If the past few days have taught us anything, it’s that… you should appreciate your heroes while they’re still around, and my God, was Toby Keith universally loved. Granted, there is a small, but loud and vile, group of Dixie Chicks fans that felt the need to make their distaste for Toby Keith known the day that he died, but overall, I’m astonished at the outpouring of love for the man.
From fellow country music stars, to television hosts like Stephen Colbert, the Oklahoma Athletics department, Clint Eastwood, John Daly and PGA Tour, First Lady Jill Biden, and even former NFL quarterback Brett Favre… Toby Keith’s list of grieving fans and friends is 10 miles long right now. Even publications like the New York Times and The Atlantic, well-known mouthpieces for the political left, took the time to write articles about his complexity and nuance as a both human and as a songwriter, as opposed to some of the more lazy headlines painting the ’90s country legend as nothing more than a staunch Conservative who wrote a few songs about sticking boots where the sun don’t shine.
A testament to the person and character of Toby Keith no doubt… the man was talented, funny, charismatic… he was one of a kind.
But Brett Favre, as previously mentioned, took the time to talk with TMZ Sports recently, recalling how he met Toby, their times together and their final conversation. The legendary Green Bay Packers quarterback talked to Keith shortly before his death, and the Big Dog Daddy confessed that he stopped treating his cancer:
“I sent him a message and said ‘Hey man, great to see you back up and playing, I hope that you’re turning a corner. He said, ‘I quit chemo and it probably did more damage to me than even the cancer did.’ And he said, ‘I just hope I didn’t quit it too late,’ but he said ‘I’m thankful I got a chance to play some shows. I finished them.'”
So I didn’t ask him what the future holds, and gosh darn it, two weeks later he passed away… my wife went through it when she was 33… in Toby’s case, he put on a brave front. He went from 260 to 130 [pounds]… in the end he was just tired… he handled it with grace and faith and family and stood up to the cancer as good as you can.”
Sounds like Toby knew he was nearing the end of his cancer battle, and rather than continuing to destroy his body for a chance to live just a little bit longer on a hospital bed, he opted to stop treatment, regain some strength and spend some of his last months doing what he loved… playing shows.
Favre added that his friendship with Toby grew stronger on the golf course
“What you hope or imagine him to be is exactly how he was. He and I, and Phil Mickelson played together a long time ago and of course Toby and I had known each other uite a while and you let your guard down, you have fun, and he know how to work the audience. I can’t remember a good or a bad shot that he hit, I can just remember him smiling, and had everyone hooting and hollering and having a lot of fun.
I played with him again, this was above the bucket list, Toby and I were paired with Andy North and Jack Nicklaus in Madison, Wisconsin in a Pro Am… I’m playing with greatness and we had the most fun. Again, I couldn’t tell you if he hit a good shot or a bad shot, but he was a lot of fun to play with, he was the best.”
Kind words from Brett, but if you’ve listened to anyone talk about their memories of Toby Keith over the past few days, just about everyone who has ever met him will tell you the same thing… he was a great man, and a great time.
Here’s to the great Toby Keith… rest in peace Big Dog.
Zach Bryan, Luke Combs & Many More Pay Tribute To Toby Keith
Man, what terrible news to wake up to.
Last night, it was announced by his family that country hitmaker Toby Keithpassed away at the age of 62 after a long battle with stomach cancer:
“Toby Keith passed away 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.”
Saddle up the horses, Jesus, ‘cause a true blue COWBOY just made his ride up to heaven!!! Introduce him to all the Okies and sign that boy up for the choir! We’re gonna miss you, Toby, but my heart has no doubt that you are standing in the presence of our King right now!!! See… pic.twitter.com/9a2RauHo5p
Country music is a family unto itself, and today our family hurts. Toby Keith was authentic country and a tremendous songwriter. Loretta loved both these things about him. Our family and the country music world grieves.
It is with a heavy heart that the Daniels' say goodbye to @tobykeith after a year & 1/2 battling stomach cancer. Prayers to his friends family & his many fans. We couldn't find a picture of Dad with him, but here's one of Mom & Theresa Tritt from the 2005 BMI Awards.-CD Jr. #RIPpic.twitter.com/CGnJZukBRB
Even though I knew about your battle these last few months I still never imagined this day. Anyone who knew you knows what I mean. You were the toughest man I ever met. Thank you brother for being a friend, a hero and an inspiration. There will never be another Toby Keith.
Toby Keith was a true trail blazer. Authentic and heartfelt but always with a wink ‘til the end. He was larger than life in so many ways and his music will live on forever! Raising our red solos tonight—you will be missed by so many. Peace. pic.twitter.com/TJB5dUy67K
Just waking up to the news of Toby Keith’s passing. Today is a sad day for Country music and its fans. Toby was a huge presence in our business and someone we all looked up to and respected. You and your music will be forever remembered big man. pic.twitter.com/M2RwMUFdKx
Waking up to the terrible news that our friend, and legend @tobykeith has passed away from cancer. He was a true Patriot, a first class singer/songwriter, and a bigger than life kind of guy. He will be greatly missed.
Very low this morning. @tobykeith is treasured in this family and will certainly be missed. I know he was a believer and is with the Almighty. Much love to his family. You’re in our prayers. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/MA0POxlDbO
Toby Keith has gone home … This is very sad news … We loved and respected him on every level and whispered many a prayer for him as he fought this illness. God must have needed a big hearted Oklahoma singing boy for the great choir. Well, he got one #RIPTobyKeithpic.twitter.com/cBjybvnxwP
Toby Keith’s music was the soundtrack to so many of my favorite memories. From CMT countdowns playing in the living room while we helped mom clean the house to singing at the top of our voices riding all the backroads as kids. Just irreplaceable. Such a sad loss. RIP Toby.
Country Music lost an icon today. Toby Keith was one of the greatest entertainers this genre ever saw. At his core, and what I loved most, was a songwriter. He could write them just as good as anyone else and respected a damn good written one. RIP Toby. pic.twitter.com/5kYyX3E1zO
Heartbroken. We traveled so many miles together—and laughed a lot. A lot. Thank you, brother, for a lifetime’s worth of stories to remember. We love you. Praying for Toby’s family for comfort and peace. pic.twitter.com/rZ8URExoCr
I am heart broken hearing the news this morning. He inspired millions through his music and united the Nation in a time when we needed it the most. He may be gone in flesh, but will always be with us in spirit through his music. Long live the cowboy from Oklahoma, Mr. @tobykeith
Really shows just what an impact Toby Keith had on so many people. Rest in peace to a true legend.
Kid Rock Remembers Toby Keith
His friend Kid Rock spoke to Fox News about his commitment to America’s heroes:
“We used to joke about who went over there more, me and him have 10, if not 20 times each, spending Christmas, Thanksgiving… whenever we were called we went to do it, and sometimes we called them and went to do it.
It was the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done in our careers but it was also the most work. He probably went more than I did, what a great patriot… people forget how long these wars were. These were 10 plus years of going all the time… we used to joke ‘isn’t there some younger kids that should be going over at this point?’
Can’t say enough great things about him, he was just a great, great man and he was a lot of fun, so funny. My heart goes out to his family, and his friends here in Nashville, but especially I’m thinking of his family right now…. long live Big Dog.”
He also said he considered blowing off a gig to go see Toby Keith in Las Vegas recently, and he’ll forever regret it:
“Man, I’m gonna regret… I was just out in Las Vegas when he was playing and I had this commitment, and I told my fiancée ‘I should just blow this commitment off and go see Toby.’ I just felt that was what I should do, and I didn’t, and I’m gonna regret that. I didn’t know it was in this stage, unfortunately.”
Toby Keith was an icon in many ways, but one talent Keith had that knocked other artists out of the park was his songwriting ability.
His final show was December 14th, 2023 in Las Vegas, where the Big Dog took the stage to perform a number of his country hits including the great “Should’ve Been A Cowboy.”
His breakout single released in 1993, that song kicked off a career that featured 20 chart-topping singles in addition to a number of other Top 5 country songs.
“Don’t Let The Old Man In”
Toby also performed his latest single, “Don’t Let The Old Man In.” The song was originally released as a single in 2018, in conjunction with the Clint Eastwood movie The Mule, and also appeared on his 2019 compilation album Greatest Hits: The Show Dog Years.
It was then re-released this year this past year following his performance at the People’s Choice Country Awards:
During one of his final performances, Keith brought the 2023 Country Music People’s Choice Award audience to tears with a stunning acoustic performance of “Don’t Let The Old Man In.” The song itself is heartfelt enough, but add Keith (who at the time had been very candid about his cancer battle) singing it on stage, and the lyrics hit a new profound level.
As the recipient of the Country Music Icon that night, Keith took to the stage for what would be one of his final performances, bringing the audience to tears. I cry every time I watch this video, and then when the camera pans to his wife, and she is wiping away tears, I lose it entirely.
“Many moons I have lived My body’s weathered and worn Ask yourself how would you be If you didn’t know the day you were born
When he rides up on his horse And you feel that cold bitter wind Look out your window and smile Don’t let the old man in…”
“Don’t Let The Old Man In” is a song that will live on forever, just like the legacy of Keith as a performer, songwriter, and true artist.