Folk Song

Happy Birthday Rendition

Happy birthday to you,

You live in a zoo,

You look like a monkey,

And you smell like one too

(And many more, On Channel 4, And a Big Fat Lady, on Channel 80, and Scooby Doo, On 32, and all the rest, on CBS)

Normal rendition = Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear (person’s name), happy birthday to you!

Talia recalls multiple occasions during which she and her friends have tried to distort the traditional happy birthday song. This comedic rendition is sung as the birthday boy/girl is receiving the birthday cake, while the majority is singing the normal song.

The modified verse is not intended to offend the person celebrating his/her birthday; instead, it coincides with many other lighthearted birthday rituals indicating rites of passage (such as receiving punches for the number of one’s age). Talia states that the birthday boy/girl almost always laughs at the gag, and the joke is mainly geared as a prank on the parents who are so methodical about the traditional song. While the lines about the monkey serve as a practical joke, the addition about the television stations is completely impersonal and aimed at adding a tone of humor to the song as a whole. Talia claims that almost every time her friends sing “Happy birthday,” someone adds in their own performance of “and many more;” in face, it is almost implied amongst kids that someone will provide an addendum to the song.

The children’s desire to amend the song indicates their desire to add excitement to a very routine traditional song. The thrill of these pranks enables the singers to enjoy themselves and show enthusiasm while harmonizing about a friend’s birthday. Perhaps, the additions also provide a brief moment in the spotlight for the children on a day where the focus lies completely on one kid’s birthday.

The lines about the television statements offer an interesting depiction about the media these days. They suggest that most television stations offer nothing more than cartoons and reality shows, and that most of the news and popular culture on TV (“all the rest”) can be found on mainstream networks such as CBS and NBC (Channel 4 in the Los Angeles area).