“Living in my radio”

The legacy and music of Toby Keith

By Lisa Torrez
Staff Writer 

Country music has always been a big part of my life. As a child, we listened to Waylon, Merle and Johnny Cash. In my teens and twenties, I listened and danced to Alabama, Reba McEntire, Randy Travis and many others. The storytelling and rhythm of the music was soothing and always took me back to an easier time.  

Toby Keith began his music career during the time of some of the all-time greats like George Strait, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and Alabama. 

“Should’ve Been a Cowboy” was his first hit single, and that was all it took to make him a star. He was a straight-up, tell-it -like-it-is kind of storyteller who everyone loved. He was also easy on the eyes and had the voice of an angel.  

Keith has lived in my radio, heart and mind for three decades and will continue to do so until the day I die. I often listen to his music while doing homework, household chores or driving. When my boys were little, I would pick them up from school, and we would “dance to Toby.”  

Keith’s dedication to our troops was like no other. For twelve years, he put his own life on the line to entertain them in various overseas locations. His song “American Soldier” was recorded before my son, Korey,  joined the military. I can’t help but think of my son every time I hear it.  

“Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (Angry American)” is my favorite song. Toby wrote it after 9/11 and seemed to say what most of America was thinking at the time, “How dare you come in and bomb our country and think you can get away with it.”

“I Love This Bar” always takes me back to one of my old stomping grounds that no longer exists, The Orange Blossom Special honky-tonk here in Mt. Pleasant. I spent most of the ‘80s and very early ‘90s going there to hang out with friends and dance. Just like the lyrics of the song say, every kind of person you could think of was there partying and having a good time. 

 During his last television performance at the People’s Choice Country Awards on September 28, he sang, “Don’t Let the Old Man In.” By the end of the song, I was bawling. He was so thin and frail looking. When he and sang though, it was all Toby. The same beautiful voice.  

 On Feb. 5, 2024, Keith lost his battle with stomach cancer. He was 62 years old. It was a tough day. He kept most of his disease private, while all of fans prayed for a miracle.  

 So, to you Toby Keith, I raise my Red Solo Cup and say, “Cheers!” You fought the good fight and the battle is over. Enjoy seeing your dad again and jamming with your musical heroes. 

We’re gonna’ miss you, my friend.