Country Music Star Toby Keith Dies at 62

'Beer For My Horses' singer was battling stomach cancer
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 6, 2024 4:47 AM CST
Country Singer-Songwriter Toby Keith Dies at 62
Toby Keith arrives at the People's Choice Country Awards on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at The Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee.   (AP Photo/George Walker IV, File)

"Beer For My Horses" singer-songwriter Toby Keith has died. He was 62, reports the AP. Keith, who was battling stomach cancer, passed peacefully on Monday surrounded by his family, 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. Sometimes a polarizing figure in country music, the 6-foot-4 singer broke out in the country boom years of the 1990s, crafting an identity around his macho, pro-American swagger and writing songs that fans loved to hear. Over his career he publicly clashed with other celebrities and journalists and often pushed back against record executives who wanted to smooth his rough edges.

He was known for his overt patriotism on post 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 powerful booming voice, a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, and range that carried love songs as well as drinking songs. Among his 20 No. 1 Billboard 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. Keith worked as a roughneck in the oil fields of Oklahoma as a young man, then played semi-pro football before launching his career as a singer. "I write about life, and I sing about life, and I don't overanalyze things," Keith told the AP in 2001, following the success of his song "I'm Just Talking About Tonight."

"Should've Been a Cowboy," his breakout hit, was played 3 million times on radio stations, making it the most played country song of the 1990s. Keith often wore his politics on his sleeve, especially after the 9/11 attacks. 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. His songs and blunt opinions sometimes caused controversy, which he seemed to court. "Probably 75 percent of the people in this town think I'll fail, and the other 25 percent hope I fail," he said. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015, and honored by the performance rights organization BMI in 2022 with the BMI Icon award, a few months after announcing his 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.

(More Toby Keith stories.)

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