Toby Keith Dead at 62 Following Stomach Cancer Diagnosis: ‘Passed Peacefully’

Toby Keith Dead at 62 Following Stomach Cancer Diagnosis: ‘Passed Peacefully’
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The country star died surrounded by family on Monday, his relatives said in a statement

Country singer Toby Keith, known for hits such as “Red Solo Cup” and “Should Have Been a Cowboy,” has died. He was 62.

The singer-songwriter “passed peacefully” on Monday night, his family shared in a statement posted on social media. Keith was diagnosed with stomach cancer in the fall of 2021.

“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.

The musician was born Toby Keith Covel on July 8, 1961 in Oklahoma and raised on a farm outside of Oklahoma City, according to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Before focusing solely on pursuing music professionally, the lifelong country music fan worked as a rodeo hand in high school and oil fields after he graduated, all the while performing in bars at night.

During that time in which he played with a band called Easy Money, he met his wife of nearly 40 years, Tricia Lucus, and they were married in 1984 after three years of dating. After they were wed, Keith adopted Lucus’ daughter who was born in 1980, Shelley Covel Rowland, and the two welcomed two more children, daughter Krystal in 1985 and son Stelen in 1997.

Following a period in which the star played minor league football and performed on the honky-tonk circuit, he secured a solo record deal in the early ‘90s and found breakthrough success with his No. 1 hit 1993 single “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” per Oklahoma Hall of Fame. The song became the most-played song on country radio of the decade, and his self-titled debut album was certified platinum.

His success continued throughout the decade and into the early ‘00s with hits like 1999’s “How Do You Like Me Now?!” and 2000’s “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This,” among others. Collaborations such as his 1996  song with Sting, “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying,” and his 2003 team-up with Willie Nelson “Beer for My Horses,” also led to crossover appeal.

The “Who’s Your Daddy?” singer’s honky-tonk and country-rock songs about the cowboy lifestyle and patriotism helped him to resonate with fans and be among the top artists of the genre. He received the coveted entertainer of the year award five times throughout his career at the ACM Awards, was eventually honored by the organization with the prestigious Merle Haggard spirit award in 2021 and was inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame (2015) and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (2021).

Keith had controversies over the years, including a public tussle with Natalie Maines of The Chickswho was critical of the 2002 single “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” released several months after the events of September 11, per Biography. He also clashed with country singer Kris Kristofferson, who allegedly spoke about an interaction the two shared in 2003 in a 2009 Rolling Stone profile.

His celebrity also expanded beyond music when he opened the popular restaurant chain I Love This Bar & Grill in 2005, named for his 2003 hit “I Love This Bar.”

Throughout his career, Keith played for U.S. presidents including George W Bush. Barack Obama and Donald Trump. In 2021 he was also awarded the National Medal of the Arts by Trump.

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