Willie Nelson Mourns His Late Friend Toby Keith: ‘He’s One of Us’
Over the years, Keith and Nelson collaborated on multiple musical endeavors. Most notably, perhaps, was their Keith-led duet "Beer for My Horses," which was a six-week No. 1 country hit in 2003.
After news broke of Keith's death on Monday (Feb. 5), Nelson paid tribute to his late friend with a short remembrance and a clip of one of their live performances on "Beer for My Horses." "
'I've had a lot of fun singing with Toby. He's one of us ...'" Nelson notes in the caption of his post. "Rest in peace, Toby."
Nelson was one of dozens of country artists to share remembrances of Keith after his death. Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn and Blake Shelton were just a few of the superstars who shared personal memories of the times they shared with their fellow star and friend.
The fourth and final single off of Keith's Unleashed album, "Beer for My Horses" marked a big gamble for the "Should've Been a Cowboy" star, who later said that his promotions staff pushed back on sending the song to radio on the grounds that Nelson was past his hitmaking days.
Keith stuck to his guns, especially since they'd already shelled out $300,000 on a music video — a large sum, even in the early 2000s, when videos were typically bigger-budget than they are today. The "Beer for My Horses" video could be described as a mini-movie, starring Keith as a homicide detective alongside actor and producer Corin Nemec. Eventually, they bring in Nelson — a grizzled veteran detective — to help crack the case.
The country singer's decision to send "Beer for My Horses" to radio — against the wishes of his team — rewarded him with a massive hit, and became one of the reasons why Keith was known for going his own way and pushing back against label or management executives who tried to hold sway over his career.
What Else Have Toby Keith and Willie Nelson Done Together?
The two country legends have shared stages, hung out backstage at awards shows, participated in each other's charity events and much more. In 2004, the pair played the pre-game concert before the Super Bowl.
Keith's 2003 Shock'n Y'all album also includes a song called "Weed With Willie" that — you guessed it — tips its hat to Nelson's famous love of cannabis. In 2017, Keith revisited that same topic with "Wacky Tobaccy," and enlisted Nelson to make a cameo in the music video.
Keith has also participated in multiple musical tributes and all-star concerts dedicated to Nelson's legacy; in 2003, he participated in the all-star concert special Live and Kickin': Willie Nelson & Friends. The singer also made multiple appearances at Nelson's annual Farm Aid event over the years.
How Did Toby Keith Die?
Keith died on Feb. 5 at the age of 62, according to a statement shared to his website and social media pages.
He had been battling stomach cancer for over two years, a diagnosis he made public in summer 2022. Though he took time off to undergo treatment and rest, he vowed to return to the stage when possible. In 2023, he kept that promise with a series of Oklahoma pop-up shows, a televised performance of "Don't Let the Old Man In" at the inaugural People's Choice Country Awards and three sold-out concerts in Las Vegas that December.
Keith is survived by Tricia Lucus, his wife of almost 40 years, and their three children, Shelley, Krystal and Stelen. He is also survived by multiple grandchildren and extended family.
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