Toby Keith, Larger-Than-Life Country Music Star, Dies at 62

Toby Keith, the country music singer and songwriter known for his larger-than-life personality, died Monday. He was 62.

He “passed peacefully last night on Feb. 5, surrounded by his family,” read his official website, announcing his death. “He fought his fight with grace and courage.”

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Keith was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2022.

The Nashville star’s country hits included the likes of “Who’s Your Daddy?,” “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” “Beer for My Horses” and “Made in America.”

More recently, he performed at the People’s Choice Country Awards in September, when he received the Country Icon Award.

Keith often made headlines with political comments. In August 2008, for example, before Barack Obama became U.S. president, the music star called him “the best Democratic candidate we’ve had since Bill Clinton.” He later expressed his admiration for Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and said he had left the Democratic Party and registered as independent.

Keith performed at President Donald Trump’s pre-inauguration concert at Washington’s Lincoln Memorial in 2017.

Following the news of Keith’s death breaking overnight, tributes from the country music world and beyond poured in on Tuesday.

Born Toby Keith Covel on July 8, 1961, in Clinton, Oklahoma, he released his first studio album in 1993 under the title Toby Keith. He was signed to DreamWorks Records Nashville in 1998 and released the breakthrough single “How Do You Like Me Now?!” in 1999.

Keith also earned some acting credits. For example, he starred in TV commercials for Telecom USA and Ford.

He was featured in the 2006 film Broken Bridges, directed by Steven Goldmann and released by Paramount/CMT Films. The movie is set in small-town Tennessee, with Keith playing Bo Price, a washed-up country musician. The movie also stars Kelly Preston, Burt Reynolds, Tess Harper and Lindsey Haun.

Keith also co-wrote and starred in the 2008 movie Beer for My Horses, based on his 2003 hit with Willie Nelson, for CMT Films and others, and distributed by Roadside Attractions in the U.S. Also featuring Claire Forlani, Rodney Carrington and Ted Nugent, the movie tells the story of two friends who work as deputies in a small town, defy the sheriff and head off on a road trip to save one of their girlfriends from drug lord kidnappers.

The country star’s feud with the Dixie Chicks over his song “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American),” written in late 2001 and inspired by Keith’s father’s death and the Sept. 11 attacks, also went down in music history. Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines said that Keith’s song was “ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant.” Keith then displayed a backdrop at his concerts showing a doctored photo of Maines with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. In 2003, Maines wore a T-shirt with the letters “FUTK” to the Academy of Country Music Awards. A rep said they stood for “Friends United in Truth and Kindness,” but she later admitted it stood for “Fuck You Toby Keith.”

Keith also made appearances for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, then known as NWA-TNA. On a June 2002 show, he played “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” before being interrupted by wrestling star Jeff Jarrett. Keith later that night entered the so-called “Gauntlet for the Gold” main event, eliminating Jarrett from the match. The following week, Keith helped another wrestler, Scott Hall, defeat Jarrett in a singles match.

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