Tim McGraw attends the 28th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at Barker Hangar on February 27, 2022 in Santa Monica, California.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

'If You're Reading This': The Story Behind Tim McGraw's Emotional Song Honoring Fallen Soldiers


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In 2007, Tim McGraw stunned the audience at the Academy of Country Music Awards when he debuted his poignant new song, "If You're Reading This." Dressed in black and seated in the middle of the stage with guitarists and a string quartet behind him, McGraw sang the tune, which is a letter from a fallen soldier to his wife. McGraw sings from the perspective of the soldier as if he were reading the letter to his loved one after he died. Throughout the song, the soldier writes to his loved one, wishing he could give her "one more kiss," asking to be buried in the "open field out on the edge of town," and ensuring that his soul is in heaven -- "Where my mama always prayed that it would go."

"If you're reading this, my mama's sitting there, looks like I only got a one-way ticket over here / I sure wish I could give you one more kiss / The war was just a game we played when were kids," he sings the emotional first verse.

In one of the most heartbreaking moments of the song, he tells his wife he won't be there for the birth of their "little girl" and gives his wife his blessing to find someone else to love someday. The song is an emotional journey for the listener, as the unthinkable circumstance slowly unravels throughout the duration of the song. All the touching words in the song lead up to the final line of the chorus, which explains it all: "If you're reading this, I'm already home."

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Country music is famous for its patriotic songs, especially in the years following 9/11, but none quite take on the unique and heartbreaking perspective of a fallen soldier like in "If You're Reading This." McGraw ended his 2007 ACM Awards performance of the never-before-heard song by revealing family members of fallen heroes standing onstage behind him. The audience, which included McGraw's wife Faith Hill and other country stars, responded with a standing ovation.

"If You're Reading This" was co-written by McGraw and Brad and Brett Warren just three weeks before the awards show. The artist was inspired to write the song after reading a magazine article about fallen soldiers. American troops were deployed in the Middle East, including in Afghanistan and Iraq, at the time.

"Not only is it a human being and a solider who has died, but the ripple effect from that... The families that are affected, the children, the wives, the parents, the cousins, the friends," McGraw told WKRN at the time.

McGraw decided to perform the song on the ACM Awards soon after writing it. The ACM Awards show producers did not know which song McGraw was singing until the time of his performance. The reaction to the performance was so strong that radio stations wanted to play it immediately, but McGraw hadn't recorded a studio version yet. The stations played the live performance version of the song instead, and that version entered the Billboard charts at No. 35.

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In June, McGraw released a remastered version of the song, which removed most of the audience noise. That version also appeared on his 2007 album, Let It Go. "If You're Reading This" had a good chart performance overall, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 8 on the US country year-end chart. McGraw and Faith Hill's 2007 duet, "I Need You" was climbing the charts at the same time.

'If You're Reading This' Lyrics:

If you're reading this
My momma's sittin there
Looks like I only got a one way ticket over here
Sure wish I
Could give you one more kiss
And war was just a game we played when we were kids
I'm laying down my gun
I'm hanging up boots
I'm up here with God and we're both watching over you
So lay me down
In that open field out on the edge of town
And know my soul
Is where my momma always prayed
That it would go
And if you're reading this
I'm already home
If you're reading this
Half way around the world
I won't be there
To see the birth of our little girl
I hope she looks like you
I hope she fights like me
Stand up for the innocent and weak
I'm laying down my gun
I'm hanging up boots
Tell dad I don't regret that I followed in his shoes
So lay me down
In that open field out on the edge of town
And know my soul
Is where my momma always prayed
That it would go
And if you're reading this
I'm already home
If you're reading this
There's going to come a day
When you'll move on
And find some one else
And that's OK
Just remember this
I'm in a better place
Where soldiers live in peace
And angels sing amazing grace
So lay me down
In that open field out on the edge of town
And know my soul
Is where my momma always prayed
That it would go
And if you're reading this
I'm already home

READ MORE: Read More: Story Behind the Song: Tim McGraw's First No. 1, 'Don't Take the Girl'

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