Tim McGraw Reveals ‘Live Like You Were Dying’ Came at a ‘Very Traumatic Time’ for Him
Tim McGraw scored one of the biggest hits of his career with "Live Like You Were Dying," which gave him a No. 1 hit in 2004. In a new interview, the country superstar reveals that the song came to him during a very difficult time, while his father, baseball great Tug McGraw, was on his deathbed.
"'Live Like You Were Dying' was one of those songs that came at a very traumatic time in my life," McGraw tells Matthew McConaughey during an interview on McGraw's Beyond the Influence Radio on Apple Music Country.
"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," McGraw adds. "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. We spent a couple of weeks there before he passed away in the bedroom there in the cabin."
Tug McGraw died on Jan. 5, 2004, and Tim McGraw released "Live Like You Were Dying" the following June 7 as the first single from his album of the same name. He recorded the song the same month his father died, and he tells McConaughey that he'd been listening to the song intently while his father battled cancer, "knowing I was going to record it."
He admits that recording the track was very emotional for him and his family.
"My Uncle Hank was there, my dad's older brother, and we had been recording all day," McGraw relates. "And about three o'clock in the morning, 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."
Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman wrote "Live Like You Were Dying," which details how a frightening health diagnosis ends up changing the protagonist's life for the better.
"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.
Though McGraw felt a strong connection to the song, the country legend says he never played it for his father.
"I just felt like it maybe wasn't the right thing to do," he tells McConaughey.
"In fact, I almost didn't record the song because I certainly didn't want anyone to think that I was playing to what was going on with my father," McGraw adds. "But the more I thought about it, certainly after Tug died, the more I thought that man, knowing Tug and knowing that this song had a lot to do with his struggle and my view of his struggle, I think that he would be somewhere up, hopefully, up in heaven, he'd be smiling down, and slapping his glove on his leg, and ready to come out to the mound, and to hear the roar of the crowd because this song was about him. So I'm sure that he would love it."
As it turned out, so did fans of country music. "Live Like You Were Dying" became a seven-week No. 1 hit on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, and that chart later named it the top song of the year. "Live Like You Were Dying" went on to win Single and Song of the Year at the 2004 CMA Awards and ACM Awards, and it also won Best Country Song and Best Male Country Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards. The song remains one of the most important tracks of McGraw's career.
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