Country music lost a great one on Monday. Toby Keith passed away at the age of 62 putting people in shock across not only the country but the world. However, those closest to him may have seen it coming. Keith was being treated for stomach cancer that he was diagnosed with in 2021 and has not been the same person ever since. This type of cancer is most common in men over the age of 60 and can be a result of smoking, unhealthy eating, and the use of alcohol. Stomach cancer can be so difficult because often many symptoms are not shown early on so doctors have a hard time finding the cancer till later when it may be too late. Keith updated his status multiple times along the way with his latest updating coming in June of 2023 detailing that the tumor was shrinking and that he was continuing chemotherapy. Nevertheless, stomach cancer spreads very quickly to other parts of the body and has a survival rate of under 36 percent at this stage.
“It is one of the more aggressive cancers, and we don’t have a really high success rate with curing people, even when they have had a surgery.” -- Jennifer Eads
In the wake of his death, people are becoming more aware of just how dangerous stomach cancer can be and alert to the changes that need to be made in how patients receive treatment.
Toby Keith was born on July 8th, 1961 in Clinton, Oklahoma. As a child, his family, which included his brother and sister as well as parents Carolyn and Hubert, moved several times but ended up in Moore, Oklahoma which is where he spend the majority of his childhood. As a boy Toby was always around music, he started playing with his grandma’s supper club when he was 8 and got his first guitar as well. In high school he played defensive end for the football team and was a fall back later in life. The next 5 year after high school, Keith spent time working in the oil industry while forming the Easy Money Band with some of his friends. When the oil industry began to decline, Keith found himself unemployed and bounced between his band and playing for a semi-pro football team named the Oklahoma City Drillers. When he didn't make the squad one year, Toby focused solely on his band, which played the honky-tonk circuit in Oklahoma and Texas, with no confidence in his ability to succeed from his family and friends.
Those into his music already know, but Toby Keith had always been a figure of patriotism through his music and through his words with his father being in the army when he was a kid. His career took off in the 1990’s when he signed with Mercury Records and by 1994 his debut album became platinum. In 1997, he had one of 7 Grammy nominations with his hit “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying. The next several years were filled to the brim with accomplishments as Keith won Album of the Year and his first CMA award as the best male vocalist of the year in 2001. Relating back to his military roots, Keith published an album Unleashed which was his first album on the Billboard 200 and included his best song ever “Beer for My Horses” that was a duet with Willie Nelson. One of the most hard hitting lines in the song leaves everyone thinking.
“Raise up your glasses against evil forces; Whiskey for my men, beer for my horses.”
This album hit close to home and was written after his father passed away in 2001 in a car accident as well as the events of 9/11 which influenced his music. For the following ten years, Toby Keith won countless more awards and appeared in movies and shows like Big Dog Daddy A Classic Christmas, and Beer for My Horses. However, his health slowly began to take a downfall and for the last several years Keith has not kept on making music or been as active performing. He and his wife Tricia started the Toby Keith Foundation in 2007 to help children and families battling cancer and is glaringly more important after his own death from stomach cancer. While you may not have liked or loved his music, Toby Keith will always be regarded as a terrific human being; he epitomized what it meant to be an American and will be remembered in country music history forever.