Watch Toby Keith’s Final Television Performance


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As country music fans and the country music community mourn the passing of singer, songwriter and musical iconoclast Toby Keith, who died Feb. 5 at age 62 following a battle with stomach cancer, it is notable the fortitude he possessed in his final months.


On Sept. 28, Toby Keith played what would be his final television performance when he took part in the inaugural People’s Choice Country Awards held at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House. Keith was honored with the Country Icon Award during the ceremony.

During the show, Keith’s fellow country artist Blake Shelton called him a “global country superstar, award-winning singer-songwriter, devoted and beloved activist, business powerhouse … Toby Keith is a multi-dimensional artist like no other … a global megastar, a man of the people, and a genuine inspiration. Toby Keith is a true icon.”

In accepting the country icon honor, Keith’s speech was both lighthearted and heartfelt. “I bet you never thought y’all’d see me in skinny jeans,” he joked before getting serious. “I want to thank the Almighty for allowing me to be here tonight. He’s been riding shotgun with me for a little while now. I want to thank my beautiful family that’s here. A lot of people go in and make a career like this of 30 years.”

Keith also gave one of the evening’s most powerful performances as he took the stage to sing “Don’t Let the Old Man In,” a song he wrote solo, and which was included in the 2018 Clint Eastwood movie The Mule. Though the physical toll of Keith’s cancer battle was evident as he stood onstage, his voice was a strong as ever — filled with grit, refined by life — as he offered a musical tribute to living every day to its fullest. “Try to love on your wife and stay close to your friends/ Toast each sundown with wine/ Don’t let the old man in,” he sang.

Following the performance, Keith’s “Don’t Let the Old Man In” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Digital Song Sales in October.


Keith, who was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015, followed the performance by releasing the album 100% Songwriter — an album filled with songs he wrote — in November 2023. His final concerts came in December at the Dolby Live at Park MGM in Las Vegas, when he spearheaded a trio of sold-out concerts, performing several of his hits, such as “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” and “Red Solo Cup.”

Since his career debut in 1993, Keith notched 20 No. 1 Country Airplay hits. He also earned three Billboard Music Awards during his career, including country singles artist of the year (2002), as well as country artist of the year and country albums artist of the year (both in 2005).

See Keith’s People’s Choice Country Awards performance above.

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