Live Like You Were Dying

Album: Live Like You Were Dying (2004)
Charted: 29


  • This Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman penned song was the longest-running country #1 of 2004 remaining at the summit for seven weeks. It was also named as the #1 country song of 2004 by Billboard.
  • The song tells the story of a man who gets the news that his father has a life-threatening illness. His dad's message is to live life to the fullest. When the demo was played to McGraw, it struck a chord with him as his own father, former Major League baseball pitcher Tug McGraw, was dying from cancer at the time.
  • McGraw's father passed away just two weeks before he came to record the song at Allaire studios in upstate New York. He recalled the recording session to American Songwriter magazine: "We were in the studio around midnight. My uncle was there – my dad's older brother. The studio was all decked out. We sent an interior designer up to the studio, which was at the top of a mountain with three feet of snow around it. There was a big fireplace and candles. I had a glass vocal booth built in the middle of the center of the room where I could conduct everybody in the band."

    "Anyway it was midnight or 1 o'clock in the morning when we decided to cut this song. No lights were on. All the candles were going. My uncle was sitting there on the couch. That was an inspired track."
  • During the songwriting session, Wiseman and Nichols were discussing a mutual friend who was misdiagnosed with a fatal illness and family members who beat cancer. They began to wonder what their outlook on life would be if they were told they were dying.

    "So 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 told Jake Brown, author of the 2014 book Nashville Songwriter. "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!' And as soon as he stopped me I grabbed the guitar and just kind of started scatting some stuff out, and the next thing you know, we finished the second verse at midnight on the phone."
  • This was used in the 2015 movie Pitch Perfect 2.
  • This was Wiseman's first hit single after opening his own publishing company, Big Loud Shirt, in 2003.
  • This won Best Country Song and Best Male Country Vocal Performance at the 2005 Grammy Awards.


Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Loudon Wainwright III

Loudon Wainwright IIISongwriter Interviews

"Dead Skunk" became a stinker for Loudon when he felt pressure to make another hit - his latest songs deal with mortality, his son Rufus, and picking up poop.

Dean Friedman - "Ariel"

Dean Friedman - "Ariel"They're Playing My Song

Dean's saga began with "Ariel," a song about falling in love with a Jewish girl from New Jersey.

Pam Tillis

Pam TillisSongwriter Interviews

The country sweetheart opines about the demands of touring and talks about writing songs with her famous father.

TV Theme Songs

TV Theme SongsFact or Fiction

Was a Beatles song a TV theme? And who came up with those Fresh Prince and Sopranos songs?

Dave Alvin - "4th Of July"

Dave Alvin - "4th Of July"They're Playing My Song

When Dave recorded the first version of the song with his group the Blasters, producer Nick Lowe gave him some life-changing advice.


WeezerFact or Fiction

Did Rivers Cuomo grow up on a commune? Why did they name their albums after colors? See how well you know your Weezer in this Fact or Fiction.