A View From A Bourbon Street Balcony, April 18

Bourbon Street is a pretty amazing place.  An endless stream of humanity flows past, checking out the bars and strip clubs and oyster bars and other places to take a load off and sip an Abita and suck down an oyster with some lemon juice.  Loud music, mostly from cover bands, floods out into the night air.  Most of the passersby have that bright alcoholic sheen and stumbling step, and many are clutching an outsized beer bottle or a daiquiri glass.

Coming from the buttoned-down, Bible-thumping Midwest, it’s a culture shock to be in a place where people flout open containers of alcohol and a fine restaurant can be found right next to a sleazy strip club.

The Fabulous Jackson Square All-Stars

I’m in New Orleans for a conference.  Although I’ve been to other parts of Louisiana, it’s the first time I’ve visited the Crescent City.

I got in this afternoon and took a stroll to get my bearings and get some exercise, besides.  While walking past Jackson Square I heard the strains of some New Orleans jazz from a street group called the Jackson Square All-Stars.  They were awesome!  I was amazed by the quality of the playing and the tightness of the band as they rolled through classics like Little Liza Jane and seemed to have a very good time doing so.

So, I sat for a while, savoring the experience and the sunshine and the great music, and felt like I was an extra in a scene from Treme.

Who Wrote Happy Birthday?

Spring is the time of birthdays in the Webner family.  Today is the birthday of one very special person, and Happy Birthday will be sung with gusto.

Everyone knows Happy Birthday and has sung it hundreds of times — for family members, schoolmates, co-workers, and friends — but who wrote it?

The melody for Happy Birthday comes from the children’s song Good Morning to All, written in 1893 by American sisters Patty and Mildred Hill.  Patty was a school principal in Kentucky, and the song was designed to be sung by schoolchildren.  The lyrics were:  “Good morning to you, Good morning to you, Good morning, dear Children, Good Morning to All.”  It’s easy to imagine a classroom of rambunctious turn-of-the-century kids singing that song at the start of the school day.

At some point lost in the mists of time — but probably not too long after Good Morning to All was first sung — someone substituted the familiar lyrics of Happy Birthday.  The combination of lyrics and melody apparently first appeared in print in 1912.  Happy Birthday was copyrighted more than two decades later, in 1935.  The validity of its copyright has been the subject of legal commentary and even a mention in the dissenting opinion in the Supreme Court case Eldred v. Ashcroft, but the copyright issue has caused filmmakers whose movies include a birthday scene to either pay a royalty or substitute For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow instead.

Most people consider Happy Birthday to be the best known and most frequently sung song in the world.  It’s fun to belt out, too.