Navajo Prayer (When You Were Born)

The Bird Sings Oral Tradition Song Library

Navajo Prayer (When You Were Born)

***This recording was updated in June, 2020 to match the composers original. Thank you to Kate Munger and Jody Healy for bringing into awareness my previous recording had a few important discrepancies. ***

This simple and potent chant is great for birthdays and can be sung in the round. The second section of the melody offers a little challenge in its offbeat rhythmic pattern.

Some background on the song from Jody:

“I went to see the Shaman, Martin Prechtel at his book reading for “Long Life, Honey in the Heart.”  I purchased his book and inside of the book was the Navajo Proverb.  I was immediately touched by the Proverb and that night on my way home, the music to the Navajo Prayer emerged as a chant. Driving over Hwy 17 through the winding Santa Cruz mountains, I sang the prayer with passion and gusto over and over,  all the way home until the music and song were etched in my heart.

I love this prayer, I sing it often. It gives me great solace. I love hearing other people, both as individual musicians and choirs sing this song. I credit Kate Munger, Director of the Threshold Choir as the one who realized the song could be sung as a round in three parts. As she said, “This song has feet.”

Click here for more information about the song from Jody.

A note: Barbara McAfee was told that this text was originally written by the poet Kabir, from India.

Composer & Copyright

Navajo Prayer, composed by Jody Healy © 2004. A note from Jody on song use: “If you make money I like to receive a royalty check. If not, you have my blessings.”



When you were born you cried and the world rejoiced
Live your life so that when you die the world cries and you rejoice

  • Cyrille Andrieu-Lacu

    Would you know the words in Navajo and / or in Sanskrit ?
    I would be highly interested to sing it at hospital in France.
    Many thanks

    • Lisa G.

      The english version is the only one I’m aware of Cyrille. Perhaps just try singing on an “ooh”?

  • Curious Singer

    Does anyone know if this composition is truly of Dine (“Navajo”) origin?

  • Leslie Cunningham

    Anybody know what chords to use on the guitar for this?

    • Jen Kazen

      Hello Leslie, we do not have chords available for this song. Thank you.

  • Shelley Droe

    I am a music teacher and would love to use the Navaho Prayer with students. Would you give permission for me to do so or how could I legally do this without breaking copyright?

    • Lisa G.

      Hi Shelley, I have recently added information here about permissions and who to contact for recording or performing this song.

  • Michael Lojkovic

    that would be ‘funlenging’ (fun + challenging!) to learn in Sanskrit.

  • The lyric is actually based on a text by Kabir. A man from India told me that “every schoolchild in India knows this text” and then sang it the way he remembered it from childhood — in Sanskrit!

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