Country music icon John Rich recently weighed in on the late Toby Keith’s legacy, especially the deep love of country and the U.S. military he had that transcended political divides.
“Toby Keith was a patriot, you know, and he did not care who had a problem with it,” Rich told Fox News Digital this week.
Keith, one of country music’s most popular artists of all time, died Monday night at the age of 62 after a battle with stomach cancer. His passing was mourned by the country music community and the world.
Tributes poured in following news of the tragedy, including one from Rich, who wrote on X, “Waking up to the terrible news that our friend, and legend @tobykeith has passed away from cancer. He was a true Patriot, a first class singer/songwriter, and a bigger than life kind of guy. He will be greatly missed.”
Keith crafted such hits as 1993’s “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” and “Beer for My Horses,” a duet with Willie Nelson that saw major mainstream success in the 2000s.
In addition to these country smash hits, the artist was well known for writing songs that expressed his love for America and its troops fighting overseas, particularly those fighting after the 9/11 attacks.
The country legend penned multiple songs proclaiming American strength and resolve in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. In 2002, he wrote “Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American),” an anthem about the U.S. striking back against the “sucker punch” of that day.
The next year, Keith wrote “The Taliban Song,” a comedic tune ridiculing the Islamic extremists who had taken over Afghanistan and propped up the terrorists that committed the 9/11 atrocities. The album that song was on, “Shock’n Y’all,” also featured a ballad to the brave men and women of the U.S. armed forces, titled, “American Soldier.”
In addition to writing and performing pro-America, pro-military songs, Keith also went on 11 USO tours to visit and play for troops serving overseas.
Rich reminisced about Keith’s patriotism.
“You know, the songs he wrote, whether it be a funny song like ‘Red Solo Cup’ or it was some kind of serious song about our veterans or our military, that was him. He was God, family, country. He loved football, loved to have a good time. And I think his authenticity is why he’s so popular,” Rich said.
He continued, “I mean, I think Americans from coast to coast, even Americans outside of who I would even probably hang out with, love Toby Keith. He was instrumental after 9/11, I think, with some of his music and what he did for our veterans, to give everybody music they could all hang on to.”
Rich explained that he became very familiar with Keith during the early days of his own country music career, noting that his first performances involved playing Toby Keith songs, like “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” “two or three times a night.”
The country star stated that after he landed his big record deal, he was invited to tour with Keith where they would get to know each other and develop a professional relationship and friendship.
Keith struck Rich as a man who didn’t just speak about his love for the country and the troops, but “actually acted upon it.”
Speaking about the late artist’s tours overseas, he said, “So he did over 12 USO tours. And I don’t know if you’ve ever traveled to the Middle East, but it is a long flight. I mean, it takes a long time to get there.”
“He was going into dangerous locations on site with our troops in the middle of war and singing it to them over and over. Military hospitals he would visit, bringing veterans up on the stage every night. I mean, it was part of his life,” Rich added.
The country artist also mentioned that Keith’s love for country did not get caught up in the recent partisan divisions in the country. Rich talked about the musician’s decision to perform at former President Trump’s 2017 inauguration weekend, where he also saluted outgoing President Obama at the time.
“That was a huge night,” Rich said. “And, you know, Toby could have said, ‘Nah, I don’t want to do it because, you know, it’s polarizing because this election was like it was.’ He said, ‘No, you’re the president. I’ll come sing, be glad to be there.’ And he walked out and sang his songs. He was a tough, straight-ahead guy.”
When asked if Keith would ever feel constrained in being pro-America in today’s climate, Rich declared, “No. Toby. Toby Keith didn’t give two s—- what you thought about him or about his love of his country.”
“That’s what made him the real deal,” Rich concluded.