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Live Like You Were Dying (song)

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"Live Like You Were Dying"
Single by Tim McGraw
from the album Live Like You Were Dying
B-side"Just Be Your Tear"
ReleasedJune 7, 2004 (2004-06-07)
RecordedJanuary 2004
  • 4:58 (album version)
  • 4:28 (radio mix)
Tim McGraw singles chronology
"Watch the Wind Blow By"
"Live Like You Were Dying"
"Back When"

"Live Like You Were Dying" is a song recorded by American country music singer Tim McGraw, and was the lead single from his eighth album of the same name (2004). It was written by the songwriting team of Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman. The duo crafted the song based on family and friends who learned of illnesses (cancers), and how they often had a new perspective on life upon learning that they had limited time remaining. They decided to write a song based on the concept, hoping that it might inspire someone in such a situation. The song's lyrics center on experiencing life to its fullest, while also becoming a better person.

Released in June 2004 as the lead single from the album, the song became an enormous success in the U.S. It spent seven weeks atop of the Billboard country music charts; the magazine later ranked it the biggest country song of the year. "Live Like You Were Dying" won several awards, including Single of the Year and Song of the Year at the 2004 Country Music Association Awards and at the 2004 Academy of Country Music Awards and the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Country Song. The music video, directed by Sherman Halsey, was nominated for Video of the Year at the 2004 Academy of Country Music Awards. It has sold over two million copies in the U.S.


"Live Like You Were Dying" tells the story of a man in his early forties who gets the news that he has an unspecified, life-threatening illness (most likely cancer of some variety). He experiences a profound shift in perspective on what is most important in life. The message is to live life to the fullest and do things that he had always wanted to do, such as skydiving, mountain climbing, fishing, and bull riding. He also says that he became a better husband and friend. He talks about how going fishing with his father stopped being an imposition and how he finally, after reading the Bible, took a long hard look at his life and past, giving new consideration to what he might have done differently had he had this perceptive earlier.

This song is often associated with McGraw's father, Tug McGraw, who was hospitalized with a brain tumor on March 12, 2003. It was revealed that he had cancer. He died on January 5, 2004.[1]


The song was written by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman. The duo had a friend who received a medical misdiagnosis regarding a form of lung cancer. Wiseman and Nichols began discussing family members and friends who learned of illnesses, and how they often had a new perspective on life upon learning that they had limited time remaining. They decided to write a song based on the concept, hoping that it might inspire someone in such a situation.[2] After they came up with the title, they began writing the first verse and chorus.[3] They found themselves attached to the song, and continued to write it late into the night over the phone.[4] "I remember going in my totally dark living room, laying on the floor, and we wrote the second verse on the phone," Wiseman recalled. The inclusion of the lyric about riding a bull was intended as a sort of "palette cleanse," as they felt the chorus was growing too sentimental. The duo judged its creation as a "really spiritual thing, because it came strong. Me and Tim's instincts and intuitions just kept leading us."[2]

The song was demoed within a few days of its writing by Wiseman, and was chosen by McGraw to be his next lead single.[3] Wiseman remembered the song had personal significance for McGraw, who commented that he himself had gone fishing with his father prior to a quadruple bypass surgery.[2]

Commercial performance[edit]

"Live Like You Were Dying" debuted at number 36 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks for the chart week of June 5, 2004. It reached No. 1 on the chart dated July 17, 2004.[5] It spent three weeks at the top before being replaced by Reba McEntire's "Somebody" on the chart dated August 7. The following week, "Live Like You Were Dying" returned to number one for four additional weeks until it was dethroned by Terri Clark's "Girls Lie Too" on September 11. It ultimately spent seven non-consecutive weeks at number one over two separate runs. The song was certified Platinum by the RIAA on December 1, 2009,[6] and it has sold 2,313,000 copies in the US as of July 2016.[7]

Music video[edit]

The video starts with McGraw barefoot and looking at his toes. The video also features McGraw singing in an infinity cove with video clips added by CGI. The alternate version of the video, directed and produced by Sherman Halsey, McGraw's usual director of choice, ends with a clip of McGraw's father, the late Tug McGraw, pitching the final strike for the 1980 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, which, at the time, was the team's only World Series Championship. The video was nominated for Video of the Year at the 2006 Academy of Country Music Awards.

Cover versions[edit]

Singer–songwriter Drew Pizzulo released his cover of "Live Like You Were Dying" and topped the Country Cover charts as well as hitting #2 on the Country chart in October 2022 on Soundclick.com. [8]



  1. ^ "Tug McGraw dies at 59". philadelphia.about.com. January 5, 2004. Archived from the original on 2006-02-08.
  2. ^ a b c Doug Waterman (May 3, 2012). "Extended Q&A: Craig Wiseman". American Songwriter. Retrieved October 11, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Jake Brown (2014). Nashville Songwriter: The Inside Stories Behind Country Music's Greatest Hits. BenBella Books. pp. 19–20.
  4. ^ Vi-An Nguyen (September 8, 2014). "Songwriters Reveal the Story Behind 'Live Like You Were Dying' by Tim McGraw". Parade. Retrieved October 11, 2015.
  5. ^ "Hot Country Songs". Billboard. July 17, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "American single certifications – Tim McGraw – Live Like You Were Dying". Recording Industry Association of America.
  7. ^ a b Bjorke, Matt (July 26, 2016). "Top 30 Digital Country Singles Chart: July 26". Roughstock.
  8. ^ "LIVE LIKE YOU WERE DYING (2020) by Drew Pizzulo".
  9. ^ "Canada AC Top 30" (PDF). Radio & Records. March 18, 2005. p. 47. Retrieved May 8, 2024.
  10. ^ "Canada Country Top 30" (PDF). Radio & Records. August 20, 2004. p. 44. Retrieved May 8, 2024.
  11. ^ "Tim McGraw Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
  12. ^ "Tim McGraw Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
  13. ^ "Tim McGraw Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
  14. ^ "Tim McGraw Chart History (Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
  15. ^ "Tim McGraw Chart History (Adult Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
  16. ^ "Best of 2004: Country Songs". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 2004. Retrieved July 11, 2012.
  17. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 2004". Billboardtop100of.com. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  18. ^ "Hot Adult Contemporary Songs: Year-End 2005" (PDF). Prometheus Global Media. December 24, 2005. p. YE-76. Retrieved July 27, 2023. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)