Toby Keith’s passing at the age of 62 last night (2/5) has hit the country music community hard. The Country Music Hall of Fame said, “Toby Keith was big, brash, and never bowed down or slowed down for anyone. He wrote his breakthrough songs and later formed his own record label when he felt underserved by Nashville. For three decades, he reflected the defiant strength of the country music audience. His memory will continue to stand tall.”
In October, before his death, Keith took to Instagram to reveal that he would play two shows in Las Vegas in December. In a video clip posted to Instagram, Toby said, “Hi everybody, this is Toby Keith. It’s been a while. You know what I’ve been doing, been on the old roller coaster, but Almighty is riding shotgun. He’s letting me drive for some reason. I’m making a big announcement. I’m doing a little deal, and I would start with Great Las Vegas at the MGM at Dolby Live at the park at MGM on December 10 and 11; you can do the National Finals Rodeo and the show if you want to. I was gonna sit around here and do nothing like I have been or get up and go outside and not let the old man in, you know what I mean?” Sadly, that
He added in part, “The old devil has been after me a little bit, but I have him by the horns right now. So instead of just sitting around and waiting, we’re gonna get the band back together, so come on out, hang out at the rodeo, and watch the show. We’re gonna have a blast. Get it all going again, big dog daddy style. Should have been a cowboy; go to the rodeo. See ya.”
Those Vegas shows, which played through January (2024), were his last shows on stage playing for fans.
Blake Shelton presented his fellow Oklahoman with the “Country Icon Award” at the September inaugural People’s Choice Country Awards (2023).
Early in his career, almost 20 years ago (2004), Blake toured and opened shows for Toby Keith nationwide. At the time, he told me, “Toby is one of those guys that is so famous and so big, and he is one of those artists that’s just worldwide. You don’t have to be a country music fan to be a Toby Keith fan. It’s just way bigger than that. I step on stage with over 20 thousand people per night, and 15,000 of them may or may not have ever heard of me. Touring with Toby has probably been the biggest break I’ve had since I started doing this.”
As the world shines a light on Toby Keith and his music today (2/6) with his passing, we shine a light on five of his greatest songs.