The larger-than-life country music singer Toby Keith, known for his patriotic swagger, died on Monday at the age of 62.
The “Beer For My Horses” singer-songwriter had been battling stomach cancer since 2022 and died peacefully surrounded by his family, according to a statement posted to his website.
“Toby Keith passed peacefully last night on February 5th, surrounded by his family. He fought his fight with grace and courage. Please respect the privacy of his family at this time,” the statement added.
The 6-foot-4 singer was born in Oklahoma and spent the first decade of his professional life as a roughneck in the oil fields before he was laid off when the oil market began to tank in the 1980s. He then went on to play semi-professional American football before finally finding success as a singer-songwriter. In the early 1990s, he moved to Nashville, TN, and soon afterwards signed a record deal with Mercury Records.
In 1993, he released his debut album “Toby Keith.” The breakout single of the album, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” received more than 3 million plays on country radio and became a number one hit on Billboard Hot 100 Country songs.
Keith often expressed controversial political views in his music. In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, he released a song called “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” which threatened those who dared to harm the U.S. “You'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A.,” the song states. “We’ll put a boot in your ass—it’s the American way.”
After Natalie Maines, a singer from The Chicks (previously called the Dixie Chicks) called Keith’s song ignorant and told a crowd that she and her bandmates were ashamed of President Bush because of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Keith responded by photoshopping a picture of Maines next to Saddam Hussein and performed in front of the photo as a backdrop for his concerts.
Fellow singer-songwriter Steve Earle had called “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” as “pandering to people’s worst instincts at a time they are hurt and scared.”
Keith's political activism wasn’t confined to music. He went on 11 USO tours and performed for American service members overseas. He had also raised millions for charities in his native Oklahoma, including for kids and families fighting cancer.
Keith was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015.
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