10 Essential Tim McGraw Songs

Whether it's a poignant ballad that hits you in the heart like 2004's "Live Like You Were Dying" or the energetic live staple "I Like It, I Love It," McGraw repeatedly satisfies listeners.

Written by Annie Reuter
10 Essential Tim McGraw Songs
Tim McGraw; Photo courtesy Sony Music Nashville

Few artists have achieved the level of success that Tim McGraw has reached as the country star has a special knack for selecting songs that best suit him and his live show. Whether it’s a poignant ballad that hits you in the heart like 2004’s “Live Like You Were Dying” or the energetic live staple “I Like It, I Love It,” McGraw repeatedly satisfies listeners. This month, we look back on McGraw’s 10 most memorable songs.

(Arranged chronologically)

“Don’t Take the Girl” — from Not a Moment Too Soon

A powerful story song, “Don’t Take the Girl” was McGraw’s first No. 1 hit. In it, McGraw serves as narrator while the track follows the lifespan of a young boy and girl. At first, he explains how an eight-year-old boy doesn’t want the girl to go fishing with him and his dad. A decade later, the two children are now a couple embracing outside a movie theater when a stranger approaches them with a gun. The young man tells the robber to take everything he has on him but “don’t take the girl.” While they survive that encounter, the song doesn’t end as happily. After giving birth, the woman is fading fast. On her deathbed the man pleads to God to take him instead, begging, “don’t take the girl.”

“I Like It, I Love It” — from All I Want

This 1995 barn burner sounds as current today as it was back in the ’90s. Case in point: McGraw recently performed the song during a visit to TODAY and he had the New York audience energized and singing along as if it was his most recent single.

“It’s Your Love” — from Everywhere

McGraw’s first single off Everywhere and first duet with wife Faith Hill, it also became the couple’s first No. 1 together in 1997 and stayed at the top of the charts for an incredible six weeks. A hint of what was to come from the country power couple, it was the start of many welcomed duets together.

“Just To See You Smile” — from Everywhere

This sweet ballad has McGraw reminiscing on a relationship where he fell head over heels for a girl and dropped everything he had planned for her including his job in Amarillo to move with her to Tennessee. “Just to see you smile / I’d do anything that you wanted me to / When all is said and done I never count the cost / It’s worth all that’s lost / Just to see you smile,” he sings. While the song doesn’t end in McGraw’s favor, as the woman leaves him for someone else, his unconditional love is heartwarming and makes the song one of his most memorable singles.

“Something Like That” — from A Place In the Sun

The epitome of young love, “Something Like That” vividly recounts a Labor Day weekend where two teenagers first meet at a county fair and eventually fall in love. Years later, the man runs into his former flame on a flight and soon finds himself fondly recalling their time together. “Like an old photograph, time can make a feeling fade / But the memory of the first love never fades away,” McGraw notes. Released in 1999, “Something Like That” went on to be the most played single in any genre in the 2000s, according to Nielsen.

“Red Rag Top” — from Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors

Released in 2002, “Red Rag Top” tells the story of a young couple in love who find themselves pregnant. “I was out of a job and she was in school / Life was fast and the world was cruel / We were young and wild / We decided not to have a child.” While “Red Rag Top” received some criticism at country radio as it discussed abortion, the song still rose to Top 5 on the country charts.

“Live Like You Were Dying” — from Live Like You Were Dying

A poignant song that has survived the test of time, McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” tells the tale of a man being told he only has a few months to live. Instead of being depressed, he lives in the moment: “I went skydiving / I went Rocky Mountain climbing / I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu / And I loved deeper / And I spoke sweeter / And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.” A song that advises to live life like it’s a gift, “Live Like You Were Dying” went on to gain recognition at the CMA, ACM and Grammy Awards.

“If You’re Reading This” — from Let It Go

McGraw wrote “If You’re Reading This” with Brad and Brett Warren three weeks before he performed the song at the ACM Awards in 2007. A striking ballad about a soldier killed in battle, McGraw was joined on stage by 100 family members of fallen soldiers. Not intended as a single as there was no studio recording of the song at the time, radio stations began playing the telecast from the awards show prompting McGraw to add it to his album and promote it as a single.

“Felt Good On My Lips” — from Emotional Traffic

Also penned by Brad and Brett Warren with Brett and Jim Beavers, “Felt Good On My Lips” is a song from the perspective of a man who finds himself smitten at the bar when introduced to a woman with a strange name. “But I have to admit it felt good on my lips,” he says after learning the story behind her name. Later, he finds himself dancing with her and singing along to the music, which “felt good on my lips.” An earworm of a song, it’s hard not to sing along with McGraw on the upbeat “Felt Good On My Lips.”

“Humble and Kind” — from Damn Country Music

Time and time again, McGraw proves his staying power. Now 25 years after he released his first single, his knack for selecting powerful songs remains intact as can be heard on his Grammy Award-winning country song “Humble and Kind.” Written by Lori McKenna as a way to share her hopes and dreams with her five children, McGraw made it his own and it’s easy to envision him giving the same advice to his three daughters. “When those dreams you’re dreaming come to you / When the work you put in is realized / Let yourself feel the pride but always stay humble and kind,” he sings. A message that remains long after the last note is played, McGraw once again leaves a lasting impact on his listeners.