He developed an aggressive image with hits like “Who’s Your Daddy?” as well as “Red, White, and Blue Courtesy.” He declared he had cancer in 2022.
One of the biggest artists to come out of Nashville in three decades, Toby Keith was a larger-than-life singer-songwriter who wrote No. 1 country singles including “Who’s Your Daddy?” and “Made in America.” He passed away on Monday. He was sixty-two.
His official website reported his passing. In an email, Mr. Keith’s publicist, Elaine Schock, stated that he passed away in Oklahoma, where he had spent his whole life.
In the summer of 2022, Mr. Keith made public his diagnosis of stomach cancer and the course of treatment, which included radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.
Mr. Keith, who performed a series of gigs in Las Vegas in December, reported that he was still receiving therapy in a recent interview with the Oklahoma City television station KWTV. He remarked, “Cancer is a roller coaster.” “You just sit here and hope it goes away; it might not go away at all.” He claimed that despite the treatment’s possible unfavourable outcome, his Christian faith was getting him through it.
Mr. Keith, whose baritone was alternatively crooning and declamatory, developed a raucous, confrontational persona with songs like “Beer for My Horses” and “I Wanna Talk About Me.”
Built on sharp language, sardonic humour, and not a little masculine bluster, they both peaked at number one on the Billboard country chart with “Beer for My Horses.”
The majority of Mr. Keith’s compositions, which varied in style from Southern rock and pop-country balladry to classic honky-tonks, were written by him or with his collaboration. He sold over 40 million albums worldwide, and over 60 of his singles, including 20 No. 1 successes, made it to the country chart. Joining the ranks of blues legend Willie Dixon, Cyndi Lauper, and Grateful Dead members Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015.
In 1993, Mr. Keith had already reached his 30s and had struggled for years to break through in the music industry before landing his first record deal. Prior to this, he had been a semiprofessional rodeo hand, a roughneck in the Oklahoma oil fields.
In a 2018 edition of “The Big Interview With Dan Rather,” Mr. Keith stated, “I didn’t take many vacations the first 20 years of my adult life.”
“I was doing 28, 29 shows a month because I didn’t know I was going to get a second hit,” he continued, referring to the 1993 No. 1 country single “Should Have Been a Cowboy,” which he had released before coming out.
He went on, “I was just trying to outwork everybody at the time.”
Despite his enormous popularity and his blue-collar credentials, Mr. Keith was frequently a lightning rod for controversy, particularly in the political sphere.
The most well-known example was perhaps “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American),” a 2002 pop crossover success as well as a No. 1 country tune. The song was written by Mr. Keith as a reaction to the events of 9/11 as well as the passing of his father, a crippled veteran who had died in a car crash earlier in the year.
The song’s last verse, delivered with heartland fervour reminiscent of Bob Seger and John Mellencamp, could be seen as a jingoistic tirade or as a patriotic rallying call, depending on one’s perspective.
Amidst more criticism, the album led to a lengthy disagreement with Natalie Maines, the lead vocalist of the Dixie Chicks (now the Chicks), who took issue with Mr. Keith in interviews and live, viewing the song as the ugliest form of nationalism and calling it “ignorant.”
Mr. Keith stated, “I don’t apologise for being patriotic,” during a Newsday interview in 2007.
Strongly independent, Mr. Keith identified as a conservative Democrat for many years, confusing his detractors with utterances that seemed to contradict one another—expressing, for instance, respect for the ideologically opposed figures of Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Subsequently, he declared that he had re-enrolled as an independent voter.
An especially surprising example of Mr. Keith’s contrarian sense of humour was his 2003 album of “If I Was Jesus,” a sympathetic meditation that sounded like early John Prine.
The song’s second verse began with him singing, “If I were Jesus/I’d have some friends that were poor,” over a lilting beat from the Caribbean. “I would associate with the incorrect group of people, never being bored. Later, I would cure a blind man and be crucified by politicians and preachers who had something to conceal.”
It was sufficient that Mr. Keith, who was derided by some as a loudmouthed brat, delivered these remarks with a sense of humour and self-deprecation. His assertion that God is on the side of sinners and misfits, in line with the principles of liberation theology, was particularly depressing.
Mr. Keith composed music influenced by populist singers such as Merle Haggard, which reflected his working-class, post-Dust Bowl upbringing in the Southwest. The Academy of Country Music awarded him the 2020 Merle Haggard Spirit Award in honour of this kinship.
On July 8, 1961, Toby Keith Covel was born in Clinton, Oklahoma. He was the second child born to Carolyn Joan (Ross) Covel and Hubert K. Covel Jr. His father was employed in the oil sector as a derrickhand. His mother was a budding vocalist who gave up on her career to take care of the family.
Mr. Keith was largely raised in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, Oklahoma. At age eight, he received his first guitar, and eventually