Mike Kueber's Blog

July 1, 2010

Country music and George Strait

This morning, I woke up with “The Breath You Take” playing on my radio.  It’s the latest song by the king of country music, George Strait.  Sometimes friends ask why I love country music, with its low energy and hokey lyrics.  I admit that sometimes I’m in the mood for more energy and sometimes the lyrics are trite or hackneyed, but few things have the ability to move me or make me think like a country ballad – like “The Breath You Take”

“The Breath You Take” is a story about a dad who takes time to enjoy his son.  He misses a business trip to watch his son play baseball and later travels a thousand miles to share in the birth of his grandson.  The moral of the story is in the chorus:

Life’s not the breaths you take
The breathing in and out
That gets you through the day
Ain’t what it’s all about
Ya just might miss the point
Try’n to win the race
Life’s not the breaths you take
But the moments that take your breath away

This moral isn’t as obvious as it may seem.  I knew an executive at a previous employer who would ask promotion applicants what they would do if they had to choose between preparing for an important briefing in the morning or attending a daughter’s school play.  Most applicants were savvy enough to know that attending the play was not the correct answer, so they shrewdly developed a hybrid answer – they would attend the play and then work on the briefing into the night, as long as was necessary.  That was not the answer the executive was looking for, and he told them that.  The executive wanted an employee who realized that there were thousands of moments to spend with the children, and therefore the employee should be willing to sacrifice a few of those moments to the employer who puts bread on the table.  

So “The Breath You Take” prompts you think and makes an eloquent argument for choosing the baseball game.  First Lady Barbara Bush just as eloquently confirmed this choice in a 1990 commencement address at Wellesley:

  • “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent.”

(To read the entire speech, which was selected by American Rhetoric as one of its Top 100 speeches, go to http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barbarabushwellesleycommencement.htm.) 

Incidentally, although George Strait lives in San Antonio, I became a big fan of his in 1983 while I was living in Minto, ND.  That was when I first heard George sing “Amarillo by Morning,” which is one of my favorite songs of all time.  “Amarillo” is a lonely ballad about a cowboy who had a bad rodeo in San Antonio and was rushing to his next rodeo in Amarillo.  The song was written by Terry Stafford (of “Suspicion” fame) in 1973, and he made it a regional Texas hit while I was attending law school in Austin.  Ten years later, the voice of George Strait turned it into a national hit.  Recently, George did the same thing with “Wrapped,” a song written by Bruce Robison of Bandera, TX.  Bruce gave the song to his singer/wife Kelly Willis, and she made it a regional hit in Texas.  Eight years later, the voice of George Strait turned it into one of his signature songs.

If you don’t already like country music, give it a try.  Try something like Brad Paisley’s “Welcome to the Future.”  But save it for a time when you feel reflective and are ready to be engaged or comforted; not when you want to be a master the universe.



  1. Nice thoughts. I think it’s true that George Strait is the King of Country.

    Comment by Kirk — July 23, 2010 @ 6:25 pm | Reply

  2. Ditto, from a girl who never thought she would like country music. GS rocks.

    Comment by Sakina Hassonjee — August 8, 2010 @ 6:20 am | Reply

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