Having just turned fifty years old, there seems to be no slow down in the career of Samuel Timothy McGraw. Having hit the charts for the first time a quarter-century ago with “Welcome To The Club,” he continues to soar up the charts with each release. His latest, “Speak To A Girl,” a collaboration with wife Faith Hill, quickly shot to No. 6 on the Country Songs chart, a great indicator of how his career will fare after his recent label switch to Sony.
Taking his extensive Tim McGraw song catalog and paring it down to ten cuts is very much a challenge, as the singer has enjoyed one of the most varied careers in country music with a wide variety of styles and moods, but here are ten moments that include some of his most essential hits — and maybe a couple you haven’t thought of in a while.
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10. Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be”
McGraw remains a steady at force at country radio with songs like this traditional-slanted performance that proves how committed he is to the sounds — and the ways of yesteryear. The song definitely took a page from the Merle Haggard playbook, and featured some fine lyrics co-written by rising hitmaker Chris Janson.
9. Tim McGraw – “Please Remember Me”
A stretch for the singer during what proved to be a transitional phase of his career, this powerful ballad was written by veteran Nashville tunesmith Rodney Crowell. There were also a couple of other elements to this song that gave it a classic-sounding feel: the use of strings on the cut, as well as harmony vocals from the always-dependable Patty Loveless. When one thinks ballads among classic Tim McGraw songs, this one will usually land on the list.
8. Tim McGraw – “Grown Men Don’t Cry”
Veteran songwriter Tom Douglas collaborated with Steve Seskin on this brilliantly-written ballad that McGraw definitely worked vocal magic on in the spring months of 2001. By this time period, McGraw was known for his songs of wildness and rebellion, but deep inside the father of three was a heart that could turn sentimental with the best — as he did here.
7. Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
An across-the-board hit for the singer, this Lori McKenna-penned tune was a hit in the country, pop, and AC markets. A million-selling single for the singer, this hit benefited from the much-talked about video, which featured footage from Oprah Winfrey’s Belief series. After the video was released, the media mogul sent the singer a note praising both the song and the message. If Oprah likes it, it’s good enough for us!
6. Tim McGraw – “Southern Voice”
If you’re not from the south, you might view this song as cliche-ridden, and McGraw sings the praises of many iconic people and places below the Mason-Dixon line. But, if you are from there, the references to Martin Luther King, Bear Bryant, Dolly Parton, Hank Aaron (and even Pocahontas) made you beam with pride. And, who could resist that melody?
Take the vocal talents of McGraw and Taylor Swift, throw in the guitar wizardry of one Keith Urban, and add a unique twist in the chorus of this 2013, and you have the ingredients for what would become one of the singer’s biggest releases during his stint for Big Machine.
4. Tim McGraw – “I Need You” (with Faith Hill)
Granted, the husband and wife super-couple have had bigger hits on the charts together, but give points to this Tony Lane / David Lee ballad for being more rough around the edges than their usual slick declarations of love. Comparing their love to whiskey, a cigarette, or the static of an AM radio might not be as flowery as songs like “It’s Your Love” or the recent “Speak To A Girl,” and perhaps the sense of realness is what makes it more romantic or sensual.
3. Tim McGraw – “Angry All The Time”
This chart-topper featured Hill on harmonies, but what sets it apart from the pack of their collaborations is the fact that there is nothing sweet and sentimental about this track. In his cover of Bruce Robison’s composition, McGraw sounds downright melancholy while lamenting about a relationship that has simply been going through the motions for years, and is about to bite the dust. Perhaps their best performance together, due to the irony that their union has been so seemingly blessed. It was good to hear them channel their inner George & Tammy.
2. Tim McGraw – “If You’re Reading This”
Inspired by reading a magazine story about the casualties of war, McGraw teamed up with The Warren Brothers to pen this brilliant release from the standpoint of a fallen soldier. Perhaps the most dramatic performance of this song came at the 2007 ACM Awards, which included one hundred relatives of those who had given the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It was one of the most unforgettable moments of his career, and also one of the most poignant Tim McGraw songs ever.
1. Tim McGraw – “Live Like You Were Dying”
Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman had a mutual friend who had received a mis-diagnosis of their medical condition. After the fact, the two writers talked about what they would do if they knew that they didn’t have much time left. The song was demoed just a few days after the writing of the song was completed. One of the first artists to hear the work was Tim McGraw, who had recently lost his father to lung cancer. He felt an immediate connection to the song, which shot to the top of the charts in less than two months after its’ release in June 2004. Needless to say, it was the performance of McGraw’s career — with a lyric he knew all too well.