Toby Keith Larger Than Life: From One Okie to Another
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Toby Keith Larger Than Life: From One Okie to Another

Country music lost a friend Monday night when Toby Keith lost his years-long battle with stomach cancer.

"He fought his fight with grace and courage," the statement said.

Mr. Keith played his final concerts at Park MGM's Dolby Live in Las Vegas in December. That steady determination is one of the things Garth Brooks remembers about his fellow Oklahoman. While Garth and Mr. Keith weren't close friends, Garth explained that in the business where change is typically the only thing on which you can depend, Mr. Keith broke the mold.

"Toby was the same every time you saw him," Garth said. "Loved him or hated him; he was constant."

Mr. Keith was born Toby Keith Covel on July 8, 1961. He claimed his first of 20 No. 1 songs with "Should've Been A Cowboy" in 1993. Last year, he celebrated three decades in the country music business.

"I knew of Toby his entire career, but only got to know him a bit at the Tornado Relief Concert he did in Oklahoma over a decade ago," Garth said. "What he did for the victims and survivors brought a ray of hope in a dark, dark time."

In addition to aiding his fellow Oklahomans with the tornado relief concert in 2013, Mr. Keith was also known for his unwavering support of the U.S. military. Mr. Keith frequently headlined USO tours during his career and didn't flinch at flying into dangerous areas to lift morale for troops. Mr. Keith also used his Toby Keith Foundation to build and fund the OK Kids Korral, a no-cost home for children and their families battling cancer in Oklahoma.

"When someone I know passes away, I usually think of two things: my own mortality and what I learned from this person," Garth said. "What I learned from Toby is what I hope I am able to do when it's my turn to wear those shoes. He was ALWAYS Toby...all the way up to his passing."

Garth explained Mr. Keith might have looked thinner than the larger-than-life cowboy everyone was used to seeing on stage but that his spirit was undeniable.

"He was still that no-filter, very loud, honest guy he was in the beginning," Garth said. “And artist to artist, he sounded the best I had ever heard him the last time he took the stage at the Ryman and in Vegas - a feat all of us artists wish to accomplish."

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