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Toby Keith was on hand to receive the Country Icon Award, presented by his fellow Oklahoman Blake Shelton, and to perform. The performance marked his first televised performance since his cancer diagnosis in late 2021.
Hosted by Little Big Town, the People’s Choice Country Awards was a night filled with star-studded performances, surprise appearances and more. The event was held at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House and included plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and a glimpse into country music history.
But it was Toby Keith’s appearance that was a highlight of the night. A few lucky fans have had the opportunity to catch impromptu performances from the “How Do You Like Me Now” singer in recent months. But Thursday’s People’s Choice Country Awards was a triumph for the star as it marked his first time singing on television since being diagnosed with stomach cancer.
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The award recognized Toby Keith for his decades-long career as a singer, songwriter, humanitarian and entrepreneur. Cassandra Tryon, Senior Vice President of Entertainment Live Events at NBCUniversal, acknowledged Toby’s contribution to country music and his philanthropic projects as a major factor to him earning this honor.
“We’re overjoyed to honor legendary artist Toby Keith with the first-ever “Country Icon” Award,” Tryon said. “As a talented songwriter and powerhouse performer, Keith has touched the hearts of fans across the globe. His illustrious career and passion for philanthropy has cemented his place as an icon in country music history.”
100% Songwriter features 13 songs solely written by Keith and is scheduled for release on November 3, 2023. Toby has seen many success throughout his career, but the success he’s achieved as a songwriter that he is most proud of. He holds the distinct honor of being one of the only artists to have written one chart-topping song every year for two decades, and many of those songs will be included on the new album.
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.
Toby wrote the song for Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood’s 2018 film The Mule. He 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.”
As expected, the fans embraced Toby’s return, singing along with every word and giving him a standing ovation when the song was over.
Watch Toby Keith’s emotional return to the stage in the video below.