World music singer Millie Small
  • Neck Deep guitarist Lloyd Roberts
  • R&B singer Devvon Terrell

Not one of these artists had I actually heard of; and the fact that the majority of them are under the age of 20 was a bit depressing for middle-aged me. Turns out that Cleopatra is a Moldovian child with her own video channel. Joe was part of the UK’s Joe and Jake who competed in Eurovision 2016 (and the song wasn’t too bad). Devon Terrell is not what I would think you’d describe as “R&B” unless his rapped “Keep It Pushin’” is a marked detour from the norm.

Still, the real surprise was that I recognized Millie Small’s My Boy Lollipop from 1965.

You too can enjoy my new birthday theme song:


There is a dearth of good birthday music out there. As someone who on a probably too regular basis makes a mix tape, later a mix CD, and now an MP3 playlist to mark her own birthday, I am particularly happy to have this new idea of how to create a celebratory soundtrack.

Plus, with the Happy Birthday song finally going public we can look forward to some great new versions of the tune, don’t you think? After all if Google has AI that makes music now, can’t someone bring new life to this familiar ditty we all know and love. I vote for a Bruno Mars mashup or maybe a raucous rendition by Pink or a more moving adaptation by Iron and Wine.

Who would you like to hear singing the birthday song?

Birthday Snub Shooting

Reading about a Minnesota man getting sentenced to nearly 28 years for shooting three people when they didn’t sing the Birthday song for his girlfriend has made me rethink my view on birthday catastrophes.

I used to think a birthday disaster was about who came or didn’t come to your party. Like in middle school the worst thing that might happen is the cute boy you had a crush on not coming to the party…Or the cute boy attending your party and then there being spin the bottle and you getting picked to kiss him but having the most gross breath ever. TRAGEDY.

But then I read about this shooting. The guy brought his girlfriend to a birthday party for someone else and was incensed that they didn’t sing for his girl, who happened to share the same birthday.

In trying to find this Birthday Song story again, I also came across other articles about shootings at birthday parties. Before this I might have thought the girl who’s 16th birthday invite went viral and ended up with rioting in the streets was the worst I’d heard.

There are also many social media videos posted of people’s hair catching fire while blowing out the cake candles Or of the candles causing other decorations and the entire room to catch on fire. Another top ten list will leave you grimacing.

This is just depressing to see all this bad associated with birthdays. So, to turn it around, here’s a fun birthday video from Mr. Bean who celebrates solo but in style.

Birthday cake candle

Photo credit: fmgbain / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

“We Love You Every Day” — Mr. Rogers

North America’s favorite neighbor, Fred Rogers, would have celebrated his birthday March 20th. Just seeing his picture again made me smile. Especially this one with the make believe trolley.

The pics made me do a little digging. Now, I didn’t remember this from my own avid watching of the show as a child, but check out the lyrics to his birthday song:

“Happy birthday, happy birthday
Dear friend, we sing to you
Happy birthday, happy birthday
Happy birthday to you

We thought we’d try to tell you how we love you on your birthday
We thought we’d try to sing and dance and play today
We wanted to surprise you on your birthday and say
We love you every day, not just today…”

How lovely is that? We love you every day, not just today. What a fantabulous idea. It’s even better to hear him sing it.

Thanks Mr. Rogers for still teaching me how to be a better person decades after your show went off the air.

Hurting your ears with birthday fervor.

I recently mortified an undergraduate by having the entire class sing her “Happy Birthday.” The reward? They all could leave class early. I didn’t anticipate, however, how horrific we would all sound. The guy with the lowest voice starting us off didn’t help any. Really. It was awful.

It’s pretty hilarious how poor it can sound when a bunch of us try and sing Happy Birthday to one another. The more the merrier at the party, but don’t count on the serenade to sound so hot.

Have you seen, though, the American Cancer Society’s campaign built around the idea of giving people more birthdays? Their tagline right now is, “The Official Sponsor of Birthdays.” There are several videos available with famous folks singing the Happy Birthday song (ranging from Deborah Harry to Justin Bieber or Weezer to Incubus).

Here’s a particularly soulful version from Jennifer Hudson. Yeah, when I sing in someone’s voicemail, I sound just like this!

A Bolton Birthday for You.

American Greetings has announced a new “chart-topping birthday experience” featuring Grammy Award winning crooner Michael Bolton. Yes, you can order a video ecard featuring the singer of such hits as “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?”

The greeting card company has created a customized birthday song where Bolton sings personalized lyrics drawing “over 1,000 pre-recorded names, including endearments and titles like ‘Honey’ and ‘Buddy,’” plus you select from one of 17 messages.

How are we supposed to live without Bolton making a birthday cake, singing with a helium voice and crooning to a cow and chicken. Bolton is clearly willing to be silly (for quite a pay check one can bet).

The company’s creative director is quoted in the release stating, “we thought ‘what could be bigger and more epic than Michael Bolton singing a song just for you?’”

Uhm, I can think of a few things. Bet you can too.