Words to Live By

Earlier this week, Tara Seetharam posted about songs that resonate for reasons beyond the lyrics.  This got me thinking about something close to the opposite: What about songs that stand out because of a particular lyric, a line that takes on a life of its own beyond the song?

I first heard “Too Many Memories” on the Patty Loveless album Long Stretch of Lonesome. It was later recorded by Hal Ketchum.  It’s a good song, no doubt, but the kicker that ends the second verse has grown into words to live by for me:

What makes you grow old is replacing hope with regret.

I’ve used that quote countless times, and as I get older, it gets ever more true.

Is this just me, or do any of you also have lines from songs that are words to live by?


  1. I think I understand what you mean. I love the song “Witcha Lineman”, and at least a few times a week I think of the lines ” And I need you more than want you. And I want you for all time.” For what ever reason that thought strikes me down everytime. I even think that it has formed my idea of what true love means without me thinking about it. Odd. Those lines can cut me flat.

  2. big topic. the only recent lyric to make me think twice was taylor swift’s “fifteen”: And Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind.

  3. I have quite a few, but here are some songs I’ve been listening to more recently that have made me think more:

    “No Fear” by Terri Clark
    ‘don’t want to live afraid of dying…’
    just the concept of the song, and the strength in the song makes me think about life and how you should live with no regrets.

    “Almost Home” by Mary Chapin Carpenter
    ‘There’s no such thing as no regrets,But baby it’s alright, I’m not running, I’m not hiding, I’m not reaching, I’m just resting in the arms of the great wide open, Gonna pull my soul in, And I’m almost home…..’
    makes me think about how we spend our lives looking for someplace we want to call “home,” and looking for comfort… pretty relevant since I’m leaving for college this fall.

    “Sometimes I Feel Like Elvis” by Wynonna
    ‘Sometimes I feel like Elvis, Here I am with everything and nothing at all, I’ve never felt so helpless, I don’t know who I am now that you’re gone…’
    This is just an amazing song, and it wasn’t until recently that I started to really think about the lyrics, when a friend pointed out that the lyrics to the second verse made her think about my liking another person. Then I thought about how empty many people feel without love, and how we try to fill that emptyness with material goods and artificial love, but it doesn’t matter until you find real love.

  4. The first thing that pops into my mind is a line from MCC’s “I Take My Chances”:

    Now some people say you shouldn’t tempt fate and, for them, I cannot disagree. But I never learned nothin’ from playing it safe. I say…

    She’s one of my favorite lyricists.

  5. Zach mentioned “No Fear” by Terri Clark which is on her great “Fearless”cd. The writers? Terri and Mary Chapin Carpenter – the latter one of Michael’s favorite lyricists and mine too.

    The song that I immediately thought of when I read Kevin’s post is Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” written by Tim Nichols & Craig Wiseman. The line “And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying” made me reflect on times past when I wasn’t talking to a friend or relative because of some disagreement that may have been as much my fault as theirs. Some times you have to be the one to make the call and patch things up. If you put it off, it may never happen. As my mother used to say many years ago, “No one has a lease on life”.

    I like Kevin’s example of “Too Many Memories” with the line about replacing hope with regret making you old. Made me think of a Radney Foster song “Half of My Mistakes” whose last verse is about mistakes and regrets:

    Half of my mistakes I¹d give anything to change how it ended
    Half of my mistakes, God, I wouldn¹t change a thing
    You can lean too hard on regrets, but I don¹t recommend it
    Because half the good things in life came from half of my mistakes

    The song, written by Radney and Bobby Houck, is from his 2006 cd, “This World We Live In”.

  6. I’ve often found solace in lines from Pam Tillis’s “Land of the Living.” Like this one:

    “Come down from that dark cloud
    What’s done is done.
    Don’t go down believing
    You’re the only one.”

  7. “I Hope You Dance”

    I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
    Never settle for the path of least resistance
    Living might mean taking chances
    But they’re worth taking
    Lovin’ might be a mistake
    But it’s worth making
    Don’t let some hell bent heart
    Leave you bitter
    When you come close to selling out
    Give the heavens above
    More than just a passing glance

    And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
    I hope you dance

  8. These lines from “Pray for you” always remind me that life isn’t what we think it’s going to be:
    Wild horses and fairy tales sometimes turn into somethin’ else
    That you never saw comin’ at you at all
    So I guess I’m callin’ just because he wasnt who I thought he was
    And I can’t believe he stopped lovin’ me

    And I love this line from “Mine all Mine” (SHeDAISY:
    Sun kisses the windowsill
    And I am still on my second cup of pity me

    And from their other song “The First to let go”:
    Cause there’s no resolution
    Or clear cut conclusion

    And From “Keep Me” (All from Knock on the Sky):
    Drowning in the bottom of this empty glass
    I pray God is good and that this too shall pass

  9. … it said:
    one will get you where you’re going
    when you haven’t got a prayer
    and one will bring you back son
    when your dreams ain’t waiting there…

    so far, i didn’t need the bible very often
    but the bus ticket i used once or twice.

    great song and a wonderful gesture – colin raye’s “a bible and a bus ticket home”

  10. I don’t know if they count as country, but with two members of Nickel Creek and Luke Bulla, they’re close. But Works Progress Administrations single, ‘You Will Always Have My Love’ has my current fav lyric:

    I still see you as you are,
    Before the tears, beneath the scars.
    It may never be enough,
    But you will always have my love.

    For me it speaks to the lack of perfection in any relationship, but there’s still love no matter what.

  11. I could go on and on with this topic, but I’ll just add another Mary Chapin Carpenter lyric to the conversation that’s a favorite of mine (I think Kevin has mentioned it in another post):

    If you ever wish for things that are only in the past
    Just remember that the wrong things aren’t supposed to last

  12. Although I find some of the lyrics trite, after the accident involving (one of) her bus driver(s), the lyric:

    Windows and rooms
    that we’re passing through
    this is just a stop
    on the way to where we’re going

    mean so much more now…


  13. Someting always good to remember from Trisha Yearwood’s song “Some Days” from ‘Real Live Woman”

    “I have these moments of weakness, but I’ve had a lifetime of strength”

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