Toby Keith, a country music superstar who was larger than life, passed away at the age of 62. He worked hard to establish an in-your-face presence with classics such as “Who’s Your Daddy?” “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” among other phrases. In 2022, he disclosed that he was suffering from cancer.
Toby Keith, a man with a beard who is dressed in a cowboy hat and a sports jacket, appears to be singing into a microphone. It is not being played by him, despite the fact that he is carrying an acoustic guitar around his shoulder.
In the year 2018, Toby Keith gave a performance in Nashville. His music encompassed a wide range of genres, including pop-country balladry, Southern rock, and classic honky-tonk.
On Monday, Toby Keith, a singer-songwriter who was a larger-than-life figure and had a number of No. 1 country singles, including “Who’s Your Daddy?” and “Made in America,” passed away. He was one of the most prominent personalities to emerge from Nashville in the past three decades. He was 62 years old.
It was stated on his official website that he had passed away. The notice did not specify the location of his passing. The only thing that Mr. Keith’s publicist, Elaine Shock, disclosed was that he passed away in Oklahoma, the state in which he had spent his whole life.
During the summer of 2022, Mr. Keith made the announcement that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and was undergoing treatment with chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
In a recent interview with the television station KWTV in Oklahoma City, Mr. Keith stated that he was still engaging in therapy. Mr. Keith had previously performed a series of gigs in Las Vegas in the month of December. As he put it, “Cancer is like riding a roller coaster.” As you sit here and wait for it to disappear, you should know that it might never disappear at all. He stated that his Christian faith was assisting him in overcoming the treatment as well as the potentially negative outcome.
Recordings such as “I Wanna Talk About Me” and “Beer for My Horses” helped Mr. Keith establish a raucous and in-your-face persona. He sang in a baritone that alternated between crooning and declamatory tones.
With “Beer for My Horses,” a twangy rocker in the vein of the Rolling Stones that included Willie Nelson as a guest vocalist, crossing over to the pop Top 40, both songs topped the Billboard country chart. The songs were built around smart wordplay and droll humor, and they also had more than a little bit of macho bravado.
Mr. Keith was responsible for writing or co-writing the majority of his songs, which encompassed a wide range of musical styles, including pop-country balladry, Southern rock, and classic honky-tonk. He sold more than 40 million records all over the world, and more than sixty of his singles made it to the top of the country chart, including twenty tracks that reached number one. Cyndi Lauper, Willie Dixon, the pioneer of blues music, Robert Hunter, and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead were among the other members of the class that was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015. He was inducted into the hall in the year 2015.
The year 1993 marked the year that Mr. Keith signed his first record deal. At that time, he was already in his 30s and had been struggling for years to make it in the music industry. In the past, in order to provide for his small family, he had worked as a roughneck in the oil fields of Oklahoma, a rodeo hand, and a semiprofessional football player.
One of the episodes of “The Big Interview With Dan Rather” that aired in 2018 featured Mr. Keith saying, “During the first twenty years of my adult life, I did not take many vacations.”
“I was doing 28, 29 shows a month because I didn’t know I was going to get a second hit,” he continued, alluding to the song “Should Have Been a Cowboy,” which became his first No. 1 country record in 1993. “When I came out and my song hit,” he said, referring to the successful release of his song.
In addition, he stated, “At the time, I was simply attempting to outwork everyone involved.”
Mr. Keith was frequently a lightning rod for controversy, particularly in matters pertaining to politics, despite the fact that he enjoyed a tremendous amount of popularity and had no doubts about his blue-collar credentials.
Perhaps the most notable example of this was the song “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American),” which was a country record that reached number one and also became a crossover smash in the pop music genre in the year 2002. The song was written by Mr. Keith as a reaction to the events that took place on September 11, 2001, as well as the passing of his father, a crippled veteran who had been killed in an automobile accident some time earlier in that year.
The final stanza of the song, which is delivered with a heartland intensity that is comparable to that of Bob Seger and John Mellencamp, can be interpreted as either a patriotic rallying cry or a jingoistic diatribe, depending on the perspective of the listener.
Justice will be served and the battle will rage
This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage
And you’ll be sorry that you messed with The U.S. of A.
’Cause we’ll put a boot in your ass. It’s the American way.
A lengthy disagreement with Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks (now known as the Chicks), was sparked by the record. Maines viewed the song as the most repugnant form of nationalism, and she referred to it as “ignorant.” She also criticized Mr. Keith in interviews and when performing live.
Newsday had an interview with Mr. Keith in 2007, during which he stated, “I do not apologize for being patriotic.”
He was a staunchly independent individual who, for many years, referred to himself as a conservative Democrat. He was able to confuse his detractors by making statements that appeared to be in direct opposition to one another. For instance, he expressed respect for the ideologically conflicting individuals such as Donald Trump and Barack Obama. After some time had passed, he stated that he had re-registered as an independent voter.
A particularly surprising example of Mr. Keith’s contrarian capacity for surprise was his rendition of “If I Was Jesus” in 2003. This song is a sympathetic reverie that was written by Phil Madeira and Chuck Cannon and is evocative of vintage John Prine.
In the beginning of the second verse of the song, he sung, “If I were Jesus/I’d have some friends that were poor,” while the rhythm of the song was reminiscent of the Caribbean. “I would run around with the wrong crowd/Man, I would never be bored/Then I would heal me a blind man, get myself crucified/By politicians and preachers who have something to hide,” the speaker said.
It was sufficient that Mr. Keith, whose detractors referred to him as a loudmouthed jerk, performed these lines with a self-deprecating understatement and a sense of humor. One of the most startling aspects of his argument was that, in accordance with the principles of liberation theology, God is on the side of those who are considered to be sinners and outcasts.
Mr. Keith created songs that reflected his background in the working-class culture of the Southwestern United States after the Dust Bowl. He was inspired by Merle Haggard and other singers who had a populist bent. The Academy of Country Music honored him with the Merle Haggard Spirit Award for the year 2020 in acknowledgment of the familial connection between the two of them.
The second of three children to be born to Carolyn Joan (Ross) Covel and Hubert K. Covel Jr., Toby Keith Covel was born on July 8, 1961 in Clinton, Oklahoma. He is the second of three children. He was a derrickhand in the oil sector, which was his father’s occupation. His mother had aspirations of becoming a singer, but she stopped pursuing those dreams in order to focus on becoming a housewife.
Mr. Keith spent the majority of his childhood in Moore, Oklahoma, which is a suburb of Oklahoma City. After spending the summers with his grandmother in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he worked odd jobs at her supper club and occasionally sat in with the house band, he started playing the guitar for the first time when he was eight years old.
After completing his high school education, he began working in the oil fields alongside his father, eventually rising through the ranks to become a supervisor. Upon reaching the age of 20, he and a number of his buddies came together to establish a band that they called the Easy Money Band. They began performing in local bars before moving on to the roadhouse circuit in Texas and Oklahoma.
When Mr. Keith first entered the Nashville music scene, he began by performing on street corners and knocking on doors along Music Row. However, he was unsuccessful in his efforts to get access to the neighborhood. It was not until a fan who worked as a flight attendant gave his demo tape to the producer Harold Shedd, who was recognized for his work with celebrities such as Reba McEntire and Shania Twain, that he was able to earn a contract with Mercury Records.
He released his first album for the label, which was titled “Toby Keith,” and it was certified platinum for sales of one million copies. The record spawned four country singles that made it into the top ten.
Mr. Keith, who was determined to leave a bigger and more indelible mark as a performer, eventually became restless and moved from one subsidiary of Mercury to another until finally settling down in 1998 with the newly established Nashville office of DreamWorks Records. Mr. Keith built a more robust, yet combative, image as a result of the move, and eleven of his subsequent thirteen songs, including “How Do You Like Me Now?!” and “I Wanna Talk About Me,” achieved number one on the charts with their respective artists.
This metamorphosis was completed by a larger and broader sound, which not only matched Mr. Keith’s outsized image but also earned him honors from the Country Music Association in the category of vocalist of the year in 2001 and nominations for entertainer of the year in 2002 and 2003.
In 2005, he established Show Dog Nashville, an independent record label, with which he continued to have success, most notably with a string of hits that were centered upon drinking, such as “Get My Drink On” and “Get Drunk and Be Somebody.” During the year 2011, the country-rap song “Red Solo Cup” achieved the highest position on the country chart and even made it into the pop Top 20.
Mr. Keith is singing while strumming a guitar while standing in front of a microphone. He is dressed in a black jacket and a white cowboy hat. Willie Nelson, who is also wearing a black hat and is dressed identically, is standing next to him.
When Willie Nelson joined Mr. Keith for his performance of “Beer For My Horses” at the American Music Awards in 2003, Mr. Keith was accompanied by Nelson.
Mr. Keith appeared in two feature films: “Broken Bridges,” which was released in 2005, and “Beer for My Horses,” which was a movie that was based on his hit track and was released in 2008. In addition to that, he was featured in television ads for Ford trucks and developed successful businesses in the food and manufacturing industries. The title of “Country’s $500 million man” was bestowed upon him on the cover of the issue of Forbes magazine that was published in 2013. It was reported in the article that accompanied the presentation that Mr. Keith’s personal wealth was more than that of both Jay-Z and Beyoncé.
As the decade of the 2010s progressed, Mr. Keith’s position on the charts gradually decreased. In 2021, however, he was one of the recipients of the National Medal of Arts, together with four other individuals, one of them was Ricky Skaggs, a musical artist who specializes in bluegrass and mandolin.
The following people are able to carry on Mr. Keith’s legacy: his mother; his wife of 39 years, Tricia (Lucus) Keith; two daughters, Shelley Covel and Krystal Sandubrae; a son, Stelen; a sister, Tonnie; a brother, Tracy; and four grandkids.
When Mr. Keith moved away from his conflict with Ms. Maines over “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” more than a year after it began, he displayed a great deal of wisdom and restraint. This was despite the fact that he was a belligerent and braggadocious individual.
After Mr. Keith had previously insulted Ms. Maines, going so far as to show photos of her with those of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq on the stage during his performances, he almost apologized for his role in the war in an interview that he gave to CMT.com in the year 2003.
He stated, “There were times when it became quite vicious.” “The manner in which I allowed myself to become entangled in all of that is embarrassing to me.”
Five years later, Mr. Keith and the Chicks were persuaded to participate in a television advertisement in support of former Vice President Al Gore’s “We” initiative to combat climate change. This seemed to be the beginning of a rapprochement between the two groups. It is said that the partnership never took place because of conflicts in the schedules of the participants.