Happy Birthday, Mr. President

"Happy Birthday, Mr. President" is a song sung by actress and singer Marilyn Monroe on May 19, 1962, for President John F. Kennedy at a celebration of his 45th birthday, 10 days before the actual date (May 29).


Monroe sang the traditional "Happy Birthday to You" lyrics in a sultry, intimate voice, with "Mr. President" inserted as Kennedy's name. She 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, as an enormous birthday cake was presented to him, President Kennedy came on stage and joked about Monroe's version of 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 Marilyn's delivery, skintight dress, and image as a sex symbol.[1]

The performance was one of her last major public appearances before her death less than three months later on August 4, 1962. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who rarely attended Democratic Party events, spent the day at the Loudon Hunt Horse Show with her children, John and Caroline.

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


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, including numerous celebrities. The event was a fundraising gala for the Democratic Party.[4]

Monroe's dress was made of a sheer and flesh-colored marquisette fabric, with 2,500 shimmering rhinestones sewn into it. The dress was so tight-fitting that Monroe had difficulty putting it on; she wore nothing under it.[5] It was designed by Jean Louis.[6]

Peter Lawford was at the event that night to introduce Monroe. He made a play on the actress's reputation for tardiness by giving her a number of introductions throughout the night, after which she did not appear on stage. When Monroe finally appeared in a spotlight, Lawford introduced her as the "late Marilyn Monroe". Monroe peeled off her white ermine fur coat, revealing the dress, and the audience gasped.

The event was staged and produced by Broadway composer and lyricist Richard Adler.[7] It was choreographed by Carol Haney of The Pajama Game fame.


Monroe's iconic dress was made by designer Jean Louis and originally cost $1,440.33 (equivalent to $9,342 in 2018[8]). The dress sold in 1999 at an auction in New York City for over $1.26 million (equivalent to $1.82 million in 2018[8]).[5] Canadian billionaire Jim Pattison subsequently purchased the dress on November 17, 2016, at a Los Angeles auction for $4.8 million.[9]

In the 1992 film Wayne's World, Mike Myers imitates the song as his character, Wayne, while Wayne's girlfriend Cassandra (Tia Carrere) is on the phone.[10] In 1994, Mathilda (Natalie Portman) reenacts Myer's scene in Leon: The Professional. At the time, she had never seen Marilyn Monroe's performance.[11]

On the January 16, 1993, episode of Saturday Night Live the musical guest, Madonna, parodied the song as "Happy Inauguration, Mr. President", alluding to Bill Clinton's January 20th presidential inauguration.[12]

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".[13][14]

In 2002 the Texas Rangers had an actress reenact the song for Alex Rodriguez's 27th birthday.

In a 2008 episode of 30 Rock, Claire Harper (played by Jennifer Aniston) — a friend of the protagonist Liz Lemon — begins an affair with Jack Donaghy and follows him without his knowledge to a charity dinner at which she performs a sexy version of Happy birthday to him in spite of the fact that it wasn't even his birthday.

In an episode of Breaking Bad, Skyler White sings the song to her boss Ted Beneke for his birthday.

In 2012 American musician Lana Del Rey reenacted the performance in the music video for her song "National Anthem", with herself as Monroe.[15]


  1. Marilyn Monroe Forever in Our Hearts (May 19, 2014). President Kennedy, JFK Comments on Marilyn Monroe's Happy Birthday. YouTube. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  2. "Hank Jones: The Man Who Accompanied Marilyn".
  3. "Madison Square Garden III". Ballparks.com.
  4. Branch, Taylor (2007). Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–63. p. 590.
  5. "Happy Birthday, JFK". University of Massachusetts Lowell. Retrieved February 2, 2010.
  6. "Jean Louis: Nude Illusionist". Colette. May 4, 2011. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  7. "Musical composer, lyricist Richard Adler dies at 90". CBC News. June 22, 2012.
  8. Thomas, Ryland; Williamson, Samuel H. (2019). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved April 6, 2019. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth series.
  9. "Marilyn's 'Happy Birthday, Mr. President' Dress Sells for $4.8M". NBC News. Reuters. November 18, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  10. Kris J (July 2, 2012). happy birthday mr president. YouTube. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  11. Aquino T (October 8, 2015). "11 Expert Facts About Leon: The Professional". Mental Floss. Retrieved October 2, 2017. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  12. "Clinton Inaugural Gala". snltranscripts.jt.org. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  13. "Cover Story: Nifty at Fifty". People. Vol. 50 no. 20. November 30, 1998. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  14. Gustavo Pezzini (February 10, 2008). Geri Halliwell: Singing Happy Birthday to Prince Charles. YouTube. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  15. "Lana Del Rey and A$AP Rocky Play Presidential in 'National Anthem'". Rolling Stone. June 27, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
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