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Happy Birthday, Mr. President

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Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Marilyn Monroe's original performance of the song

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Marilyn Monroe on stage
John F. Kennedy thanking Marilyn Monroe
Monroe's dress from the event

"Happy Birthday, Mr. President" is a song sung by actress and singer Marilyn Monroe on Saturday, May 19, 1962, for President John F. Kennedy at a celebration of his forty-fifth birthday, ten days before the actual date (Tuesday, May 29). Monroe sang the traditional "Happy Birthday to You" lyrics in a sultry voice, with "Mr. President" inserted as Kennedy's name.

Monroe continued the song with a snippet from the classic song, "Thanks for the Memory", for which she had written new lyrics specifically aimed at Kennedy.

Thanks, Mr. President
For all the things you've done
The battles that you've won
The way you deal with U.S. Steel
And our problems by the ton
We thank you so much

Afterwards, President Kennedy came on stage and joked about the song, saying, "I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way," alluding to Monroe's delivery, her racy dress, and her general image as a sex symbol.[1]

The song and Monroe's performance have been remembered for numerous reasons. It was one of her last major public appearances before her death less than three months later, August 5, 1962. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy did not attend the celebration.

Monroe's performance was accompanied by jazz pianist Hank Jones.[2]

History

President Kennedy's birthday celebration was held at the third Madison Square Garden[3] on May 19, 1962, and more than 15,000 people attended along with numerous celebrities. The event was a fundraising gala for the Democratic Party.[4]

Monroe's dress was noted for being made of a sheer and flesh colored marquisette fabric, with 2,500 rhinestones sewn into it. The dress was so tight-fitting that Monroe had to be literally sewn into it; she wore nothing under it. [5] It was designed by Jean Louis.

Peter Lawford was at the event that night to introduce Monroe. He made a play on the actress's lateness by giving her a number of introductions throughout the night, after which she did not go on stage. As she finally came on stage several hours into the show, Lawford introduced her as the "late Marilyn Monroe".[1]

The event was staged and produced by Broadway composer and lyricist Richard Adler.[6] It was choreographed by Carol Haney of The Pajama Game fame.

Impact

Monroe's dress has become famous as a symbol of the song, selling in 1999 at an auction in New York for over US$1.26 million.[5]

Madonna made a famous parody of the song on Saturday Night Live during the 90s, singing "Happy Inauguration, Mr. President" (Season 18, Episode 11), changing President Kennedy to President Bill Clinton (played by Phil Hartman) who had recently won a second term as President of the United States, his wife Hillary Clinton (played by Jan Hooks) and their daughter Chelsea Clinton (performed by Julia Sweeney).

Spice Girl Geri Halliwell performed the song in 1998 for Prince Charles' 50th birthday celebration, replacing the line "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" with "Happy Birthday, Your Royal Highness".

American musician Lana Del Rey reenacted the performance in the music video for her song "National Anthem", with herself as Monroe.[7]

References

  1. ^ a b Original performance of "Happy Birthday", Marilyn Monroe. Shown on Columbia Broadcasting System, May 29, 1962.
  2. ^ Hank Jones: The Man Who Accompanied Marilyn
  3. ^ "Madison Square Garden III" on Ballparks.com
  4. ^ Branch, Taylor (2007). Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63, p. 590
  5. ^ a b "Happy Birthday, JFK", University of Massachusetts Lowell, URL last accessed February 2, 2010
  6. ^ "Musical composer, lyricist Richard Adler dies at 90". CBC News. June 22, 2012. 
  7. ^ "'"Lana Del Rey and A$AP Rocky Play Presidential in 'National Anthem.  
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