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Happy Birthday (Stevie Wonder song)

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This song has no relation to the song traditionally sung on people's birthdays.
"Happy Birthday"
UK single picture sleeve
Single by Stevie Wonder
from the album Hotter than July
ReleasedJune 26, 1981 (1981-06-26)[1]
Songwriter(s)Stevie Wonder
Producer(s)Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder singles chronology
"Happy Birthday"
"Did I Hear You Say You Love Me"

"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 promulgate the cause.[2] The song has since become a standard for use during birthdays in general, particularly among African-Americans.

"Happy Birthday" was released as the fourth single of Wonder's Hotter than July (1980) album in June 1981. It was one of his most popular entries in the UK Singles Chart.[3] It was not released in the United States, but is still regarded as one of his signature songs.


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 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.[3]

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 the second verse. Wonder also performed this song at the Diamond Jubilee Concert in London for the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.[4]


  • Stevie Wonder – piano, Fender Rhodes, vocoder, drums, Bass Melodian Synthesizer, Fairlight Synthesizer
  • Background Vocals: Linda Allen, Windy Barnes, Brenda M. Boyce, Shirley Brewer, Emma Coleman, Susaye Greene Brown, Renee Hardaway, Malikia Hilton, Josie James, Melody McCully, Nadra Ross, LaDee Streeter, Tammy Thomes, Venetta Wiley, Betty Wright


Chart (1981) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[5] 31
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[6] 13
Ireland (IRMA)[7] 5
Israel (IBA)[8] 1
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[9] 10
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[10] 12
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[11] 23
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[12] 8
UK Singles (OCC)[13] 2
West Germany (Official German Charts)[14] 18
Zimbabwe (ZIMA)[15] 20
Chart (1999) Peak
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[16] 70


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Germany (BVMI)[17] Gold 250,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[18] Platinum 600,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ "Stevie Wonder - Happy Birthday".
  2. ^ "MLK Day: Why on Monday and what was Stevie Wonder's role?". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
  3. ^ a b "Stevie Wonder – Singles". Official Charts. 9 February 1966. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  4. ^ "Stars perform at Diamond Jubilee concert". BBC News. 2012-06-04. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  5. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  6. ^ "Stevie Wonder – Happy Birthday" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  7. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Happy Birthday". Irish Singles Chart.
  8. ^ "Israel Singles Charts 1987-1995". www.ukmix.org. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  9. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Stevie Wonder" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  10. ^ "Stevie Wonder – Happy Birthday" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  11. ^ "Stevie Wonder – Happy Birthday". Top 40 Singles.
  12. ^ "Stevie Wonder – Happy Birthday". Swiss Singles Chart.
  13. ^ "Stevie Wonder: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  14. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Stevie Wonder – Happy Birthday" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts.
  15. ^ Chartsventes (2015-09-08). "World singles charts and sales TOP 50 in 58 countries: Stevie WONDER". World singles charts and sales TOP 50 in 58 countries. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  16. ^ "Stevie Wonder Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard.
  17. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Stevie Wonder; 'Happy Birthday')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved June 4, 2023.
  18. ^ "British single certifications – Stevie Wonder – Happy Birthday". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved May 17, 2024.