Singer-songwriter Toby Keith, who twice won the Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year Award, has died. He was 62 years old.
Keith, who was suffering from stomach cancer, passed away peacefully on Monday surrounded by his family, according to a statement posted on the country singer’s website.
“He fought his fight with grace and courage,” the statement said. He was diagnosed in 2022.
Sometimes a polarizing figure in country music, the 6’4 singer broke out in the country boom years of the 1990s, forging an identity around his macho, pro-American swagger and writing songs that fans found They loved to listen.
Throughout his career, he publicly clashed with other celebrities and journalists and often rebuffed record executives who wanted to smooth over his rough edges. He was known for his overt patriotism in post-9/11 songs like Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.and boisterous bar tunes like I love this bar and Solo Red Cup.
He had a powerful, booming voice, a wry sense of humor, and a range that conveyed love songs as well as drinking songs. Among her top 20 Billboard country hits are How do you like me now?!, I should have been a cowboyand, As good as I once was, My list and Beer for my horsesduet with Willie Nelson.
“I write about life, I sing about life and I don’t overanalyze things,” Keith told The Associated Press in 2001, following the success of his song. I’m just talking about tonight.
‘Miserable’ after great success
Keith worked in the Oklahoma oil fields as a young man, then played semi-professional football before launching his singing career.
Eventually, his path took him to Nashville, where he attracted the interest of Mercury Records head Harold Shedd, best known as producer of the hit group Alabama. Shedd took him to Mercury, where he released his platinum debut album. Toby Keithin 1993.
I should have been a cowboyhis breakout hit, was played three million times on radio stations, making it the most played country song of the 1990s. But Keith felt like executives were trying to push him in a pop direction.
“They were trying to get me to compromise and I was living a miserable existence,” Keith told the Associated Press years later. “Everyone was trying to mold me into something I wasn’t.”
After a series of albums that produced hits like Who is that manand a version of Sting I’m so happy I can’t stop cryingKeith moved to DreamWorks Records in 1999.
That’s when his multiweekly How do you like me now?! took off and became their first song to reach the Top 40 charts. In 2001, she won male vocalist of the year and album of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards.
Keith often wore his politics on his sleeve, especially after the terrorist attacks on American soil in 2001, and at first said he was a conservative Democrat, but later claimed he was an independent. He played events for Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump; the latter awarded him the National Medal of Arts in 2021.
Singer-songwriter Steve Earle characterized Keith’s 2002 song, Courtesy of Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)like pandering to people’s worst instincts in a time of fear after the 9/11 attacks.
Then there was the feud between Keith and The Dixie Chicks, now known as The Chicks, who became the target of Keith’s ire when singer Natalie Maines told a crowd that they were ashamed of then-President George W. Bush.
Keith, who had previously stated that he supported the freedom of any artist to express their opinion on politics, used a doctored photograph of Maines with an image of Saddam Hussein at his concerts, further angering his fans.
Maines responded by wearing a T-shirt with the letters FUTK onstage at the 2003 ACM Awards, which many people believed was a vulgar message to Keith.
He won Best Artist at the ACM Awards in 2003 and 2004, as well as Best Male Vocalist and Album of the Year for Surprise all of you in 2004.
He was also nominated three times for Entertainer of the Year at the Country Music Awards.
He went on 11 United Services Organization tours to visit and perform for troops serving overseas. She also helped raise millions for charities throughout her career, including building a home in Oklahoma City for children and their families battling cancer.
After DreamWorks was acquired by Universal Music Group, Keith started over, founding his own record label, Show Dog, in 2005 with record executive Scott Borchetta, who launched his own Big Machine label at the same time.
His later successes included love me if you can, She never cried in front of meand Solo Red Cup. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015. Performing rights organization BMI then honored him in November 2022 with the BMI Icon Award, a few months after announcing his stomach cancer diagnosis.
“I always felt like writing songs was the most important part of this whole industry,” Keith told the crowd of singers and writers.