Toby Keith, the larger-than-life singer-songwriter of No. 1 country hits like “Who’s Your Daddy?” and “Made in America” and one of the biggest stars to come out of Nashville in three decades, died on Monday. He was 62.
His death was announced on his official website, which said that he passed “peacefully” surrounded by his family.
The singer announced in the summer of 2022 that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and was being treated with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
In a recent interview with KWTV News 9, an Oklahoma-based TV station, Mr. Keith, who played a run of shows in Las Vegas in December, said he was still in treatment. “Cancer is a rollercoaster,” he said. “You just sit here and wait on it to go away — it may not ever go away.” Keith said that his Christian faith was helping him get through the treatment and the potential dark outcome.
Singing in an alternately declamatory and crooning baritone, Mr. Keith cultivated a boisterous, in-your-face persona with recordings like “I Wanna Talk About Me” and “Beer for My Horses.”
Built around clever wordplay and droll humor — and more than a little macho bluster — both topped the country chart, with “Beer for My Horses,” a twangy, Rolling Stones-style rocker featuring Willie Nelson on vocals, crossing over to the pop Top 40.
Mr. Keith wrote or co-wrote most of his material, which ranged stylistically from traditional honky-tonk to pop-country balladry and Southern rock. More than 60 of his singles reached the country chart, including 20 No. 1 hits, and he sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. In 2015 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in a class with Cyndi Lauper, the blues pioneer Willie Dixon, and Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.
Mr. Keith was already in his 30s, having scuffled for years to make it in the music business, when he signed his first record deal in 1993. He had previously worked as a rodeo hand, a roughneck in the Oklahoma oil fields and as a semiprofessional football player to support his young family.
“I didn’t take many vacations the first 20 years of my adult life,” Mr. Keith said in a 2018 episode of The Big Interview with Dan Rather.
“When I came out and my song hit,” he added, referring to “Should Have Been a Cowboy,” his first No. 1 country single, in 1993, “I was doing 28, 29 shows a month because I didn’t know I was going to get a second hit.”
“At the time I was just trying to outwork everybody.”
First appeared on www.nytimes.com