Toby Keith Covel, known professionally as Toby Keith, was born on July 8, 1961, in Clinton, Okla. He passed away on Feb. 5, 2024 at age 62 following a battle with cancer.
After graduating from Moore (Okla.) High School, Keith worked in the oil fields. He'd quickly ascend within that line of work to an operation manager role. At age 20, Keith and some friends formed the Easy Money Band as a way to make some extra cash by playing at nearby bars and honky tonks.
In the early '90s, Keith relocated to Nashville to begin the long climb to country stardom. After being told "no" by numerous record labels, Keith got discovered by Mercury Records' Harold Shedd (a producer already known for his work with Alabama).
Including his 1993 self-titled debut, Keith released 19 studio albums, two Christmas albums and five compilation albums, with total worldwide album sales topping 40 million. The No. 1 country hitmaker, actor and restauranteur's career slowed down in 2021 due to his cancer diagnosis. However, there's no reason to think that Keith planned to retire anytime soon.
In celebration of his life, keep reading to see photographs of Keith highlighting key moments in his decades-long career.
1993: Toby Keith's Debut Single Becomes a No. 1 Country Hit
Keith's debut single, "Should've Been a Cowboy," shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 1993. It went on to become the most-played country song on radio in the 1990s. "Should've Been a Cowboy" is on the Oklahoman's self-titled debut album, Toby Keith, which also contains the hits "He Ain't Worth Missing," "A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action" and "Wish I Didn't Know Now." Keith's second album, the platinum-designated Boomtown, arrived a year later and contains the hits "Who's That Man," "Upstairs Downtown" and "You Ain't Much Fun."
1998: Toby Keith Releases His Final Album with Mercury
In 1998, Keith released his final Mercury album, Greatest Hits Volume One, which contained two new songs, including "Getcha Some." He moved to DreamWorks Records in 1999. Keith is pictured here in 1998 with his wife, Tricia, whom he married in 1984, and their son, Stelen, who was born in 1997.
2003: Toby Keith Teams Up with Willie Nelson for "Beer for My Horses"
Keith paired with Willie Nelson for the song "Beer for My Horses," the fourth and final single from Keith's album Unleashed. The song spent six weeks sitting atop the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and became Keith's biggest hit of his career on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 22. He is pictured above with Nelson performing at Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004.
2006: Toby Keith Makes His Big-Screen Debut in Broken Bridges
Keith made his big-screen acting debut in the 2006 music drama Broken Bridges. Toby plays Bo Price, a fading country star who returns to his Tennessee hometown, where he is reunited with his former girlfriend (Kelly Preston) and estranged daughter (Lindsey Haun). The movie soundtrack featured songs by Keith and other artists, including his own "Crash Here Tonight." The film generated solid disc sales and is still played often on CMT.
2013: Forbes Dubs Toby Keith "Country Music's $500 Million Man"
In 2013, Forbes magazine featured Keith on its cover with the headline "Country Music's $500 Million Man." Not only had Keith continued to make hit country songs and embark on successful tours, but his side business ventures had also proven lucrative. He opened his first Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill in Oklahoma in 2005. The restaurant named after the song "I Love This Bar" had several locations across the country, but today only one location remains. It's in Oklahoma City.
2017: Toby Keith Performs at an Inauguration Celebration for Donald Trump
Keith left the Democratic Party in 2008 and reregistered as an Independent. He told CMT, "My party that I've been affiliated with all these years doesn't stand for anything that I stand for anymore. They've lost any sensibility that they had, and they've allowed all the kooks in. So I'm going Independent." Toby is pictured above on Jan. 19, 2017, at a performance for President-elect Donald Trump in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
2021: Toby Keith Releases His 19th Studio Album
In October of 2021, Keith released his 19th studio album, Peso in My Pocket, featuring the singles "Old School," "Happy Birthday America" and "Oklahoma Breakdown." Keith began writing songs for the album at his house in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic.
2022: The BMI Country Awards' Icon Award
Keith's public appearances became more scarce past 2021 because he was fighting cancer. Yet he did get career honors a few times later in life. This trend began at the 2022 BMI Country Awards. That night, Keith performed after receiving the organization's Icon Award.
2023: People's Choice Country Awards' Country Icon Award
At his final awards show appearance, Keith took home hardware and stole the night with a live performance. He won the Country Icon Award, as presented by Blake Shelton, at the first-ever People's Choice Country Awards. That same night, Keith sang "Don't Let the Old Man In" one last time at the Grand Ole Opry House.
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