Next time you’re looking for something really different and special to do on your birthday, you might try driving down to Louisville, Kentucky to Cave Hill Cemetery. Now why on earth would anyone want to do that, you ask?
Particularly on your birthday. You say you’d rather stay home and blow out candles surrounded by friends and family. Nothing wrong with that. But … come on. Live a little. Be adventurous on your birthday. Spend some of it in a cemetery specifically, Cave Hill. That’s where Mildred Jane Hill and her sister Patty are buried. They would be pleased, I’m sure, to know you cared enough to make the trip. And, frankly, without them you might very well have a less joyful birthday celebration.
The Hill sisters, and particularly Mildred Jane, taught, composed, performed and specialized in the study of Negro spirituals. She also wrote about them under the pen name Johann Tonsor, presciently forecasting that the then existing body of black music would become the basis for a distinctive American musical style. The sisters were honored by the Chicago World’s Fair for the education program they conducted at an experimental kindergarten school in Louisville.
Among the things that the Hill sisters’ little ‘kinder kids’ must have enjoyed each day was a simple little song composed by the Hill sisters called “Good Morning to All.” Mildred Jane composed the melody, and no doubt sister Patty, the lyrics, which you can pretty much figure out if you strap on the kindergarten lyric writing side of your brain and repeat those four words four times.
Long after Mildred Jane Hill passed away a hundred and two years ago in Chicago, in 1916, someone figured out that her now famous “good morning” melody also worked nicely with another more universal lyric … also four simple words in length. And someone, if you are so blessed to be surrounded by family or friends, will sing them to you on your birthday whether you are at home or at Cave Hill Cemetery.
If you do happen to be in Louisville someday, birthday or otherwise, you can find Mildred Jane Hill’s manuscripts and papers in the Music Library on the University of Louisville campus She was both born, and passed, in the month of June; arriving on the 27th of June, 1859 and leaving fifty-seven years later on June 5. Either date might be a nice time to sing a little song in her memory. How about: “Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Mildred Jane, Happy Birthday to You!”
And the same to you, dear reader. Whenever and wherever you celebrate your own. By the way, if you happen to be a June baby, you will be pleased to know that beyond Mildred Hill more than a few of your fellow June celebrants also have made some music. A lot of it! Check them out below.
June 1, 1934 – Pat Boone, singer
June 7, 1958 – “Prince,” singer
June 8, 1936 – James Darren, singer, actor
June 9, 1893 – Cole Porter, composer, lyricist
June 10, 1901 – Frederick Loewe, composer
June 10, 1922 – Judy Garland, singer, actress
June 11, 1864 – Richard Strauss, composer
June 12, 1928 – Vic Damone, singer
June 12, 1933 – Jim Nabors, actor, singer
June 14, 1909 – Burl Ives, singer, actor
June 15, 1937 – Waylon Jennings, country singer
June 17, 1917 – Dean Martin, singer, actor
June 17, 1946 – Barry Manilow, singer
June 18, 1942 – Paul McCartney, The Beatles
June 19, 1902 – Guy Lombardo, bandleader
June 20, 1924 – Chet Atkins, guitarist
June 20, 1942 – Brian Wilson, Beach Boys
June 20, 1945 – Anne Murray, singer
June 20, 1950 – Lionel Richie, singer
June 20, 1953 – Cyndi Lauper, singer
June 22, 1936 – Kris Kristofferson, singer, actor
June 23, 1929 – June Carter Cash, country singer
June 24, 1942 – Mick Fleetwood, Fleetwood Mac
June 25, 1945 – Carly Simon, singer
June 26, 1963 – George Michael, singer
June 28, 1902 – Richard Rodgers, composer
June 30, 1917 – Lena Horne, singer, actress
Happy Birthday, all!
Mel Grossman is a local resident and columnist.