Toby Keith Delivers First Television Performance Since Cancer Diagnosis
Toby Keith returned to the stage for his first televised performance since his cancer diagnosis nearly two years ago.
Toby Keith was just part of the impressive lineup for Thursday night’s (Sept. 28) inaugural People’s Choice Country Awards. The first-ever country version of the fan voted awards was held at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville where the year’s favorite artists, songs and music videos were honored.
Hosted by Little Big Town, the People’s Choice Country Awards was a night jam-packed with performances and history-making moments that included two of the genre’s greatest artists being honored: Toby Keith and Wynonna Judd.
Wynonna was on hand to accept the Country Champion award, and Toby Keith was presented with the Country Icon Award. The awards marked were especially significant for both artists as they each have faced their own personal trials in recent years. For Wynonna it was the unexpected death of her mom and former The Judds partner, Naomi, in April 2022. For Toby it was a stomach cancer diagnosis in the fall of 2021.
Toby took some time out of the spotlight and away from performing while undergoing treatment for cancer, but has been teasing a return to touring in recent months.
In early July, the 62-year-old country star made two surprise appearances at Hollywood Corners, his Oklahoma venue, for a “test run” following news that his tumor had shrunk by a third as he continued treatment. Both of his Hollywood Corners shows lasted over two hours with Keith sounding and looking as strong as ever.
Thursday’s televised performance was a huge victory for Toby Keith, and a moment celebrated by fans who prayed that he would one day return.
For his return, Toby sang “Don’t Let The Old Man In,” a song that was inspired by a conversation he had with acting legend Clint Eastwood. In a 2018 press conference, Keith recalled meeting Eastwood on a California golf course and the conversation that followed.
“I [asked] ‘What keeps you going?’ and he said ‘I get up every day and don’t let the old man in.’ And I went ‘I’m writing this damn thing right now’,” Keith said. “I didn’t ask if I could put it in the movie. I just went home and wrote it and sent it to him and hoped that he would consider it. And, you know, he did.”
Toby said that writing a song for Eastwood challenged him to write the best song he’s ever written.
“I knew who I was writing it for and I knew who had inspired me to write it. I wanted to deliver him the best thing that I could,” Keith said. “The second I wrote it, it was just like I jumped 500 feet in the air…I knew I had accomplished what I wanted to accomplish.”
The live performance came one week after Toby Keith announced a new album titled 100% Songwriter.
Releasing on November 3, 100% Songwriter features 13 songs solely written by Keith. He has seen success as a singer, entrepreneur and songwriter, but the title of songwriter is what he is most proud of. Accomplishing the rare feat of being one of the only artists to have written one chart topping song every year for two decades isn’t something to be overlooked.
This new album gives Toby Keith fans a chance to enjoy and celebrate Toby’s songwriting achievements with songs such as “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” “He Ain’t Worth Missin’,” “Who’s That Man,” “Crash Here Tonight” and more.