By KRISTIN M. HALL (AP Entertainment Writer)
Toby Keith, successful nation crafter of pro-American anthems who each riled up critics and was cherished by tens of millions of followers, has died. He was 62.
The “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” singer-songwriter, who had abdomen most cancers, died peacefully Monday surrounded by his household, in keeping with an announcement posted on the nation singer’s web site. “He fought his fight with grace and courage,” the assertion stated. He introduced his most cancers analysis in 2022.
The 6-foot-4 singer broke out within the nation growth years of the Nineteen Nineties, writing songs that followers cherished to listen to. Over his profession he publicly clashed with different celebrities and journalists and sometimes pushed again in opposition to file executives who needed to clean his tough edges.
He was recognized for his overt patriotism on submit 9/11 songs like “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” and boisterous barroom tunes like “I Love This Bar” and “Red Solo Cup.” He had a robust booming voice, a tongue-in-cheek humorousness and vary that carried love songs in addition to consuming songs.
Among his 20 No. 1 Billboard hits have been “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “As Good As I Once Was,” “My List” and “Beer for My Horses,” a duet with Willie Nelson. His influences have been different working class songwriters like Merle Haggard and he tallied greater than 60 singles on the Hot Country chart over his profession.
Throughout the most cancers therapies, Keith continued to carry out, most not too long ago taking part in in Las Vegas in December. He additionally carried out on the People’s Choice Country Awards in 2023 as he sang his track “Don’t Let the Old Man In.”
“Cancer is a roller coaster,” he instructed KWTV throughout an interview aired final month. “You just sit here and wait on it to go away. It might never go away.”
Keith labored as a roughneck within the oil fields of Oklahoma as a younger man, then performed semi-pro soccer earlier than launching his profession as a singer.
“I write about life, and I sing about life, and I don’t overanalyze things,” Keith instructed The Associated Press in 2001, following the success of his track “I’m Just Talking About Tonight.”
Keith realized good classes within the booming oil fields, which toughened him up, but in addition confirmed him the worth of cash.
“The money to be made was unbelievable,” Keith instructed the AP in 1996. “I came out of high school in 1980 and they gave me this job December of 1979, $50,000 a year. I was 18 years old.”
But the home oil subject trade collapsed and Keith had not saved. “It about broke us,” he stated. “So I just learned. I’ve taken care of my money this time.”
He spent a pair seasons as a defensive finish for the Oklahoma City Drillers, a farm staff for the now-defunct United States Football League. But he discovered constant cash taking part in music along with his band all through the pink filth roadhouse circuit in Oklahoma and Texas.
“All through this whole thing the only constant thing we had was music,” he stated. “But it’s hard to sit back and say, ‘I’m going to go make my fortune singing music, or writing music.’ I had no contacts.”
Eventually his path took him to Nashville, the place he attracted the curiosity of Mercury Records head Harold Shedd, who was finest often known as a producer for the hit group Alabama. Shedd introduced him to Mercury, the place he launched his platinum debut file “Toby Keith,” in 1993.
“Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” his breakout hit, was performed 3 million instances on radio stations, making it essentially the most performed nation track of the Nineteen Nineties.
But the label’s deal with world star Shania Twain overshadowed the remainder of the roster and Keith felt that the executives have been making an attempt to push him in a pop course.
“They were trying to get me to compromise, and I was living a miserable existence,” Keith instructed the AP. “Everybody was trying to mold me into something I was not.”
After a sequence of albums that produced hits like “Who’s That Man,” and a canopy of Sting’s “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying,” Keith moved to DreamWorks Records in 1999.
That’s when his multiweek hit “How Do You Like Me Now?!” took off and have become his first track to cross over to Top 40 charts. In 2001, he gained the male vocalist of the yr and album of the yr on the Academy of Country Music Awards, exclaiming from the stage: “I’ve waited a long time for this. Nine years!”
Keith usually wore his politics on his sleeve, particularly after the terrorist assaults on U.S. soil in 2001, and early on he stated he was a conservative Democrat, however later claimed he was an unbiased. He performed at occasions for Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the latter giving him a National Medal of the Arts in 2021. His songs and his blunt opinions typically brought on him controversy, which he appeared to courtroom.
His 2002 track “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” included a risk — “We’ll put a boot in your ass — It’s the American way” — to anybody who dared to mess with America.
That track acquired pulled from a patriotic ABC Fourth of July particular after producers deemed it too indignant for the present. Singer-songwriter Steve Earle known as Keith’s track “pandering to people’s worst instincts at a time they are hurt and scared.”
Then there was the feud between Keith and The Chicks (previously known as the Dixie Chicks), who turned a goal of Keith’s ire when singer Natalie Maines instructed a crowd that they have been ashamed of then-President George W. Bush. Maines had additionally beforehand known as Keith’s track “ignorant.”
Keith, who had beforehand claimed that he supported any artist’s freedom to voice their opinion about politics, used a doctored photograph of Maines with a picture of Saddam Hussein at his live shows, additional ramping up indignant followers.
Maines responded by sporting a shirt with the letters “FUTK” onstage on the 2003 ACM Awards, which many individuals believed was a vulgar message to Keith.
Keith, who had acknowledged that he holds onto grudges, walked out of the ACM Awards in 2003 early as a result of he had gotten snubbed in earlier classes, inflicting him to overlook out when he was introduced as entertainer of the yr. Vince Gill accepted on his behalf. He got here again the following yr and gained the highest prize for a second yr in a row, together with high male vocalist and album of the yr for “Shock ’n Y’all.”
His pro-military stance wasn’t simply fodder for songs, nevertheless. He went on 11 USO excursions to go to and play for troops serving abroad. He additionally helped to boost tens of millions for charity over his profession, together with constructing a house in Oklahoma City for youths with most cancers and their households.
After Universal Music Group acquired DreamWorks, Keith began anew once more, beginning his personal file label, Show Dog, in 2005 with file govt Scott Borchetta, who launched his personal label Big Machine on the similar time.
“Probably 75% of the people in this town think I’ll fail, and the other 25% hope I fail,” he stated that yr.
Later the label turned Show Dog-Universal Music and had Keith, Trace Adkins, Joe Nichols, Josh Thompson, Clay Walker and Phil Vassar on its roster.
His later hits included “Love Me If You Can,” “She Never Cried In Front of Me,” and “Red Solo Cup.” He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015.
He was honored by the efficiency rights group BMI in November 2022 with the BMI Icon award, a couple of months after saying his abdomen most cancers analysis.
“I always felt like that the songwriting was the most important part of this whole industry,” Keith instructed the group of fellow singers and writers.