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Remembering the life of the "Red Solo Cup" singer, who died on Feb. 5, 2024, following a 2021 stomach cancer diagnosis
As much as he loved this bar, Toby Keith also loved his life.
The country singer — who died on Feb. 5 at age 62, nearly three years after his stomach cancer diagnosis — often spoke openly about the "roller coaster" of his life with cancer, his love for his wife and his children and his passion for his craft.
"I am pretty sound in my personal life," he told PEOPLE in 2010. "You just take life on a day-to-day basis. Yes, I feel known and loved."
As the country music community mourns their loss, take a look at Toby Keith's life in photos.
Toby Keith's Early Years
Born in Clinton, Oklahoma, on July 8, 1961, Toby Keith fell in love with music at an early age, after his grandmother gave him a guitar when he was 8. According to a 2001 PEOPLE profile, he began writing music as a teen, inspired by Willie Nelson and the Eagles, among others.
He first went into what he called "typical roughneck stuff" following high school graduation in 1979, working in the Oklahoma oil fields and playing local bars with his band Easy Money at night.
But once the oil fields "went bust," as he recalled, "I started concentrating on my music." He began touring more regionally with his band and in 1993, his self-titled debut album went platinum, with his single "Should've Been a Cowboy" becoming a certified hit.
Toby Keith's Wife Tricia
While his career was on the rise, he met Tricia Lucus, who worked for an oil company as a secretary.
"I was 19 and he was 20," she told PEOPLE in 2001. "He was just one of those larger-than-life guys, full of confidence." They dated for three years before marrying in 1984 and going on to welcome three children together.
While balancing music and family, Tricia recalled Keith telling her, " 'Trish, one of these days, my time is coming. Hang in there,' " she told PEOPLE.
Toby Keith's Early Hits
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Keith had several singles hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs list, including "How Do You Like Me Now?!," "Beer for My Horses," "I Wanna Talk About Me" and "I Love This Bar," which PEOPLE called a "playful romp" at the time of its release.
However, awards weren't coming in for the radio favorite. That "just made me fight harder," he told PEOPLE in 2001. "I have quietly carved out my own niche."
Though he never won a Grammy despite seven nominations, he did go on to win 12 ACM Awards (including the coveted Entertainer of the Year), three CMA Awards and three American Music Awards.
Toby Keith's Career Grows
In a review of the star's 2005 album Honkytonk University, PEOPLE wrote that "Keith's postmodern cowboy persona is part of his appeal."
For him, part of his appeal was his ability to fly somewhat under the radar, too.
"You get too popular, people tire of you being on top," he shared in 2001. "I've never had that superstar status. So my candle hasn't burned out."
Keith's 2011 hit "Red Solo Cup" became his most commercially successful single, spending 20 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 where it peaked at No. 15.
But he was also busy behind the scenes, running his own record label Show Dog Nashville, which merged with Universal South records in 2009. The move had Forbes naming him country's top-earning star in 2010 and put him in charge of fellow country powerhouses like Trace Adkins, Joe Nichols and Randy Houser.
Toby Keith's Children
Keith adopted Tricia’s first daughter, Shelley, now 43, after his wedding. The pair then welcomed their first child together, Krystal, now 38, in September 1985. Their third child, a son named Stelen, 26, was born in April 1997.
In 2010, Keith told PEOPLE that “everybody in the family is good. I was raised by good parents and I have great kids. They don’t have any issues at all — none.”
“They all grew up with me being successful, but they are not hooked on that part of the business,” he added.
Toby Keith's Acting Career
Keith also dabbled in acting during his time, starring in 2006's Broken Bridges alongside Kelly Preston, and cowriting a screenplay with comedian Rodney Carrington in a film called Beer for My Horses, inspired by his hit song.
In 2008 he told PEOPLE that acting and singing "aren't even close" as skill sets. "With acting you're in a surreal world. If you have a girlfriend in your movie, you have to fall in love with her," he said. "If you have an enemy in the film, you have to hate him in your mind. It's just surreal."
However, he added that "watching my screenplay come to life ... seeing the actors and actresses all read their parts — that was so cool."
Toby Keith's Restaurants and Clothing Line
Outside of the entertainment industry, Keith kept busy, launching a clothing line called TK Steelman that was "part rocker and part biker with a country-sexy aesthetic," PEOPLE once wrote.
More famously, he created the steakhouse chain I Love This Bar and Grill, starting with a location in his beloved Oklahoma City so he'd "have a bar to come home to," PEOPLE shared at the time. Each location featured concert guitars and tour souvenirs as décor, and the singer "personally approved all items on the menu in a tasting," said his managing partner Ross Crain.
Toby Keith's Charitable Endeavors
Keith was known to use his fame and fortune for good, helping to create Ally's House, a charity for children in Oklahoma with cancer, in the early 2000s. In 2009, he donated $500,000 through the organization to the Oklahoma University Medical Center.
"My father always taught us to respect veterans," Keith, whose dad lost an eye serving in the Army, told PEOPLE in 2009. "My dad and I used to talk about seeing places Americans fought, like Germany and France. He passed away before we did, so I feel he's with me when I do this."
Toby Keith's Passions and Politics
At his sprawling Oklahoma ranch — which even included a lake in which he could fish privately — Keith pursued passions including raising thoroughbred racehorses and collecting classic motorcycles and cars. Welcoming PEOPLE into his home in 2010, he said, "This is about exactly what you want."
In that same interview, he told PEOPLE that what he didn't want was people believing he had a political agenda. Keith supported Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, though also performed at Donald Trump's pre-inauguration concert in 2017.
"I don't apologize for performing for our country or military," Keith said in a statement to EW after receiving some backlash for the move. "I performed at events for previous presidents [George W.] Bush and [Barack] Obama and over 200 shows in Iraq and Afghanistan for the USO."
Toby Keith's Final Years
On June 12, 2022, Keith announced that he'd been diagnosed with stomach cancer in the fall of 2021. In an Instagram post, he said he'd spent six months undergoing chemotherapy and radiation and recovering from surgery.
“So far, so good,” he shared. “I need time to breathe, recover and relax.” He canceled scheduled tour dates, though promised, "I will see the fans sooner than later. I can't wait."
He made good on that promise: following two pop-up shows in Norman, Oklahoma, in the summer of 2023, he received the inaugural Country Music Icon Award at the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards that September, performing live on TV after giving his acceptance speech.
"Bet you thought you'd never see me in skinny jeans," Keith quipped. "I want to thank the almighty for allowing me to be here tonight. You've been riding shotgun with me for a little while."
After thanking his family, he showed his gratitude for his team noting that "a lot of people go into making a big career like this of 30 years."
"Most of all I want to thank the fans for still allowing us to do what we do," he added.
He went on to perform at Dolby Live at Park MGM in Las Vegas on Dec. 10 and 11 of 2023, calling the concerts "a damn good way to end the year" in an Instagram post later that month.
On Feb. 6, 2024, his family announced that Keith had died at age 62.
"Toby Keith passed peacefully last night on Feb. 5 surrounded by his family," a statement on his webiste and social media channels read. “He fought his fight with grace and courage."
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Read the original article on People.