Happy Birthday (Stevie Wonder song)

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This song has no relation to the song traditionally sung at birthdays.
"Happy Birthday"
Happy Birthday Single 7".jpeg
UK single picture sleeve
Single by Stevie Wonder
from the album Hotter than July
  • "Happy Birthday" (sing along version, 7-inch)
  • Excerpts from Martin Luther King's speeches (12-inch)
Released1980 (1980)
Songwriter(s)Stevie Wonder
Producer(s)Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder singles chronology
"Happy Birthday"
"That Girl"

"Happy Birthday" is a song written, produced and performed by Stevie Wonder for the Motown label. Wonder, a social activist, was one of the main figures in the campaign to have the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. become a national holiday, and created this single to make the cause known.[1]

"Happy Birthday" was first released in September 1980 on Wonder's Hotter than July album. Released as a single, it was one of his most popular entries in the UK Singles Chart.[2]


The song, one of many of Wonder's songs to feature the use of a keyboard synthesizer, features Wonder lamenting the fact that anyone would oppose the idea of a Dr. King holiday, where "peace is celebrated throughout the world" and singing to King in the chorus, "Happy birthday to you". The holiday, he proposes, would facilitate the realization of Dr. King's dreams of integration and "love and unity for all of God's children".

Wonder used the song to popularize the campaign, and continued his fight for the holiday, holding the Rally for Peace Press Conference in 1981. United States President Ronald Reagan approved the creation of the holiday, signing it into existence on November 2, 1983. The first official Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, held the third Monday in January of each year, was held on January 20, 1986, and was commemorated with a large-scale concert, where Stevie Wonder was the headlining performer.

"Happy Birthday" was released as a single in several countries. In the UK, the song became one of Wonder's biggest hits, reaching number two in the charts in 1981.[2]

When Wonder performed the song at Nelson Mandela Day at Radio City Music Hall on July 19, 2009, he slightly changed the lyrics, "Thanks to Mandela and Martin Luther King!" in that verse. Wonder also performed this song at the Diamond Jubilee Concert in London for the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.[3]


  • Stevie Wonder – vocals, synthesizer, drums, background vocals, ARP synthesizer, keyboards, bass melodeon


  1. ^ "MLK Day: Why on Monday and what was Stevie Wonder's role?". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
  2. ^ a b "Stevie Wonder – Singles". Official Charts. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  3. ^ "Stars perform at Diamond Jubilee concert". BBC News. 2012-06-04. Retrieved 2012-06-06.

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