Ron Onesti: We should "Live like we are dying"

  • Country musician Tim McGraw's hit "Live Like You Were Dying" inspires Ron Onesti.

    Country musician Tim McGraw's hit "Live Like You Were Dying" inspires Ron Onesti. Courtesy of

Posted7/8/2022 6:00 AM

Although I have been doing this column for a few years now, I would not profess to say I am a "writer." There are those who went to school for that and have honed their craft the way a true professional would. I just began putting down in writing my unique experiences I have been blessed with over the years. I wanted to share these behind-the-scenes moments most people do not get the opportunity to experience.

I have had touching moments with many of the performers because I have been putting on shows for over 35 years and have developed relationships with many of them. I also share their most "human" moments as I am there, backstage, as a friend and a trusted industry professional, rather than as a fan.


After introducing the performers, I walk off stage and many times I remain back there, somewhat living the moment with the band as they touch their audience, giving the audience members the joy and a two-hour peace that comes with singing along to their favorite songs.

These days, everything seems so surreal. The level of crime, killing and lawlessness is at a level hard to comprehend. The value of life has been minimized by abhorrent figures and wartime situations, causing the masses to live in fear and reduce the ability to live life to its fullest.

Yet, we face each day with new challenges and hope for the future. I try to stay positive and keep the music coming as the power of music could not be needed more than it is today.

Songs are inspirational with messaging, both direct and indirect, and can provide the strength we seek to get through it all. History has provided us with those musical pillars of strength since the dawn of time.

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The ancient Greeks are credited with "recording" the oldest known complete song composition in history. It was entitled "Seikilos Epitaph," carved onto the surface of a tombstone. The Sumerian hymn is considered the oldest known song in the world. The lyrics speak of positivity and hope:

"While you live, shine

Have no grief at all

Life exists only for a short while

And time demands its toll."

And here we are, countless songs later, still leaning on the music to help us through it all.

In 2014, Rachel Platten came out with what became an anthem for cancer patients, which truly touched me. Watching cancer victim vocalists with little or no hair from the chemo treatments blasting out this song made my "problems" seem so trivial. The chorus goes:

"This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I'm all right song

My power's turned on

Starting right now I'll be strong

I'll play my fight song


And I don't really care if nobody else believes

'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me."

There are obviously so many tunes with positive messaging that we can go to when we need it. But one number that resonates with me almost on a daily basis since it came out as a Grammy-winning Country Song of the Year in 2004 was one by Tim McGraw.

He had no real contact with his father until he was 17 years old. His dad was baseball legend Tim McGraw. They did develop what ultimately became a close relationship, until Tug tragically and quickly passed away of brain cancer in 2004.

Tim recorded a monster of a song on his four-time platinum album entitled "Live Like You Were Dying." It's about coming to the realization that your life-clock is ticking toward an end that may be closer than we think. The words are powerful and focus on simply making the most of the fleeting time we have on Earth -- and that we probably don't truly respect the value of time until we realize that the end is in sight.

Here are the lyrics:

"I was in my early 40s,

With a lot of life before me,

And a moment came that stopped me on a dime.

I spent most of the next days

Lookin' at the X-rays,

Talkin' 'bout the options

And talkin' 'bout sweet time."

I asked him, 'When it sank in

that this might really be the real end,

How's it hit you, when you get that kind of news?

Man what'd you do?'

He said, 'I was finally the husband

That most the time I wasn't,

And I became a friend a friend would like to have.

And all of a sudden goin' fishing

Wasn't such an imposition.

And I went three times that year I lost my dad.

Well I finally read the good book,

And I took a good long hard look

At what I'd do if I could do it all again.

And then...

I went sky divin',

I went rocky mountain climbin',

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.'

And he said, 'Someday I hope you get the chance

To live like you were dying.' "

What would you do if you actually knew your end was near? Maybe its time we all take this chance to "live like we are dying." The world would be the place we need it to be.

I wish that to all of you good health and happiness to you and your families, and to live with the vim and vigor life can provide, if you let it. Taste it with gusto. Breathe it deeply. Feel it deep within.

And allow the music to unleash its power. It has been getting us through it all for centuries.

• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of the Onesti Entertainment Corp. and the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email

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