Toby Keith Shares Powerful Performance Following People’s Choice Country Icon Award Win

Moments after receiving the inaugural Country Icon Award at the People’s Choice Country Awards on Thursday (September 28), Toby Keith shared an emotional performance of his 2019 song “Don’t Let the Old Man In.”

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Many moons I have lived / My body’s weathered and worn / Ask yourself how would you be / If you didn’t know the day you were born sang Keith through the emotional ballad, which he originally wrote for Clint Eastwood’s 2018 film The Mule. As the camera panned out, Keith’s wife Tricia Lucus could be seen in the audience, wiping tears from her eyes as he sang through the sobering lyrics.

Before Blake Shelton presented Keith with the Country Icon Award, he performed Keith’s 2002 song “Who’s Your Daddy?” Shelton and Keith previously collaborated when they performed Keith’s 1993 No. 1 hit “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” at the 2018 ACM Awards.

“They say your big break comes when you sign your record deal or your first song comes out,” said Shelton before presenting Keith with the award. “For me, one of those things was getting to open for Toby Keith. Back when I was a new artist I got to go on the road with Toby, and night after night, 20,000 fans showed up to see Toby. … Watching him I felt the impact of Toby, from the anthems that spoke to bigger things to the songs that are full of humor and energy and the soundtrack to good times.”

Shelton added, “I love my Oklahoma brother. Tonight, I couldn’t be prouder to present the Country Icon Award to Toby Keith.”

Accepting his award, Keith, 62, joked “I bet y’all thought you’d ever see me in skinny jeans.” He added “I would like to thank the almighty for allowing me to be here tonight. He’s been riding shotgun with me for a little while.”

Keith added, “I want to thank my beautiful family here. A lot of people go into making a big career like this of 30 years, my manager TK Kimbrell, Curt Motley, Brian O’Connell, Elain Schock, the band and the crew, and everybody that’s all behind us. All the great musicians that have played on all these albums in the studio. They’ve poured their heart and soul into what I do. Most of all, I want to thank the fans for still allowing us to do what we do.”

The performance was a rare one for Keith who was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2021 and has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment since then. The country star recently returned to the stage and made two surprise shows at his restaurant and bar Hollywood Corners Roadhouse in Norman, Oklahoma.

Known for his hits “How Do You Like Me Now?!” “American Soldier,” and “A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action,” Keith has released 19 albums throughout his career, from his self-titled debut in 1993 through his most recent, Peso in My Pocket, in 2021.

A loyal supporter of his home state of Oklahoma, Keith also established the Toby Keith Foundation in 2006 to help provide no-cost housing for children battling cancer and receiving treatment at The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center. In 2014, Keith also opened OK Kids Korral, which provides free housing for patients and their families during treatment.

[RELATED: 3 Songs You Didn’t Know Toby Keith Wrote for Other Artists]

“We’re overjoyed to honor legendary artist Toby Keith with the first-ever country icon award,” said Cassandra Tryon, senior vice president of entertainment live events at NBCUniversal in a previous statement. “As a talented songwriter and powerhouse performer, Keith has touched the hearts of fans across the globe. His illustrious career and passion for philanthropy have cemented his place as an icon in country music history.”  

Keith recently shared an update on his health and said he was planning on getting back on the road again. “I’m thinking about getting back in fighting shape,” said Keith, who shared that he went into the “debilitating” chemotherapy process. The singer had been receiving treatment for six months when he revealed his cancer diagnosis in 2022.

“I need a little bit of time to rest up, heal up,” added Keith. “It’s pretty debilitating to have to go through all that. But as long as everything stays hunky dory then we’ll look at something good in the future.”

He added, “I will see the fans sooner than later.”

Photos: Mickey Bernal/NBC

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