Country Music Mourns the Loss of Iconic Singer Toby Keith at 62

Famous country singer Toby Keith, renowned for his patriotic anthems, has passed away at the age of 62. Despite garnering both acclaim and criticism for his songs, he amassed a massive fan base over the years.

Toby Keith, standing tall at 6-foot-4, gained prominence in the 1990s with hits like “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” Throughout his career, he remained unapologetically himself, engaging in disputes with fellow celebrities and the media while resisting pressure from record labels to alter his musical style.

Known for his strong sense of patriotism, evident in songs like “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” Toby Keith also showcased his lighter side with fun bar tunes such as “I Love This Bar” and “Red Solo Cup.” His commanding voice and humorous flair were unmistakable in his music.

With numerous chart-topping songs like “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “As Good As I Once Was,” “My List,” and the duet “Beer for My Horses” with Willie Nelson, Toby Keith left an indelible mark on the country music scene. Influenced by hardworking songwriters like Merle Haggard, he charted over 60 songs on the Hot Country chart.

Even amidst his battle with stomach cancer, Toby Keith continued to perform, showcasing his resilience. He performed in Las Vegas in December and graced the People’s Choice Country Awards in 2023 with his song “Don’t Let the Old Man In.”

Reflecting on his life, Toby Keith, who had previously worked in Oklahoma’s oil fields and played semi-pro football, shared, “I write about life, and I sing about life, and I don’t overanalyze things.” Learning valuable lessons from his early days in the oil industry, he emphasized the importance of financial prudence.

Despite initial struggles, Toby Keith’s breakthrough came when Harold Shedd of Mercury Records noticed him in Nashville. In 1993, his platinum-selling debut album, “Toby Keith,” marked the beginning of a successful musical journey. The iconic “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” became the most played country song of the 1990s with three million plays on the radio.

Upon joining Mercury Records, Toby Keith felt overshadowed by the attention given to Shania Twain, a global star. Unhappy with the attempt to mold his sound into pop music, he expressed his dissatisfaction, stating, “Everyone was trying to turn me into something I wasn’t.” Despite achieving success with albums like “Who’s That Man” and a cover of Sting’s “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying,” Toby moved to DreamWorks Records in 1999.

At DreamWorks, Toby found significant success with the hit “How Do You Like Me Now?!” which made it onto the Top 40 charts. In 2001, he won awards for best male singer and best album at the Academy of Country Music Awards, expressing his long-awaited triumph after nearly nine years.

Known for his outspoken political views, Toby Keith initially identified as a conservative Democrat and later as an independent. He performed at events for Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, receiving a National Medal of the Arts from Trump in 2021.

Toby’s songs, like “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” occasionally stirred controversy due to their outspoken nature. This song, with its line about putting a boot in someone’s rear, was deemed too angry and removed from a Fourth of July TV special.

A feud with The Chicks, stemming from their criticism of President Bush, became public, with Toby displaying a picture of one of the singers with Saddam Hussein at his concerts. The Chicks responded by wearing a shirt with the letters “FUTK” at the 2003 ACM Awards, perceived as a derogatory message to Toby.

Toby Keith’s dedication to the military was evident through his 11 USO tours and charitable efforts, including building a home in Oklahoma City for children with cancer and their families. After Universal Music Group took over DreamWorks, Toby established his own record label, Show Dog, in 2005. Despite skepticism, the label signed Toby and other artists like Trace Adkins and Joe Nichols. Toby continued to produce hits like “Love Me If You Can” and “Red Solo Cup,” earning recognition from the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015.

In November 2022, BMI honored Toby with the BMI Icon award, shortly after he shared his cancer diagnosis. At the award ceremony, Toby emphasized the importance of songwriting in the music business, reflecting on his enduring passion for the craft.