Live Like You Were Dying

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

  • 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.
  • In this song, McGraw is in a conversation with a man who had a life-threatening illness. When McGraw asks him how he handled it, the man explains that it gave him a whole new outlook on life, and he started to live like he was dying, living life to the fullest. This means getting those bucket-list items crossed off right away (mountain climbing, bull riding), but also being more generous and forgiving.

    When McGraw heard the demo, it struck a chord with him because his father, former Major League baseball pitcher Tug McGraw, was dying from cancer.
  • 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.

Comments: 2

  • Alex Miller from New YorkI think this song is about living life to the fullest and trying to be better everyday because you don't know when you might die.
  • David from TnThe story isn't about the man's father; he is talking about himself. The singer tells of how he meets a man who says "I was in my early forties..." and goes on to tell of how he responded to his crisis. The only mention of his father is one line in the second verse. The message is the man's own. "He said, I went skydiving..."
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