100 Greatest Men: #45. Tim McGraw

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He started out as one of the lesser-ran hat acts of the nineties boom, catapulted to fame on the strength of a novelty song. But skillful song selection and deepening commitment to artistry helped Tim McGraw emerge as one of the genre’s strongest talents.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Tim McGraw was the son of baseball legend Tug McGraw, though he didn’t know this until he was an older boy. He was an aspiring baseball player himself, and attended college on a sports scholarship. While there, he learned to play guitar and grew more interested in pursuing music as his full-time career.

McGraw was inspired by the music of Keith Whitley, and by chance, he moved to Nashville on the same day that Whitley passed away. He played the clubs around town for four years, eventually garnering the interest of Curb Records. His self-titled debut album was released in 1993 to little fanfare, so it was a big surprise the following year when his second album, Not a Moment Too Soon, spent nearly thirty weeks at #1. It was the controversial novelty hit “Indian Outlaw” that got it there, but four more hits from the same set kept it at the top.

McGraw’s sudden move to multi-platinum sales gave him access to far better material, and over the next decade, a string of hit albums would establish him as one of Nashville’s best pickers of material. In 1996, he married fellow superstar Faith Hill, and they spent six weeks at #1 with “It’s Your Love”, their award-winning duet that was only one of many hit collaborations between the two. In the late nineties, he dominated radio with several multi-week #1 singles, becoming the genre’s flagship male vocalist and one of the few to win two consecutive CMA Album of the Year awards.

His success continued into the 21st century, and while McGraw became a movie star on the side, he still kept his primary focus on the music. In 2004, “Live Like You Were Dying” became the biggest hit of his career, earning him a Grammy and spending 7 weeks at #1, his longest-running stay on the top of the charts. After the album of the same name sold in the millions, his record sales began to cool, though disagreements with his label heated up. He still had regular hits on the radio, but for the first time, he also had several singles missing the top ten.

McGraw finished his commitment to Curb records in early 2012, and has now moved on to Big Machine records, releasing his first single for the label in the summer of 2012. He is currently on a successful stadium tour with Kenny Chesney, an artist that he influenced and mentored.

Essential Singles:

  • Indian Outlaw, 1994
  • Don’t Take the Girl, 1994
  • I Like it, I Love it, 1995
  • It’s Your Love (with Faith Hill), 1997
  • Just to See You Smile, 1998
  • Please Remember Me, 1999
  • Live Like You Were Dying, 2004

Essential Albums:

  • Not a Moment Too Soon, 1994
  • Everywhere, 1997
  • A Place in the Sun, 1999
  • Set This Circus Down, 2001
  • Live Like You Were Dying, 2004

Next: #44. Glen Campbell

Previous: #46. Dwight Yoakam

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List


  1. I am a bit saddened by the songs I’ve heard from McGraw lately, like Truck Yeah. It just doesn’t sound like him and it’s almost painful that this is the same guy who brought out favorites like Something like That and Live Like You were Dying. Hopefully after this phase of bad songs, he will go back to doing more of what he did before.

  2. A fine article on an outstanding talent. I always thought McGraw’s voice had a certain warmth to it that made it really stand out, plus he’s such an impeccable lyrical interpreter. Many, many fine singles to his name.

    I’ve been listening to Tim McGraw since long before I became as immersed in the country genre as I am today. My parents had purchased Faith Hill’s Breathe album when I was probably around ten years old, so my first exposure to Tim McGraw came from hearing him on “Let’s Make Love,” and I knew from that song that I liked his voice. Some time later, I stumbled upon a copy of Set This Circus Down at a garage sale, of all places, and I ended up becoming a Tim McGraw fan through that album (still have the CD, and still enjoy it). My first concert was one of Tim and Faith’s Soul2Soul shows, which I attended with my dad when I was 14.

  3. I’m a little surprised by his placement, thought he’d be in the top 30 for sure. However his recent outputs have probably resulted in his lower ranking. Great article and excited for the rest of this great series.

  4. Good article. “Live Like You Were Dying” is the only McGraw studio album I own. Other than the title track, my favorite songs were not singles: Blank Sheet of Paper, Old Town New, Open Season on My Heart and Just Be Your Tear.

    Some other favorites:
    She Can’t Be really Gone
    My Next 30 Years

  5. I enjoyed the review, but I was surprised not to see Something Like That mentioned at all, not even in the Essential Singles. It was the most played song at radio of the aughts, and probably one of the two or three most recognizable songs of my lifetime. When I think Tim McGraw, that’s always going to be the first song I think of.

  6. …this year’s “better than i used to be” may arguably be a somewhat doubtful claim. however, still not much off the mark, as that very song proves itself.

    even though tim mcgraw has turned into a slightly less reliable provider of memorable country music, he still got what it takes to produce genre highlights, whether on stage or on record.

    the albums that kevin listed as essential ones are not only so for the singer himself, but for the whole genre of this period and beyond, in my opinion. he clearly has been one of country’s pillars over the last two decades and i don’t see any reason, why this should change. just don’t mention the truck thing, will yeah.

  7. His albums Everywhere, A Place in the Sun, and Set this Circus Down were as good as you could get. Incredible songs that you could relate to.

    Everything since then has been pretty much disappointing. His lowest point was trying to enter the hip-hop world. Please

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