Toby Keith, country music star, two times award winner of ACM’s Entertainer of Year dies at 62

Toby Keith. Image credit: Facebook page of Toby Keith

CMEDIA: Country music star, Toby Keith, who twice won the Academy of Country Music’s entertainer of the year award, reportedly died 62 yesterday with stomach cancer.

Keith was surrounded by his family at the time of his death, according to a statement posted on the country singer’s website.

“He fought his fight with grace and courage,” the statement said. He was diagnosed in 2022.

Known for his overt patriotism on post 9/11 songs like Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, and barroom tunes like I Love This Bar and Red Solo Cup, he often publicly clashed with other celebrities and journalists over his career.

Among his 20 No. 1 Billboard country hits were How Do You Like Me Now?!, Should’ve Been a Cowboy, As Good As I Once Was, My List and Beer for My Horses, a duet with Willie Nelson.

“I write about life, and I sing about life, and I don’t overanalyze things,” Keith was reported telling The Associated Press in 2001, following the success of his song I’m Just Talking About Tonight.

Working in the oil fields of Oklahoma as a young man, Keith started playing semi-pro football before launching his career as a singer.

Eventually his path took him to Nashville, where met Mercury Records head Harold Shedd, a producer for the hit group Alabama, who brought him to Mercury, where he released his platinum debut record Toby Keith, in 1993.

Should’ve Been a Cowboy, his breakout hit, was played three million times on radio stations, making it the most played country song of the 1990s.

After a series of albums that produced hits like Who’s That Man, and a cover of Sting’s I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying, Keith moved to DreamWorks Records in 1999.

It was then that his multi-week How Do You Like Me Now?! took off and became his first song to crossover to Top 40 charts.

In 2001, he was the winner of the male vocalist of the year and album of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards.

He played at events for Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the latter giving him a National Medal of the Arts in 2021.

He won the ACM Awards top entertainer prize in 2003 and 2004, adding the top male vocalist and album of the year for Shock ‘n Y’all in 2004.

He was also nominated for Entertainer of the Year at the Country Music Awards three times.

He went on tours to 11 United Service Organizations to visit and play for troops serving overseas.

He also helped to raised millions for charity over his career, including building a home in Oklahoma City for kids and their families who are battling cancer.

His later hits included Love Me If You Can, She Never Cried In Front of Me, and Red Solo Cup.

After being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015, he was then honoured by the performance rights organization BMI in November 2022 with the BMI Icon award, a few months after announcing his stomach cancer diagnosis.

“I always felt like that the songwriting was the most important part of this whole industry,” Keith told the crowd of fellow singers and writers.