One of the most famous songs in the world is undoubtedly Happy Birthday, traditionally sung to celebrate the anniversary of someone’s birth. It is not surprising, since the original song has been translated into eighteen languages!
This festive melody was arranged by sisters Patty and Mildred Hill. It was originally used for a song titled Good Morning to All in 1893. The following year, the sisters actually composed an entire songbook for the young public, called Song Stories for the Kindergarten. However, only the song Good Morning to All remains in our collective memories today, obviously because of its adaptation to celebrate birthdays. The simple lyrics and the ease with which the song can be committed to memory probably also have a lot to do with it.
In the 1920’s, Happy Birthday in its original English version was included in many songbooks. It seems it was in keeping with the new habit of celebrating birthdays, which was not common before the beginning of that century. Therefore, the song caught on quickly and became the official hymn of birthdays. The proof being that the movies On the Avenue and Stella Dallas, both produced in 1937, used the melody in party scenes, demonstrating the collective appropriation of the song.
In Québec, on one’s birthday, it is not uncommon to hear this tune: “Mon cher ami, c’est à ton tour de te laisser parler d’amour!" (My dear friend, it's your turn to let yourself be told about love!). This well-known melody is an adaptation of the Gilles Vigneault song “Gens du pays”, performed for the first time in Montréal during the Québec National Holiday in June 1975. Originally, the creation of this song came from a challenge given to Gilles Vigneault by Yvon Deschamps and Louise Forestier asking him to create a French adaptation of the famous “Happy Birthday!” song for the eponymous Saint-Jean-Baptiste Show. Since then, this song is particularly associated with Quebecers’ national feeling of belonging, but is also sung at birthdays.
A Version of the Song "Gens du pays" by Gilles Vigneault
Download audio (23 seconds, 0.37 MB)
A group of people singing an a cappella version of the song "Gens du pays" by Gilles Vigneault, to wish someone a happy birthday.
Audio Director: Caroline Roy-Element, 2015
My dear Robert, it's your turn to let yourself talk about love!