It was also there that he accepted the Country Icon Award, which was presented to him by Blake Shelton. Keith, who has been battling with stomach cancer since his diagnosis in 2021, proudly got up on stage for the award presentation.
The “Big Dog Daddy” just recently started playing and performing again, which he talked about after he was honored with the Country Icon award. Keith joked about his weight loss as he stated:
“Bet you all never thought you’d see me in skinny jeans. I want to thank the Almighty for allowing me to be here tonight. He’s been riding shotgun with me for a little while.”
Keith’s speech was met with praise and applause from those in attendance, but it was his performance of “Don’t Let The Old Man In” that really stood out.
The song was originally released in 2019 (2018 if you count its inclusion in Clint Eastwood’s film The Mule) and had been previously sent to country radio.
Toby previously talked about the inspiration for the song, revealing that he wrote “Don’t Let The Old Man In” after a conversation with the director on the golf course. When Eastwood mentioned that he was leaving the next day for a three month shoot on The Mule, Toby asked him how he still kept up with his rigorous schedule at his age.
And Eastwood responded:
“I just don’t let the old man in.”
The result was a tearjerker of a ballad about living life to the fullest, despite the fact that time will eventually catch up to us all.
The song took on new meaning with Toby’s fight against cancer. And after his performance of the song at the People’s Choice Country Awards, the song once again rose in popularity, which is why Keith and his newfound team at Big Machine Label Group have decided to send it to country radio once again.
Jimmy Harnen, the CEO of BMLG Records, had this to say about helping to get Keith’s song to country radio once more:
“After seeing Toby’s incredible performance of ‘Don’t Let The Old Man In’ on the People’s Choice Country Awards, we were so moved, we wanted to be a part of this song any way we possible – we’re looking forward to taking it to Country radio, DSPs and beyond.”
Toby Keith felt like it was only right to perform the heartfelt song that tackles the brutal reality of aging considering his recent battle with cancer. He told NBC’s Backstage Live:
“I’ve been going through my cancer fight for the last couple of years and it’s really inspiring for a lot of people.
And coming back on TV for the first time and performing live in front of a live audience, I thought it was fitting.”