The singer/songwriter, known for such country hits as “Red Solo Cup” and “Should Have Been A Cowboy,” passed away peacefully Monday night, according to his family.
“Toby Keith passed peacefully last night on Feb. 5 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,” the message concluded.
Back in December 2023, Keith played at Park MGM in Las Vegas for the first time since revealing his cancer diagnosis. He released a video message on Youtube, saying, “Hey everybody! This is Toby Keith. It’s been a while. You know what I’ve been doing — been on the old rollercoaster, but Almighty’s riding shotgun. He’s letting me drive for some reason, but we’re making a big announcement. I’m doing a little deal and thought I’d start in the great Las Vegas. Through COVID and cancer, the old devil’s been after me a little bit,” Keith continued. “I’ve got him by the horns right now, so instead of just sitting around and waiting, we’re gonna get the band back together.”
Keith was a fan favorite, known for his baritone voice melded with an in-your-face attitude. He wrote songs like “Beer For My Horses,” “I Wanna Talk About Me,” and “I Love This Bar,” which combined clever lyrics and a dead-pan, almost droll, sense of humor.
Known for combining the best of honky-tonk, pop-country ballads, with a Southern Rock edge, he racked up more than 60 hits on the country charts, including 20 No. 1 hits. His records sold over 40 million copies world-wide and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015 with 80’s pop star Cyndi Lauper and Jerry Garcia of the psychedelic jam-band The Grateful Dead.
Signed to a recording contract in his 30’s, Keith had already scraped and toiled in the music business to become a know quantity before getting his first record deal in 1993. He had worked in the Oklahoma oil fields, as a roughneck, and as a semipro football player before starting his music career.
Toby Keith Covel was born on July 8, 1961, in Clinton, Okla., the second of three children of Carolyn Joan (Ross) and Hubert K. Covel, Jr. His mother was an aspiring singer who abandoned her musical pursuits to become a homemaker while his father toiled in the oil fields of Oklahoma.
While growing up in the suburbs of Oklahoma City, Keith got his first guitar at the age of 8. Spending summers with his grandmother in Fort Smith, AR, a young Toby Keith would do odd jobs at her supper club while honing his musical chops, sitting in with the house band.
At 20, he and several friends formed a group called the Easy Money Band and started playing in local bars before graduating to the Texas and Oklahoma roadhouse circuit. Keith would spend weeks on the road, constantly touring and playing any place that would have him and his band. While living in Nashville, he was “discovered” when a fan who worked for an airline as a flight attendant gave his demo tape to Harold Shedd, a well-known producer who worked with country music legends Reba McEntire and Shania Twain. After signing with Mercury records, his debut album, an eponymous record, produced 4 Top 10 singles and went on to be certified platinum.