As it turns out, one of Tim McGraw’s most iconic songs was also one of the hardest to record.
In 2004, he came out with a No. 1 song called “Live Like You Were Dying.” It would eventually become the first single from his album with that same title. It remains one of his most recognizable tunes to this day. The song also earned him Best Country Song and Best Male Country Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards.
“I went sky diving / I went Rocky Mountain climbing / I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named ‘Fu Manchu’ / 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,” McGraw sings in the chorus of his No. 1 hit.
Tim McGraw and Tug McGraw
The concept of living like you’re dying had been an all too relatable feeling at that time. While he was working on recording it his father, Tug McGraw, was on his deathbed. The two were estranged for many years because Tug had left before Tim was born.
“‘Live Like You Were Dying’ was one of those songs that came at a very traumatic time in my life …It showed up and was sent to me in the middle of my father’s diagnosis of glioblastoma brain cancer and going through all of his treatments. He stayed at my cabin out at the farm and we were spending a lot of nights out there with my uncle and my brother just hanging out, listening to music and watching football games,” Tim McGraw said during an interview on his “Beyond the Influence Radio” show on Apple Music Country with Matthew McConaughey.
McGraw didn’t write this song, however, it just had a bit of a mysterious timing. Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman wrote, “Live Like You Were Dying.” It works to paint some of the positive aspects of being near death. That is, you live life truly like your life depends on it.
Recording ‘Live Like You Were Dying’
McGraw hopped into the studio the month his father died. The song was magnetic. As it turns out, Tim McGraw says it’s one of the most emotional moments he’s had in the studio.
“My Uncle Hank was there, my dad’s older brother, and we had been recording all day … I looked around at the band. I said, ‘I think it’s time to do this song.’ We spent the next three hours up until sunup recording this song, and my uncle collapsed in a couch crying every time we did a pass of it. That’s got to be one of the most special memories I have of making any music anywhere,” McGraw said.
The artist recorded it and released the song on June 7, 2004. His father sadly died that January before. His father never heard “Live Like You Were Dying,” McGraw’s emotional plea to live out your life to the fullest. He just felt like it “wasn’t the right thing to do” to play it for his father.
At the end of the day though, McGraw remains incredibly proud and connected to this track. It was just the way both chose to live life and view death.