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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Country star Toby Keith dies at 62. Here’s a look back at some of his Spokane shows and most intimate interviews

Toby Keith concludes the first song during his “That’s Country, Bro” tour stop at Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights in August 2019. Keith died of stomach cancer Monday.  (LIbby Kamrowski/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

While supporting his second album, “Boomtown,” country star Toby Keith made his first Spokane appearance in February 1995 at the Coliseum. The outspoken singer-songwriter, who died at 62 Monday from stomach cancer, last performed in August 2019 at Northern Quest Resort & Casino.

Keith delivered the hits during his “That’s Country, Bro” tour, such as “Red Solo Cup,” “I Love This Bar,” “Beer for My Horses” and his signature anthem “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.”

He made headlines courtesy of a long-running feud with the Chicks’ Natalie Maines. But Keith downplayed his row with the female country trio and was a laid-back interview subject. During conversations, it was evident that it was a misnomer that Keith was an arch conservative: He praised President Barack Obama during a 2012 chat and maintained that he was a political independent.

Like many of his peers, Keith preferred talking sports over politics. When Keith topped the country charts in 1993 with “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” it was uncertain whether he was warbling about a missed opportunity on the range or on the gridiron.

“I love football,” Keith said while calling from his Norman, Oklahoma, home in 2017. “I’ve always been so into the game.”

Keith was an ardent Oklahoma Sooners and Pittsburgh Steelers fan since he was a kid, walking along the red dirt of suburban Oklahoma City during the 1970s. But he wasn’t just a fan.

Keith was a football standout in high school, and he played for the semi-pro Oklahoma City Drillers during the early ’80s.

The rough-hewn singer was burly and tough. Keith worked in oil fields before his music career took off.

“I loved playing football,” Keith said. “But it didn’t work out for me. However, I can’t argue how it all turned out for me.”

Keith released 19 albums, and the married father of three sold more than 40 million. Keith also appeared in a number of films, including 2008’s “Beer For My Horses,” based on the song he recorded in 2003 with Willie Nelson.

“It’s been an amazing ride,” Keith said. “I love every day of my career. I’ve had a great deal of things go my way. But it all goes back to my music. If I didn’t have this career, I’d be in an oil field or some place like that.”

Keith was always unapologetically politically incorrect, but said he meant no harm.

“I’m not trying to hurt people’s feelings, but I’m going to say what I think and write songs the way I write songs,” Keith said. “That’s the way it’ll always be for me.”

“Late Show” host Stephen Colbert had Keith on his Comedy Central vehicle “The Colbert Report” on numerous occasions and raved about his tunes.

“Stephen is one of those guys that gets it,” Keith said. “He has an open mind. I have an open mind. I can’t be a Democrat or a Republican. I’m an independent thinker, and I reflect that as a voter. I also hope my music reflects that as well. You’ve got to be open-minded, or you’re in trouble.”