The country music community has begun mourning Toby Keith, who died Monday at 62 following a battle with cancer. His fans and peers remembered the singer and songwriter as the soundtrack to their lives and a trailblazer in his own right in various tributes shared across social media.
“Saddle up the horses, Jesus, ‘cause a true blue COWBOY just made his ride up to heaven!!! Introduce him to all the Okies and sign that boy up for the choir,” Carrie Underwood wrote on Instagram, sharing a carousel of photos with Keith over the years. “We’re gonna miss you, Toby, but my heart has no doubt that you are standing in the presence of our King right now!!! See you again someday, friend.”
Zach Bryan, who like Underwood is a fellow Oklahoma native, shared a tribute on X (formerly Twitter). “Too many rides in my old man’s car listening to Toby Keith. Really hard thing to hear rest in peace friend we love you,” he wrote, adding: “America lost a fuckin hero man.”
Dolly Parton also shared a statement, writing in part, “Toby Keith was one of the greats in every way. He will be missed but his music and legacy will live on,” while Luke Combs tweeted, “Damn, RIP Toby. Can’t believe it.”
Jelly Roll, Luke Combs, Oliver Anthony, Old Dominion, and Jason Aldean all offered tributes, as did Blake Shelton, who wrote on X, “Even though I knew about your battle these last few months I still never imagined this day. Anyone who knew you knows what I mean. You were the toughest man I ever met. Thank you brother for being a friend, a hero and an inspiration. There will never be another Toby Keith.”
Lance Carpenter, whom Keith signed to his Show Dog Nashville label, shared an Instagram post that featured Keith’s 2009 ballad “Cryin’ for Me (Wayman’s Song),” where he sings: “I’m going to miss that smile, I’m going to miss you my friend.” In his caption, Carpenter wrote, “I never imagined the last time we talked would be the last time we’d talk. I’m gonna miss you my friend.”
The Nashville band Old Dominion described Keith as a “true trailblazer” in their statement, shared via X. “Authentic and heartfelt but always with a wink ‘til the end,” they wrote. “He was larger than life in so many ways and his music will live on forever! Raising our red solos tonight—you will be missed by so many. Peace.”
Dustin Lynch honored Keith, sharing a video of him performing “I Should’ve Been a Cowboy” with “the next generation of cowboys” onstage. “We’ll ride on with you and make sure our flag flies high,” he wrote.
Brooks & Dunn’s Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks each shared tributes of their own, too. The former called Keith a “troubadour gone too soon,” adding, “He was a friend, ornery, rough, tough, kind and loyal… if he liked you. A rascal, an outlaw with a big heart. He was opinionated, usually his way or the highway. A patriot that acted, didn’t just talk it.”
Brooks, meanwhile, recalled touring with Keith in the Nineties, saying, “I’ll never forget after our first show together, he said, ‘We’ve got to find a place to play’… After that we would go find a house band after every show and burn ’til the flame was gone. He was a relentless participant in every aspect of his life — performing, writing, golf, hanging with his friends, along with his dedication to the military and the red, white and blue.”
Dan + Shay paid tribute, sharing a cover of “She Never Cried in Front of Me.” “RIP to one of the greatest country music songwriters of all time,” they captioned the video.
Keith’s influence expanded beyond the sphere of country music as well. The musician was known to be an avid golfer, prompting tributes from those he encountered in the sport.
“I woke up with tears down my face for our friend @tobykeith. Gone way too soon. What a blessing he was to so many,” wrote Kendall Dye, a PING Golf representative, on Instagram. “One of my first concerts, memories of replaying his albums on my drives to high school, eventually having a friendship with him & his sweet family. We can all be certain he’s got a tee time in heaven today … TK was a huge supporter of golf, especially womens professional, collegiate, and amateur golf. He made the world a better place. Please keep his sweet family in your prayers.”
In a separate post, video director Michael Monaco recalled the pivotal career moment he shared with Keith. “Not many people know this but Toby bought me my first-ever professional video camera while I was in college,” he explained on Instagram. “I had one of the greatest honors of my life getting to go to Afghanistan with Toby to film one of his USO tours. It was extremely surreal for me because Toby was one of my heroes as kid.”
He added: “Toby was always so good to me. He used to call me Bambi, and to be honest, I loved it because I knew for him to give me a nickname meant he liked me, even though I was a young and green kid who knew nothing. I’ve been reflecting on my time with Toby for a while now knowing he has been sick. Today I know he’s resting with Jesus and no longer in pain. I am so thankful that I was kid with big dreams and one of my heroes gave me my first big shot. I love you Toby.”
In December, Keith performed his final concerts in Las Vegas, a three-night stand that included hits like “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” “Whiskey Girl,” and “Beer for My Horses.”
Music Country – Rolling Stone