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Outspoken Country Singer Toby Keith Dead at 62

Toby Keith, a country singer-songwriter known for political and party songs alike, is dead at 62. “Toby Keith passed peacefully last night on February 5th, surrounded by his family,” a statement on his website reads. “He fought his fight with grace and courage.” Keith’s publicist told the New York Times he died in his home state of Oklahoma. Keith shared his stomach-cancer diagnosis and treatment in 2022. Across a career spanning more than three decades, Keith earned 20 No. 1 country songs and ten No. 1 albums, including three that topped the all-genre Billboard 200. Keith performed for years before finally signing to a label, but found quick success with his debut single, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” in 1993. That song became the most played on country radio in the 1990s, as well as the unofficial theme of the Oklahoma State University Cowboys. Keith continued to rack up hits as he jumped from label to label throughout the ’90s, and by the end of the decade, he had a top-40 pop hit in his song “How Do You Like Me Now?!”

Keith, known for his brash voice as a songwriter, became more outspoken in his conservative politics and patriotism as his career continued. In 2002, Keith released “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” a song inspired by both 9/11 and the death of his veteran father. It became a controversial hit, leading to a feud with the Chicks singer Natalie Maines, who called the song “ignorant.” Keith would perform in front of an edited photo of Maines with Saddam Hussein; Maines later wore a shirt reading “FUTK” to the 2003 Academy of Country Music Awards, where Keith won Entertainer of the Year. Along with his politics, Keith also became known for songs about drinking and partying. He followed “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” with the hit Willie Nelson duet “Beer for My Horses.” Shortly after “Made in America” became his final country No. 1 in 2011, his song “Red Solo Cup” became his biggest pop crossover hit.

Keith continued to release music until his cancer diagnosis, most recently the album Peso in My Pocket in 2021. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015. He performed at Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration in 2017, and Trump later awarded Keith a National Medal of the Arts in 2021. Before his death, he had performed a three-show residency in Las Vegas in December, some of his first shows since his cancer diagnosis.


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