Legendary country music star Toby Keith dies at 62

Toby Keith is a legendary singer-songwriter who has penned No. 1 country songs such as “Who’s Your Daddy?” “Made in America” ​​and one of Nashville’s biggest stars of three decades died Monday. He is 62 years old.

His death was announced on his official website. The announcement did not reveal the location of his death. Mr. Keith’s publicist, Elaine Schock, said only that he died in Oklahoma, where he had lived his entire life.

Mr. Keith announced in the summer of 2022 that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.

Keith performed a series of shows in Las Vegas last December and recently told Oklahoma City station KWTV that he is still undergoing treatment. “Cancer is like a roller coaster,” he said. “You just sit here and wait for it to go away — and it may never go away.” He said his Christian faith is helping him through treatment and the potentially dark consequences.

Mr. Keys, who sings in a baritone that alternates between eloquent and crooning, carved a raucous, in-your-face persona on records like “I Wanna Talk About Me” and “Beer for My Horses.”

Built on clever puns, hilarious humor and more than just a bit of manly rant, both topped the Billboard country charts with “Beer for My Horses,” a twangy song Rolling Stones-style rock song with guest vocals by Willie Nelson and a Top 40 pop hit.

Mr. Keys wrote or co-wrote most of his works, which range in style from traditional honky-tonk to pop country ballads and Southern rock. He has had more than 60 singles on the country music charts, including 20 No. 1 singles, and has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. In 2015, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, a group that includes Cyndi Lauper, blues pioneer Willie Dixon, and the Grateful Dead’s Robert Hunter ) and Jerry Garcia.

Mr. Keith, who was already in his 30s when he signed his first record deal in 1993, had spent years in the music industry. workers and semi-professionals.

“When I came out and my song was a big hit,” he added, referring to “Should Have Been a Cowboy,” which became his first No. 1 country single in 1993, “I was doing 28 shows a month. , 29 shows, because I didn’t know I was going to get a second hit. “

“At the time,” he added, “I was just trying to outdo everyone.”

Although Keith was extremely popular and a bona fide blue-collar guy, he was often the center of controversy, especially in politics.

Perhaps the most prominent example is “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” which was both a No. 1 country single and a 2002 pop crossover single. In response to these two questions.

Filled with a passion similar to that of Bob Seger and John Mellencamp, the song’s final verse could be either a patriotic rallying cry or a jingoistic rant, specifically Depends on one’s point of view.

Justice will be served and the fight will be fierce
This big dog fights when you shake its cage
You will regret you pissed off America.
Because we’re going to kick you in the ass. This is the American way.

Among other backlash, the record sparked a long-running dispute with Dixie Chicks (now The Chicks) lead singer Natalie Maines, who believed the song The song was nationalistic at its ugliest, mocking it as “ignorant” and giving Mr. Keith interviews and stage assignments.

“I’m not going to apologize for being patriotic,” Mr. Keys told Newsday in 2007.

Mr. Keys, a fiercely independent man who has described himself as a conservative Democrat for years, has used seemingly contradictory remarks to express his admiration for ideologically disparate figures such as Donald J. Trump and Barack Obama. Confusing critics. (He later said he had re-registered as an independent voter.)

A particularly successful example of his ability to reverse surprise is his 2003 recording of “If I Was Jesus,” an empathetic meditation written by Phil Madeira and Chuck Cannon that is reminiscent of old-school John Prine .

“If I were Jesus/I’d have some poor friends,” Mr. Keys sings in the song’s second verse over a lilting Caribbean rhythm. “I’ll run around with the wrong crowd/Man, I’ll never get bored/Then I’ll cure my blindness and let myself be crucified/By politicians and preachers who have something to hide. “

Mr. Keith’s detractors consider him a loud-mouthed roughneck, but the self-deprecating understatement and humor with which he delivers these lines is enough. What is particularly disarming is that his advice is consistent with the tenet of liberation theology, which states that God is on the side of sinners and outcasts.

Inspired by Merle Haggard and other populist-leaning artists, Mr. Keith made music that reflected his roots in the working-class, post-Dust Bowl culture of the Southwest. In recognition of this kinship, the Academy of Country Music presented him with the 2020 Merle Haggard Spirit Award.

Toby Keith Covel was born July 8, 1961, in Clinton, Oklahoma, to Carolyn Joan (Ross) Covel and Hubert Jr. ·K. Covel Jr. The second of three children. His mother was an aspiring singer who gave up her musical pursuits to become a housewife.

Mr. Keith grew up primarily in Moore, Okla., a suburb of Oklahoma City. He got his first guitar at age 8 and later spent summers with his grandmother in Fort Smith, Arkansas, working odd jobs at her supper club and occasionally listening to the house band.

After high school, he worked in the oil fields with his father, eventually becoming a supervisor. At the age of 20, he formed a band called the Easy Money Band with a few friends and began playing in local bars and later toured roadside bars in Texas and Oklahoma.

When Mr. Kiss first became involved in the Nashville music scene, he busked on street corners and knocked on doors along the city’s Music Row, without success. That was until a fan who was a flight attendant slipped his demo tape to producer Harold Shedd, best known for his work with Reba McEntire and Shania Downs. Known for his work with stars such as Shania Twain, he signed a contract with Mercury Records.

His debut album for the label, “Toby Keith,” featured four top ten country singles and was certified platinum for sales of one million copies.

Determined to leave a stronger, more indelible imprint as a performer, Mr. The Scheuer office has found a home. The change proved auspicious: Mr. Keith established a tougher, if prickly, image, and 11 of his next 13 singles, including “How Do You Like Me Now?!” and “I Want to Talk About Me” ranked number one.

A bigger, fuller voice completed the transformation and not only matched Mr. Keith’s huge personality, but also earned him the Country Music Association’s Vocalist of the Year Award in 2001 and Entertainer of the Year nominations in 2002 and 2003.

In 2005, he founded the independent record label Show Dog Nashville, which continued its success, notably with a series of alcohol-themed singles such as “Get My Drink On” and “Get Drunk and Be Somebody.” The country rap song “Red Solo Cup” reached number one on the country charts and entered the top 20 on the pop charts in 2011.

Mr. Keys starred in two feature films, 2005’s “Broken Bridge” and the 2008 film adaptation of his hit single “Beer for My Horses.” He also appeared in television commercials for Ford trucks and built profitable restaurant and clothing businesses. He was hailed as “Country’s Half-Billion Dollar Man” on the cover of Forbes magazine in 2013. The accompanying article reported that Mr. Keys’ personal wealth surpassed that of Jay-Z and Beyoncé.

As the 2010s wore on, Mr. Keith’s place on the charts dwindled. But in 2021, he received the National Medal of Arts along with four others, including bluegrass singer and mandolinist Ricky Skaggs.

Mr. Keith is survived by his mother; Tricia (Lucus) Keith, his wife of 39 years; two daughters, Shelley Covel and Krystal Sandubrae; son Stren; sister Tony; brother Tracy; and four grandchildren.

Despite his combative and boastful nature, Mr. Keys showed considerable trepidation when he ended a dispute with Ms. Means over “red, white and blue courtesy” more than a year after the affair began. Insight and restraint.

Mr. Keith has previously attacked Ms. Means, even projecting her on stage at a concert alongside an image of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and Mr. Keith almost defended himself in a 2003 interview with CMT during the conflict. apologized for his role in the film.

“Sometimes it gets very vicious,” he said. “I’m embarrassed that I got myself into this.”

Five years later, rapprochement seemed imminent when Mr. The collaboration reportedly never happened due to scheduling conflicts.

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