Photo by Larry Busacca
The SHOF has lost a valued member of its family today with the passing of 2015 inductee, Toby Keith. One of his proudest professional achievements was his induction into the SHOF which put him in a class with some of the greatest global all-genre songwriters. A true friend, we could always count on his support of our programs celebrating songwriters and nurturing and developing younger ones. Although a number of his biggest hits expressed his unapologetic patriotism, his sharp wit and tremendous sense of humor is prevalent in almost all of his songs. A larger than life legend, he always looked like he was having the best time performing one of his songs — which will live on to be sung and enjoyed by many future generations. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his beloved wife, Tricia, his children, grandchildren and loved ones. May your soul rest in peace, Toby.
Nile Rodgers, Chairman and Linda Moran, President & CEO, Songwriters Hall of Fame
Toby Keith stands out in country music in having written at least one chart-topping single over each of the past 20 years, including “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” “I Love This Bar,” “As Good As I Once Was,” “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “Who’s Your Daddy?,” "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)," “Beer for My Horses” and “American Soldier.”
Born Toby Keith Covel (July 8, 1961), the native Oklahoman grew up on a farm near Oklahoma City. He was influenced by country musicians including Bob Wills and Merle Haggard, and worked as a rodeo hand in high school, then in oil fields while playing country-rock in local honky-tonks. He also played semipro football before focusing on his music.
Keith’s breakthrough hit “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” reached No. 1 in 1993 and became the most-played country song of the decade, with over three million radio performances. In 1999, “How Do You Like Me Now?!” crossed over to the pop Top 40 chart. In 2001, he was named Male Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Country Music, which also pronounced How Do You Like Me Now?! Album of the Year. Later that year his follow-up album Pull My Chain became his first No. 1 country album and first Top 10 pop album.
In 2002, Keith’s highly charged response to 9-11, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)," brought his mainstream visibility to a new level, reaching No. 25 on the pop chart while topping the country chart and laid the groundwork for a great number of his successful pro-American themed songs that followed. Meanwhile, Keith was also appearing on Touched by an Angel and in a Dukes of Hazzard TV reunion movie, and founded his own label, Show Dog Nashville.
Keith’s other endeavors include his I Love This Bar And Grill restaurants and his signature Wild Shot Mezcal. His Toby Keith Foundation helps sick children and their families in Oklahoma.
With over 85 million BMI broadcast performances, 32 No. 1 and 42 Top Ten hit singles and over 40 million albums sold, Keith was a three-time BMI Country Songwriter/Artist of the Year and recipient of BMI’s 2022 Icon Award, a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s Songwriter/Artist of the Decade, the American Country Awards’ 2011 Artist of the Decade and Billboard’s Top Country Artist and Songwriter of the 21st Century’s first decade, finishing behind only Eminem and Britney Spears on the decade’s all-genre Billboard 200 chart. Keith was also a recipient of the National Medal of Arts.
Toby is survived by his wife, Tricia Lucus, his children Shelley, Krystal and Stelen, and his four grandchildren.