Country Music Star Toby Keith Dead At 62

On February 6, 2024, Toby Keith's family announced via his official X account that he died at the age of 62. The statement — overlaid on a photograph of the famed country singer in a cowboy hat and dark jacket — said that Keith "passed peacefully last night on February 5th, surrounded by his family. He fought his fight with grace and courage. Please respect the privacy of his family at this time."

Born Toby Keith Covel on July 8, 1961, in Clinton, Oklahoma, Keith was an oil worker and a football player before making a career of his lifelong love of music. He made his name in the early 1990s with this platinum-selling self-titled album and went on to have several more hit albums and singles throughout the decade. His 2001 hit, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)," which became an anthem for the U.S. military, was written in response to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. He told Entertainment Weekly that he'd played more than 200 USO shows in Iran and Afghanistan. 

Keith's career continued into the 21st century, including a high-profile performance at Donald Trump's pre-inauguration ceremony in 2017. Keith announced that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2022.

Toby Keith's inspiration

With a successful career in country music that spanned three decades, Toby Keith grew up and lived his entire life in Oklahoma. His songs, most of which he wrote, tell tales of good times, exude his love of the U.S., and embody messages that ring true to his experience. According to the Songwriter Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 2015, for two decades Keith released a single each year that climbed to the top of the country charts. 

He first came onto the scene in 1993 with his hit "Should've Been a Cowboy." Since then he's sold 40 million albums and 20 of his songs have reached No. 1 status on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, including 2018's "Don't Let the Old Man In," a song inspired by a conversation with Clint Eastwood that year in which the iconic actor and director told Keith the way he keeps going at his advanced age is "I get up every day and I don't let the old man in."

Keith was inspired to write the song, telling The Tennessean, " ... I knew the song could be powerful, and I didn't want to leave any stone unturned. The second I wrote it, it was like I jumped 500 feet in the air. I knew I had accomplished what I wanted to accomplish." Keith, notably thin, performed the song about living life to the fullest at the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards (via YouTube) where it took on an elevated poignancy due to his cancer diagnosis. That performance catapulted the song to the top of the charts five years after it was released. 

Toby Keith's legacy

Toby Keith's music resonated with fans for its support of the military and its rowdy, barroom appeal. Songs like "Red Solo Cup" and "I Love This Bar" are simple and relatable, lending themselves to singalongs. "American Soldier," and the aforementioned "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue (The Angry American)" are anthems honoring the men and women in the armed forces, and "Made in America" pays homage to being true to American manufacturing and patriotism. Keith is also known for playing shows for right-wing causes, including the NRA, and the Make America Great Again Welcome Celebration in 2017, but he told The Chicago Tribune in 2016 that he was a long-time Democrat who later became a registered Independent. He said his fans knew he was middle but "right of center" politically, adding,"[people] don't know you. They just want to label you."

In his personal life, Keith married his wife Tricia Lucus in 1984 after the couple met at a bar when she was 19 and he was 20, according to what Lucus told People. She said, "He was just one of those larger-than-life guys, full of confidence." Lucus already had a daughter by then, whom Keith adopted, and the pair had another daughter and son together. At the time of his death, Keith also had two grandchildren. 

Just one day before his death announcement, Keith posted on Instagram a video shot from behind. He was standing on stage and holding up his guitar to a cheering audience with the caption, "And that's a wrap on the weekend, y'all. Back to it."