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The Story Behind The Song (Borrowed Time)



Subject Matter


Written, recorded & copyrighted in 2003, "Borrowed Time" was inspired by an actual event…the death of my boss Fred Marshall.


Several years prior, Fred had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Once traditional treatment had failed, Fred received the bad news.

There was little more medical science could do for him.

For all practical purposes, he was living on borrowed time.

He knew the "what", but not the "when".


Grant it, Fred wasn't the first to receive a terminal prognosis & he wouldn't be the last.

But, I couldn't help wondering....how does someone come to grips with that?

What's it like to live with that knowledge?

Questions worthy of a song, don't you think?

I did :thumbsup2:

In the end, Fred lost his battle with cancer.

The day of the funeral, our company closed so that everyone could attend.


He was laid to rest in his hometown, several hours North of St. Louis.

As you might expect, it was a very quiet drive back.

Since I was a passenger...with the back seat to myself, I made good use of the time.

I wrote the majority of this lyric. Given the circumstances, it seemed a fitting activity.



Livin’ on borrowed time

Not sure how he’s gonna use it

Livin’ on borrowed time

Knows he can’t afford to lose it


When life gives you a surprise

It can open up your eyes

Should already be…part of history

Dead & gone before his time,

but he’s…


Livin’ on borrowed time

Not sure how he’s gonna use it

Livin’ on borrowed time

Knows he can’t afford to lose it


Livin’ every day

In a different way

Cause he’s never sure

How much longer he’ll survive


Told him he’d be dead last year

Doctors say the end’s still near

Still he’s tryin’ to…use the time to do

All the things he holds so dear,

cause he’s…


Livin’ on borrowed time

Not sure how he’s gonna use it

Livin’ on borrowed time

Knows he can’t afford to lose it

Livin’ on borrowed time

Livin’ on borrowed time 

Copyright 2003 – Tom Hoffman


Personal Insights


 Back-in-the-day, I participated in a number of songwriting competitions.

The Billboard World, Song of the Year, American Songwriter, USA, UK & Great American to name a few.

 Out of all the songs I entered, “Borrowed Time” scored the highest ...one of 5 finalists.




The most traditional, mainstream song I’ve ever created…and they liked it best?

Go figure! :eusa_think:

Take from that, what you will.


Musical Fundamentals


Genre was an easy decision.

Given the subject matter, traditional country was a perfect fit.


It’s set in the key of G…a commonly used country key.

BPM = 104 …a comfortable, easy-going pace for this type of song.


Structurally, it is different. Following a brief introduction, it flows immediately into a chorus section.

That’s not unheard of, but it’s certainly not the norm. For this particular song, I thought it was an excellent choice.

It allowed one of the primary “hooks” (the song title) to be heard almost immediately.


Instrumentation Choices

                Fender Strat                                       Acoustic                            Bass

DSC02341.JPG  Best, Clearest Shot.JPG Peavey Fury - full front.jpg


+ Harmonica (Hohner) & Keyboard Strings (Yamaha P-80 digital piano)


     Production: Tascam 788



Performance Credits:

• Guitars, Bass, Drums, Harmonica, Keyboards – Tom Hoffman

• Vocals – Tom Hoffman


YouTube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/EbeVOh7m5FE


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile


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