“Dying Man” by Morgan Wallen is a profound exploration of personal growth and transformation. Through a narrative filled with self-destructive tendencies, Wallen uncovers how the love of a woman has the ability to turn a man set on self-destruction into someone who finds a reason to live.
Wallen begins with a gritty admission, painting a portrait of a reckless young man: “I was a bad reputation with an attitude to match / Hell bent on going nowhere and getting there lightning fast.” The phrase ‘hell bent’ is a metaphor suggesting a determined and often reckless intention to do something – in this case, ‘going nowhere.’ The seedy picture of youth is revealed with Wallen confessing to looking older than his age and behaving immaturely.
His self-destructive tendencies are represented by the lines, “Bound to hit a wall before I ever hit the brakes.” The ‘wall’ here metaphorically implies an impending catastrophe, and the refusal to ‘hit the brakes’ symbolizes his willful pursuit of a destructive lifestyle.
The chorus, “Codeine it got Elvis / Whiskey it got Hank / I always thought something like that might send me on my way” refers to the fatal dependencies of renowned musicians Elvis Presley and Hank Williams on drugs and alcohol respectively. By voicing the thought that he might meet a similar demise, Wallen acknowledges his self-destructive behavior and attitude towards life.
However, his encounter with a woman who turns his life around is seen in: “But you took hold of me like only a woman can / And gave one good reason to live to a set on dying man.” The lyrics emphasize the transformative power of love and the impact a significant person can have in altering an individual’s trajectory.
The verse, “When a Friday makes a Sunday / You can’t help but see the light / I never believed in angels / Until one believed in me that night” uses spiritual imagery to emphasize the transformative influence she has on him. Converting ‘Friday into Sunday’ metaphorically suggests a shift from a life of indulgence to one of solemnity and reverence.
Wallen summarizes his transformation in the line, “Oh, turned a one-way man 180, settled down a given upper / Yeah, you changed a ‘you can’t change me’ so the world won’t see another.” The ‘180’ is a reference to his complete change in direction, denoting a major shift in his lifestyle, ideals, and approach to life.
Ultimately, “Dying Man” offers a deep dive into the psyche of a man caught in self-destruction but finds redemption through love. It showcases the power of transformative relationships and the salvation they can bring, even to the most seemingly hopeless of personalities.