‘I love you, red solo cup’

We talk about your friends and the places that you’ve been. We talk about your dreams and we talk about your schemes. After two weeks since his passing, we’re talking about Toby Keith instead. 

A country singer known for his arrogance and cut-the-crap attitude captivated an American-proud following that established Keith as a legend in the music industry. 

In 1993, Keith released his debut album which shared his namesake. The lead track “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” continues to dominate his discography with over 200 million streams on Spotify. 

The song pays homage to modern-day cattle herders, cowboys in classic Western movies and romanticized a simple life of stealing hearts. The song acts as a lyrical tribute to John Wayne, Paul Newman and Gary Cooper — actors many Americans grew up seeing on a TV screen as true-grit cowboys. 

Keith died Feb. 5 after battling stomach cancer following a diagnosis in 2021. He was 62. 

Beyond his music, Keith built a reputation of respect from other artists, including Brooks & Dunn, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. 

Hits like “Red Solo Cup” established Keith amongst a college crowd. Let’s be clear — you’re not really in college until you can recite that entire song, and the cups have to be red. These are simply the best receptacle for barbecues, tailgates, fairs, festivals and — of course, college parties. 

But songs like “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue,” resonated with a post-9/11 American fan base rattled by tragedy.

Patriotic songs with a backbone of American pride continued throughout Keith’s career with another radio hit, “Made in America.” 

The song was based on a lack of American-made goods, according to Keith. This spawned his idea to revive a factory in his home state and create his own American-made clothing line. 

“There’s a plant at Shawnee [Oklahoma] — a clothing plant — and this guy’s wanting me to make jeans and t-shirts that are actual made-in-America products, and it’ll reopen that plant at Shawnee if [the deal] comes through,” Keith explained to The Oklahoman. “That’s kind of where we got the idea to write a song about people that only buy American-made products to support the economy.”

Keith announced his own clothing line, TK Steelman, in 2009. 

According to Rolling Stone, Keith “often seemed frustrated with the perception of himself as a conservative” and voted as a registered independent since 2008  — openly supporting former President Barack Obama. 

Despite this, Keith is also known for his controversial performance for former President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017. He said, “the president of the frickin’ United States asks you to do something and you can go, you should go.”

Keith wouldn’t want people talking about his politics or the girl-group Dixie Chicks — we’ll honor the latter because the controversy lasted longer than much of our audience has been alive.

If anything, we’ll let Keith stand on the issue with an out-of-context line, “a little less talk if you please. A lot more loving is what I need.”

While Keith may not be standing here today, he’ll be living in our radios through “How Do You Like Me Now,” and other American classics.