Country music legend Toby Keith passed away at 62 after a long battle with stomach cancer, his family announced in a series of social media posts on Tuesday.
The seven-time Grammy Awards winner “passed away peacefully last night on February 5th, surrounded by his family,” the statement read. “He fought his fight with grace and courage. Please respect the privacy of his family at this time.”
— Toby Keith (@tobykeith) February 6, 2024
After the attacks of 9/11, Keith became an international sensation by releasing “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” a ballad about getting back at the terrorists who claimed more than 3,000 lives that day. Two years later, he joined Willie Nelson in a joint performance at the Super Bowl halftime show.
He was a frequent presence on U.S. military bases in combat theaters, singing for soldiers at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, experiences he celebrated in his 2003 hit “American Soldier.”
Keith was invited to presidential performances multiple times, performing for George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, who presented him with the National Medal of the Arts in 2021.
The second half of his career was decorated with recognition from his peers. Keith achieved seven Grammys between 1998 and 2011 with the majority for his powerful vocal performances. In 2001, he won Male Vocalist of the Year at the Country Music Awards and returned to reclaim it in 2004. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015.
Since 2006, Keith focused his charitable efforts around children with cancer and in 2014 partnered with the University of Oklahoma to launch the Toby Keith Foundation, a cost-free pediatric cancer treatment center to support children who have already been through treatment at The Children’s Hospital.
His final album, “Peso in My Pocket,” afforded Keith an opportunity to strip his country tunes down to the bare essentials, covering a range of themes from coming to terms with middle age to looking back on close calls with death. He gave his final performance in Las Vegas in December of 2023.
Born Toby Keith Covel in Clinton, Oklahoma, he was raised by Carolyn Joan and Hubert K. Covel Jr. Visits to Fort Smith with his grandmother, where they watched musical performances at the club she owned, sparked Keith’s interest in music at a young age. He worked odd jobs on the base to buy his first guitar at age eight and would occasionally join musicians on stage for performances.
Keith first took to the Oklahoma oil fields after high school, rising in the ranks only to see the industry decimated in the 1980s. He parlayed his high school football skills into a defensive end position with the minor-league Oklahoma City Drillers while continuing to perform with the Easy Money Band, founded with several friends from his drilling days. By the early 1990s, Keith struck out for Nashville, and the rest is history.
Keith is survived by his wife, Tricia, three children, and four grandchildren.