Country music star Toby Keith died earlier this week following a long battle with stomach cancer. My heart is broken.
It’s rare for me to write about music, but next to writing and reading, listening and singing along to music are my next favorite things to do. My tastes have changed over the years, but there was a period about 20 years ago when I devoured everything country music, and my favorite singer was Toby Keith.
He’s taken some criticism over the years for his unapologetic stances on current events (BTW, I loved the Dixie Chicks, too!) But I first fell for him in the earlier days, and I loved everything about him — his big voice, his big look, his ability to turn a clever phrase, his swagger and confidence. I’ve seen him in concert four or five times. I even joined his fan club (!) and got to meet him twice (sadly, only quick meet-and-greets).
Here are some images from a concert in 2005 (Thanks to my hubby for the shots….not bad for a basic Kodak digital, back in the day.)
I first heard Toby’s voice in a television commercial for 10-10-220 with Terry Bradshaw and was hooked. Most people might have known him best for his later beer-drinking, honky-tonky songs, but those were my least favorite of his many recordings. So for those who don’t know the depth of his music, here are my favorites:
Love songs: I once read that he claimed his success (in crafting love songs) was that he wrote things in his lyrics that a man would never really say to a woman. (It’s kind of the same in romance novels, right?) Whether it’s true or not for other men, for him it was a winning formula. “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This” is probably my favorite love song.
Humor: I also loved his sense of humor, like “As Good as I once Was,” about a man who laments the changes in a man’s body as he ages. Or in Toby’s words: “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good, once, as I ever was.” Then there are those showcased in his “bus songs” — songs he and his band-mates wrote to while away time on the long bus rides. My favorites: “The Taliban” and “I’ll Never Smoke Weed with Willie Again.”
Mellow and blue: “Tired,” about a man who works in a factory, just trying to get by, day by day.
But my absolute all-time favorite is “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” I can still hear the thousands of concert-goers belting out the lyrics with him, every time he played it.
Thank you for the many great memories, Toby. Rest in peace.