The History of Ben’s Birthday Songs

If you’re reading this, then you’ll most likely know that I’m also somewhat of a musician. While I don’t claim to be a great singer, I do enjoy writing and recording songs. They’re often just silly little songs based around a joke, rarely meant as a serious attempt at writing a commercially successful pop song. I generally write these songs to entertain myself, but on the odd occasion, I sometimes write a song for someone else, like for their birthday.

When it comes to birthdays, I enjoy buying people presents and revel in creating surprises and making people happy. I like to be creative and do something a bit special that they won’t be expecting, which is why I sometimes write them a song. Usually I do it if it’s someone who I think will appreciate it, like a fellow musician or someone who’s shown the slightest bit of interest in my music.

Since my birthday is coming up, I thought I’d share some of the songs I’ve written for people’s birthdays with you and give you a little insight into why I wrote them and what they’re about.

So, when did this all start? The first song I wrote for someone’s birthday was a few years ago for my Grandad. I love my Grandad very much and he has been very supportive with my musical hobbies, paying for my piano lessons and taking me to various ukulele themed events, so I thought it might be nice to repay him a little by writing him a song. I didn’t really know what to write about, which is why the song eventually focussed on his baldness. His lack of hair has become somewhat of a running joke in our family, so it seemed like a good idea to write a little ditty with some jokes about him being bald. I gave him the song on his birthday and he insisted that we all listen to it right there and then. Since nobody in my family had ever heard a recording of one of my songs, I was more than a little embarrassed, but it went down well and he loved it. So, here it is:

The thing is, if you do something for Grandad then inevitably you have to do something similar for Nan, which is why the following year I tried to write a song for my Nan. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of anything good enough or funny enough to write about, so I ended up recording a cover of the theme to the children’s cartoon Gran. It is one of my favourite TV themes and the show itself is brilliant. Here’s the song:

My next victim was my colleague, Mak. Since we both work in a creative industry, I felt like I should do something creative for his birthday. The subject of the song was easy, because Mak doesn’t do birthday cards, so I wrote about that. I feel I should point out that I completely stole the chorus from Harborcoat by R.E.M. because I ran out of time and needed a chorus quick. Still, Mak hasn’t heard Harborcoat, so he didn’t know and he liked the song, which you can listen to here:

The next song was written for my friend Gush. Over the years, we’ve both come out with a plethora of in-jokes and coined a number of phrases, but one of my favourites is ‘top of the downwards’, which he said once when trying to give me directions. I thought it sounded like a perfect song title, so for his birthday I decided to write him a song called Top of the Downwards. Initially I’d just planned to do a quick little ditty on the ukulele, but within an hour I’d moved to the piano and the song became, in my opinion, one of the best things I’ve ever written. The lyrics started out as nonsense, but I kind of realised that ‘top of the downwards’ could be the place where Gush ‘lives’. He says a lot of crazy things and has some strange views on life, so it seems like he lives in his own little world somewhere that’s just completely void of any sanity or common sense. I don’t mean this as a negative by the way. I happen to think he’s brilliant and everyone should be a little more like him. So after a few drafts – I really took this one seriously – the song became biographical. Here’s Gush’s song:

Finally, my most recent – and probably my favourite – birthday song, which I wrote for my colleague Laura. I hadn’t planned to write her a song, but I’d thought up these lyrics a few weeks before:

Forgot to write you a card, so I wrote you a song.
It’s not very good and it’s not very long.
In fact this is it, so I’ll finish and say,
I wish you all the best on your birthday.

They weren’t great lyrics, but it made me smile. I tried putting it to music, starting off with a rock song, using guitar effects on the baritone ukulele, then changing it to a folk song on the soprano ukulele, but it just didn’t sound right. When I found out Laura’s birthday was coming up, I decided I’d try again and write it for her, so I sat down at the piano, played the chord of E/A and straight away the whole song came out, complete with the slightly depressing first verse about celebrating your youth fading away. I got a bit carried away when I was recording it, including things like a falsetto harmony and a key change. So, here it is:

So, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed listening to – and reading about – my songs for other people. I do enjoy it and the people seem to appreciate them, so I will no doubt record more. I’ll leave you with one final birthday song which I wrote many years ago for nobody in particular: