Humble & Kind, by Tim McGraw
There is one little thing that nags me about this otherwise enjoyable book, and that is the fact that Tim McGraw is listed as the author. Now, my feelings on Tim McGraw as a singer are somewhat complicated , given the tone deaf nature of his early hit single “Indian Outlaw,” his own political views (which have sometimes found their way into his music), and the fact that at the same time he had a country song (“Back When”) that lamented the influence of hip hop on country he was in a popular duet with Nelly, a noted hip hop artist, a move which struck me as somewhat hypocritical. Here we have another sort of dishonesty in that the lyrics to the song “Humble & Kind” were written not by Tim McGraw but rather by Lori McKenna, who at least has the epilogue here but who should have been given credit for writing the book as a whole. Obviously, Tim McGraw is a much more famous person than Lori McKenna, but as McKenna wrote the song lyrics, she should get the credit for those song lyrics becoming a book that appears to be aimed at children or young people in general or people who like country songs turned into books.
The contents of the book are admittedly rather interesting. The introduction shows Tim McGraw musing on the time of transition his family was in with his oldest daughter going to college and starting to feel a bit of that empty nest with Faith Hill at the time when he came across this song and decided to record it. At the very least he can be given credit for not pretending to write it, merely taking credit for recognizing its wisdom and being “the conduit to deliver its message in this day and time.” Most of the book consists of illustrated pages that show the lyrics of the song and an intriguing interpretation of what it should look like in pictorial form. The artwork appears to have been a collaborative effort as no individual artist is given, merely the firm that worked on its design, but the design is quite excellent and it certainly gives the lyrics a certain gravity and depth as poetry in an appealing way. After the text of the song the songwriter herself gets the chance to write an epilogue that discusses the context in which she wrote the song before there is a brief biography of Tim McGraw and a plug for a not-for-profit focuses on helping people in the need run by Tim McMcraw and Faith Hill.
This is a modest little book of poetry that manages to be both simple and straightforward as well as deep, depending on how you want to view it. The song lyrics themselves about being humble and kind and grateful for what one has been given and aware that there is a family who lives you even as you grow up and become an adult is certainly a worthwhile message for those who come from loving and intact families. That said, there are at least two layers to this book that offer greater depth for those who are willing to look for it. On the one hand, this book is clearly a work of corporate promotion, as the book’s design was undertaken by a graphical design firm rather than an individual editor, although it is unclear what exactly the purpose of the promotion is given that the song, while award-winning, was not considered to be a work of particularly deep poetry. Likewise, as has been previously noted, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth that Tim McGraw is counted as the writer of the book when he was merely the performer who sang someone else’s song while still other people set the song with images and an artistic context.
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