Toby Keith 'Was Misunderstood' and Painted as an 'Incorrect Portrait,' Says Longtime Rep (Exclusive)

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The country star's longtime rep Elaine Schock opens up to PEOPLE about how Keith was perceived by the public

Jason Kempin/Getty Toby Keith in Nashville in December 2018
Jason Kempin/Getty Toby Keith in Nashville in December 2018

Toby Keith was more than meets the surface.

Elaine Schock, the country singer's rep and longtime friend, told PEOPLE that Keith was "misunderstood," after he died at age 62 on Monday night.

"I loved Toby Keith," she said in a statement. "He was brilliant, fun to be with and we would have some robust discussions. Plus, he could write and sing his ass off."

Schock added: "Toby was kind. I think he was misunderstood because he was painted a certain way but that was an incorrect portrait. He was so much more. He was certainly one of the most courageous men I knew."

"I’m not quite sure how to maneuver in a world without Toby yet. I hate the thought of it," she concluded.

<p>Erika Goldring/WireImage</p> Toby Keith performs onstage during the iHeartCountry Festival in Austin in October 2021

Erika Goldring/WireImage

Toby Keith performs onstage during the iHeartCountry Festival in Austin in October 2021

Related: Toby Keith Dead at 62 Following Stomach Cancer Diagnosis: 'Passed Peacefully'

On Monday night, Keith “passed peacefully," his family shared in a statement posted on social media.

The country crooner was diagnosed with stomach cancer in the fall of 2021.

"Toby Keith passed peacefully last night on Feb. 5 surrounded by his family, the statement read. “He fought his fight with grace and courage."

"Please respect the privacy of his family at this time," the message concluded.

Richard Mclaren Toby Keith
Richard Mclaren Toby Keith

Keith — known for hits such as “Red Solo Cup” and “Should Have Been a Cowboy” — performed his 2019 track "Don't Let the Old Man In" at the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards in September.

In October, the seven-time Grammy nominee confirmed he'd be taking the stage in December for two concerts at Dolby Live at Park MGM in Las Vegas on Dec. 10 and 11. Later, Keith said he'd be performing a third Vegas show on Dec. 14.

Jason Kempin/Getty Toby Keith in Nashville in December 2018
Jason Kempin/Getty Toby Keith in Nashville in December 2018

He posted to Instagram on Dec. 28 to call the sold-out shows "a damn good way to end the year," sharing a montage of his concerts.

On Dec. 31, Keith shared a post expressing gratitude and looking toward the New Year, writing: "Been one hell of a year with a lot to be grateful for. Here's to 2024!"

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<p>Terry Wyatt/Getty</p> Toby Keith in Nashville in September 2023

Terry Wyatt/Getty

Toby Keith in Nashville in September 2023

Related: Toby Keith Kept Playing to the End: Country Singer Performed His Final Shows Just 2 Months Ago

During the ceremony, the musician delivered a speech after receiving the inaugural Country Music Icon Award.

Blake Shelton presented Keith with the award, honoring him for his work as a musician, humanitarian and entrepreneur.

"Bet you thought you'd never see me in skinny jeans," he teased while accepting the honor. "I want to thank the almighty for allowing me to be here tonight. You've been riding shotgun with me for a little while."

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