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Late Country Music Star Toby Keith Was ‘Misunderstood,’ Says Longtime Rep

By Michael Feb 7, 2024
Toby Keith Was Misunderstood and Was One of the Most Courageous Men I Knew Says Longtime Rep
Toby Keith Rick Diamond/WireImage/Getty Images

Toby Keith’s longtime rep said the late country singer was “misunderstood” following his death at age 62.

“I loved Toby Keith,” Elaine Schock said in a statement on Tuesday, February 6. “He was brilliant, fun to be with and we would have some robust discussions. Plus, he could write and sing his ass off.”

Schock also pushed back on the popular misconceptions about Keith that took hold over the years. “Toby was kind. I think he was misunderstood because he was painted a certain way, but that was an incorrect portrait,” she continued. “He was so much more. He was certainly one of the most courageous men I knew.”

The “Made in America” singer died on Monday, February 5, after a battle with cancer, his family announced on Tuesday. Keith revealed in June 2022 that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer.

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“Toby Keith passed peacefully last night on February 5th, surrounded by his family. He fought his fight with grace and courage,” his family’s statement read. “Please respect the privacy of his family at this time.”

Keith is survived by wife Tricia Lucus, whom he married in 1984, their three children and four grandchildren.

Over the course of his lengthy career, Keith released 19 studio albums and had 20 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot Country chart, including 1993’s “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” , 1999’s “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” 2003’s “Beer for My Horses” featuring Willie Nelson and more.

Keith was one of the most popular country artists, receiving 11 Academy of Country Music Awards, including Entertainer of the Year in 2003 and 2004, but he faced plenty of controversy throughout his career. When Schock said he was “misunderstood,” she may have been referring to the backlash he received when he released the song “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” in 2002.

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The song expressed the rage Keith and other Americans felt after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with explicit lyrics including, “You’ll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A / ‘Cause we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.”

“I wrote it so that I had something to play for our fighting men and women,” he told Time in March 2004. “But once people said I should release it, I knew there was going to be trouble. I’m comfortable being extreme, but saying ‘boot in your ass’ is so extreme. Of course, if you say, ‘foot in your butt,’ you got no song.”

The song struck a sour nerve with Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, now known simply as The Chicks.

“I hate it,” she told the Los Angeles Daily News in 2002. “It makes country music sound ignorant. It targets an entire culture — and not just the bad people who did bad things. You’ve got to have some tact. Anybody can write, ‘We’ll put a boot in your ass.’ But a lot of people agree with it.”

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Negative responses also prevented Keith from singing the song on television.

He was scheduled to perform on a 4th of July ABC special in 2002, but his appearance was canceled because of the provocative lyrics of “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.”

“I knew it would be polarizing,” he told Fox in 2021. “I knew it would be a lightning rod. And I prayed about it. But at the end of the day, it was a battle cry for our guys to go win and get back home safely and go do what Americans really do.”

By Michael

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