American country singer Toby Keith has passed away at the age of 62, as reported by US media outlets CNN and NBC on Tuesday. The news was announced through Keith’s Twitter account, which stated that the singer had died peacefully surrounded by his family. Keith, who was a husband and father of three, had been battling stomach cancer, a fact he had revealed to the public around a year and a half ago.
Despite his illness, Keith continued to perform up until recently, with his last shows taking place in Las Vegas in December. Over the span of his career, Keith sold 40 million records, with his debut album “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” released in 1993 achieving great popularity among country music fans. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Keith released the protest song “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” further cementing his place in the public consciousness.
Keith was known for his support of the US military, performing at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan among other locations. He insisted that his performances for soldiers were not political, despite his self-identification as a Democrat. His contributions to the arts were recognized in 2021 when he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by then-President Donald Trump, the highest honor an artist can receive from the US government.
Keith was born in 1961 in Oklahoma and spent his early years on a farm on the outskirts of Oklahoma City. He learned to play the guitar at the age of eight and spent his youth working in the rodeo and in oil fields, while also playing country rock in clubs as a member of the Easy Money Band, which he founded. Before his music career took off, Keith also spent time playing semi-professional American football.