Happy Birthday (Stevie Wonder song)

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This song has no relation to the nursery rhyme of the general title.
"Happy Birthday"
Happy Birthday Single 7".jpeg
UK 7" single cover
Single by Stevie Wonder
from the album Hotter than July
  • Excerpts from Martin Luther King's speeches (12")
  • "Happy Birthday (Sing Along)" (7")
ReleasedSeptember 29, 1980
Format7" single, 12" single
Songwriter(s)Stevie Wonder
Producer(s)Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder singles chronology
"Happy Birthday"
"That Girl"
Alternative cover
German 12" single cover
German 12" single cover

"Happy Birthday" is a 1981 single 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] Besides being released as a single, the song also appears on Wonder's album Hotter Than July.


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.

Although the single failed to reach the Billboard Hot 100, due to it not being released as a U.S. single; it charted on the R&B chart at No.70,[citation needed] and it became one of Wonder's biggest hits in the UK, reaching No.2 in the charts in August 1981.[2][failed verification]

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. ^ Chartstats.com - "Happy Birthday" UK chart info
  3. ^ "Stars perform at Diamond Jubilee concert". BBC News. 2012-06-04. Retrieved 2012-06-06.

External links[edit]