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The Secret History of Texas Music

“Life by the Drop” (1991)

Written by: Doyle Bramhall, Barbara Logan Recorded by: Stevie Ray Vaughan

From boyhood in Dallas to adulthood in Austin, Doyle Bramhall and Stevie Ray Vaughan were friends, playing in bands and dreaming of the big time. Bramhall was a songwriter as well as a drummer, and he and Vaughan often wrote together; one of their early songs, “Dirty Pool,” made it onto Vaughan’s first album, 1983’s Texas Flood. Over the next few years, their paths diverged—one man playing stadiums, the other playing bars—yet the two remained close. Eventually Bramhall began writing a song about their friendship: 

“Doyle wasn’t jealous,” says Barbara Logan, who was Bramhall’s wife. “He was proud of Stevie. It was a dream they had both had, and now Stevie was living it.” Though the men had their problems with drugs and alcohol, Logan says that’s not what the song was about. “It was about living life day by day, one drop at a time.” 

In 1988 Vaughan decided to record the song, which Bramhall had never quite finished. Bramhall told Logan they needed a third verse, and though she’d never written a song before, she composed some lines on the spot about two friends taking a walk together, happy to be alive. Vaughan recorded the song on a twelve-string acoustic; it wasn’t released until a year after his 1990 death, however, when his brother, Jimmie, put together a posthumous album, The Sky Is Crying. After a career playing the sturm und drang of electric blues, “Life by the Drop” stood as a pure and simple coda, with Vaughan singing the words written by his faithful friend. “He was very proud of that song,” Logan says of Bramhall, who died in 2011. “It speaks to so many people in so many ways. Songs are like that—that’s something I learned from Doyle. Everybody hears songs in their own way.”

You went your way and I stayed behind
We both knew it was just a matter of time
You’re living our dreams, oh, you on top . . .
That’s how it happens living life by the drop.

“Doyle wasn’t jealous,” says Barbara Logan, who was Bramhall’s wife. “He was proud of Stevie. It was a dream they had both had, and now Stevie was living it.” Though the men had their problems with drugs and alcohol, Logan says that’s not what the song was about. “It was about living life day by day, one drop at a time.” 

In 1988 Vaughan decided to record the song, which Bramhall had never quite finished. Bramhall told Logan they needed a third verse, and though she’d never written a song before, she composed some lines on the spot about two friends taking a walk together, happy to be alive. Vaughan recorded the song on a twelve-string acoustic; it wasn’t released until a year after his 1990 death, however, when his brother, Jimmie, put together a posthumous album, The Sky Is Crying. After a career playing the sturm und drang of electric blues, “Life by the Drop” stood as a pure and simple coda, with Vaughan singing the words written by his faithful friend. “He was very proud of that song,” Logan says of Bramhall, who died in 2011. “It speaks to so many people in so many ways. Songs are like that—that’s something I learned from Doyle. Everybody hears songs in their own way.”

Life by the Drop: Written by Doyle Bramhall and Barbara Logan. Published by Dreamworks Music (BMI)/Wilson Creek Music (ASCAP). All rights administered by BMG Rights Management (US) LLC.

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