Music

The Story Behind Tim McGraw’s Moving Song ‘Live Like You Were Dying’

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When Tim McGraw released his eighth studio album in 2004, he couldn’t have predicted that the record’s titular song, “Live Like You Were Dying” would become one of his greatest hits and lead many country fans to examine their lives.

As the first single from the album, also called Live Like You Were Dying, the song debuted at number 36 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks, but quickly skyrocketed into the top slot where it spent seven weeks at number one.

The Depth of the Track

Lyrically, the song takes listeners through the story of a man in his early forties who finds out that his father is dying. After worrying about x-rays and his time left, the man’s father responds by living life to its fullest by skydiving, mountain climbing, finding forgiveness and loving deeper.

The lyrics turn to self-reflection with McGraw singing that taking the time to absorb the moments spent with loved ones and pursuing the fun and ambitious things his father wanted also fulfilled him.

“Live Like You Were Dying” was written by Tim Nichols, who has also written for Faith Hill and Alan Jackson, and Craig Wiseman, an accomplished writer in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. McGraw probably easily connected with the words the pair had written since his father, Tug McGraw, passed away in early 2004 after a battle with cancer.

While talking to Parade, the songwriting duo revealed that they came up with the song’s content while sharing stories and discussing a mutual friend who had been given a misdiagnosis and thought he was dying.

“We just started talking about people who responded in that type of way: ‘Wow, it’s time to get busy,’ as opposed to, ‘I’m going to go lay down in my bed and freak out,’” Wiseman continued. “And our talks just turned in that direction of people that just sort of respond to that news in a really cool way. And at some point, we knew there was a song there, like ‘dying to live.’ I think I mumbled, ‘live like you were dying,’ and Tim said, ‘Yeah, that!’”

Penning A Hit

McGraw and songwriters Nichols and Wiseman were well-rewarded for the song with the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Country Song, and Single of the Year and Song of the Year from the Country Music Association Awards and the Academy of Country Music Awards.

Moreover, the three musicians have touched listeners with their collaborative track that’s lead to a range of emotional reactions from teary eyes while singing along in the car to taking a long hard look at how a person lives their life.

“Live Like You Were Dying” Lyrics:

He said
“I was in my early forties
With a lot of life before me
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days
Looking at the x-rays
Talkin’ ’bout the options
And talkin’ ’bout sweet time”
I asked him
“When it sank in
That this might really be the real end
How’s it hit you
When you get that kind of news?
Man, what’d you do?”
 
He said
“I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”
And he said
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying”
 
He said
“I was finally the husband
That most of the time I wasn’t
And I became a friend a friend would like to have
And all of a sudden going fishin’
Wasn’t such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad
I finally read the Good Book, and I
Took a good, long, hard look
At what I’d do if I could do it all again
And then
I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”
And he said
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you’ve got eternity
To think about
What you’d do with it
What could you do with it
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?
 
Skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I watched an eagle as it was flying”
And he said
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying
To live like you were dying
To live like you were dying”

Now Watch: Charlie Worsham Shares the Story Behind the Song “Old Time’s Sake”

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The Story Behind Tim McGraw’s Moving Song ‘Live Like You Were Dying’