Toby Keith, country singer-songwriter, dies at 62 after stomach cancer diagnosis

Toby Keith has away. He was a popular country music artist who sang pro-American songs that angered detractors and won over millions of followers. He was sixty-two.

A statement on the country singer’s website states that the “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” singer-songwriter, who had stomach cancer, passed away quietly on Monday in the company of his family. According to the statement, “He fought his fight with grace and courage.” In 2022, he made public his cancer diagnosis.

The 6-foot-4 vocalist gained popularity in the 1990s country music boom because to her catchy tunes. Throughout his career, he engaged in public conflicts with journalists and other celebrities. He also frequently resisted record executives’ attempts to soften his edges.

With post-9/11 hits like “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” and upbeat barroom songs like “I Love This Bar” and “Red Solo Cup,” he became well-known for his overt patriotism. He possessed a strong, booming voice, a lighthearted sense of humor, and a range that could accommodate both love ballads and drinking songs.

“How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “As Good As I Once Was,” “My List,” and “Beer for My Horses,” a duet with Willie Nelson, were among his 20 No. 1 Billboard successes. He was influenced by other working-class songwriters like as Merle Haggard, and over his career, he had over 60 hits on the Hot Country chart.

Keith kept performing even during his cancer treatments; he most recently had a show in Las Vegas in December. He also sung his song “Don’t Let the Old Man In” at the 2023 People’s Choice Country Awards.

In an interview that aired last month, he said to KWTV, “Cancer is a roller coaster.” All you have to do is sit here and wait for it to pass. It might not go away at all.

After working as a roughneck in Oklahoma’s oil fields as a young man, Keith played semi-professional football before beginning his singing career.

After his song “I’m Just Talking About” became popular, Keith told The Associated Press in 2001, “I write about life, and I sing about life, and I don’t overanalyze things.”

The flourishing oil fields taught Keith valuable lessons that not only made him tougher but also taught him the worth of money.

“The earnings were astounding,” Keith said to the AP in 1996. “I graduated from high school in 1980, and in December 1979, I was offered this position, which paid $50,000 year. It was the year 1866.

Keith, however, had not saved when the domestic oil field economy crashed. We were almost broken, he remarked. “Well, I recently found out. This time, I’ve looked after my finances.

He played defensive end with the Oklahoma City Drillers, a farm club of the now-defunct United States Football League, for a couple of seasons. However, he was able to make steady money while performing with his band in Texas and Oklahoma’s red dirt roadhouse circuit.

“Music remained the one constant throughout the entire ordeal,” he remarked. However, it is difficult to just decide to write or sing music and go make a fortune. I didn’t know anyone.

His career eventually led him to Nashville, where he caught the attention of Harold Shedd, the head of Mercury Records and best-known producer of the success group Alabama. Shedd introduced him to Mercury, where in 1993 he put out his platinum debut album, “Toby Keith.”

His breakthrough single, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” became the most played country song of the 1990s after being played 3 million times on radio stations.

Keith believed that the label’s officials were trying to steer him into pop music because of the label’s obsession with international sensation Shania Twain, which overshadowed the rest of the lineup.

Keith told the AP, “I was living a miserable existence, and they were trying to get me to compromise.” “Everyone was attempting to change me into someone I wasn’t.”

In 1999, Keith moved to DreamWorks Records following a string of albums that included singles including “Who’s That Man” and a rendition of Sting’s “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying.”

At that point, his song “How Do You Like Me Now?!” gained momentum over several weeks and became his first to reach the Top 40 lists. He said from the stage, “I’ve waited a long time for this,” after winning the 2001 Academy of Country Music Awards for male vocalist and album of the year. “Nine years!”

Keith frequently flaunted his political beliefs, particularly in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks on American soil. At first, he identified as a conservative Democrat, but he eventually declared himself to be an independent. Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump have all had him perform at their occasions; the latter awarded him a National Medal of the Arts in 2021. He seems to enjoy the controversy that his songs and direct thoughts occasionally brought up.

“We’ll put a boot in your ass — It’s the American way” was a threat he made in his 2002 song “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)” against anyone who attempted to interfere with America.

The producers of a patriotic ABC Fourth of July program decided that music was too furious for the event, so they removed it. Keith’s song was described as “pandering to people’s worst instincts at a time they are hurt and scared” by singer-songwriter Steve Earle.

Next there was the conflict between Keith and The Chicks (formerly known as the Dixie Chicks), who came under fire from Keith when vocalist Natalie Maines informed an audience that they were embarrassed by the president of the United States at the time. Maines had referred to Keith’s song as “ignorant” earlier.

Keith, who had already stated that he believed it was the right of artists to express political views, infuriated fans even more when he used a manipulated photo of Maines at one of his shows that included Saddam Hussein.

In response, Maines appeared on stage at the 2003 ACM Awards wearing a shirt that said “FUTK,” which many saw to be a crude jab at Keith.

Having admitted to harboring resentment, Keith left the 2003 ACM Awards early since he had been passed over for awards in previous categories. As a result, he was not there when entertainer of the year was revealed. In his stead, Vince Gill granted approval. Once again, he took home the top honor the following year, this time for “Shock ‘n Y’all,” which also won album of the year and best male vocalist.

But his pro-military position wasn’t only material for songs. He performed for soldiers stationed overseas on eleven USO tours. Over his career, he also contributed to the charitable raising of millions of dollars, helping to construct a house in Oklahoma City for children with cancer and their

Following DreamWorks’ acquisition by Universal Music Group, Keith began afresh in 2005, launching his own record company, Show Dog, alongside record executive Scott Borchetta, who concurrently created his own label, Big Machine.

That year, he remarked, “I think that 75% of the people in this town think I’ll fail, and the other 25% hope I fail.”

Eventually, the company changed its name to Show Dog-Universal Music and signed artists including Clay Walker, Phil Vassar, Josh Thompson, Joe Nichols, Trace Adkins, and Keith.

“Love Me If You Can,” “She Never Cried In Front of Me,” and “Red Solo Cup” were among his subsequent hits. In 2015, he was admitted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

A few months after disclosing his diagnosis of stomach cancer, he was given the BMI Icon award by performance rights group BMI in November 2022.

Keith addressed the assembly of other singers and songwriters, saying, “I always felt like the songwriting was the most important part of this whole industry.”

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