We, the “public” in the “public domain,” stand to gain a lot from that landmark decision, among the gains the fact that “Happy Birthday,” one of the most-sung songs in the land, can now be performed in movies and TV shows. But we stand to lose something, too: the delightfully ridiculous songs that some restaurants—some chain restaurants, in particular—have written to wish their patrons a happy birthday without having to pay royalties to Warner/Chappell. The songs are sometimes performed dutifully, with rolled eyes and limp claps, reminding their audiences of the power of corporatism and the demands of capitalism and the fact that all of us, one day, will die. But the songs are, much more often, performed with a generous gusto, with entire wait-staffs assembling to announce, “You’re big time, big stuff, going far!”
Here’s hoping the restaurants below will continue their individual versions of the cheesy birthday-song tradition even when they’re no longer legally compelled to do so. Because, while the songs are occasionally accompanied by a little gift—a free cheesecake, maybe, or (as is the case for the birthday-celebrating patrons of Chevys Fresh Mex®) a bedazzled sombrero—mostly, they are gifts unto themselves. For the person who is marking the passage of another year, and, really, for us all.