Birthday Dirge Variation

This is a version of the Birthday Dirge adapted by the family of a close friend. They have been singing it for over two decades, and it is meant to be sung in a somber tone at a largo tempo. The lyrics are as follows:

Grief and sorrow fill the air

People dying everywhere

Happy birthday

Happy birthday

This variation of the birthday dirge is sung much slower than other, more popular renditions of the piece. The family also sings it after the traditional happy birthday song, with the parents leading the pace. This song order really emphasizes the juxtaposition between the dirge, which talks of gloom and despair, and the upbeat celebratory song, and this difference becomes very comical. Though other renditions of the birthday dirge include these lines individually, they are not sung together. As it stands, this is a modification of the song’s most popular versions.

They also sing this song for people outside their family, if they are fortunate enough to spend their birthday week within the family’s home. It is often shocking for people hearing the song for the first time, but it soon becomes a part of the birthday celebration that others start looking forward to. I personally was very bewildered when I first witnessed the birthday dirge performance, as I had never heard of people intentionally speaking of death and sorrow during a birthday. However, I grew to enjoy it and I even participate in singing the dirge when I get the chance.

For alternate versions of the birthday dirge, see:

Brendan, and Brendan. “The Birthday Dirge.”, 12 May 2015,