Toby Keith closes 2022 as a certified icon

Singer, songwriter and entertainer Toby Keith has earned his share of awards and accolades in a storied career, but it’s a tight few that have meant the most – and 2022 brought the most recent.

At November’s 2022 BMI Country Awards, Keith received the night’s biggest honor, the BMI Icon Award. Presented for “unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers,” the award’s prior recipients include Stevie Nicks, David Foster and Paul Simon (Pop); James Brown, Patti LaBelle and The Jacksons (R&B); and Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard (Country).

For an artist who prizes songwriting most among his prodigious talents, it was a moment. “I didn’t know that I’d make it as an artist, but I knew if I wrote as good as the next guy, somebody might sing one of my songs,” Keith said while accepting the honor. “I got [to Nashville] with that in mind, and it just so worked out that I ended up with a vehicle that could deliver those songs.”

Having built one of the most successful self-directed careers of all time – writing, singing, producing and releasing music on his own label, Show Dog Nashville – he admitted how much he learned and gained when he finally connected with Nashville’s songwriting community. “The only regret I had was I never left Oklahoma,” Keith said. “I would have probably made it at 21 or 22 instead of 28 or 29 had I not been so damn hard headed and moved out here, because the best songwriters in the world are out here.”

In closing, he noted honors he received in 2015 and 2021, respectively, as part of a piece with his latest: “All I ever cared about was Songwriter Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame and BMI Icon.”

His speech at the event as well as a short surprise performance at a restaurant while attending The Breeders’ Cup earlier that week confirmed his ongoing recovery from the stomach cancer that set him back earlier in the year. He told CMT’s Cody Alan of the impromptu show, “we did alright.” As to a 2023 tour, Keith added, “I’m thinking about getting back to fighting shape. I need a little bit of time to rest up, to heal up. Pretty debilitating to have to go through all that. As long as everything stays hunky dory, then we’ll look at something good in the future.”

Prior to the November BMI gathering, the performing rights organization confirmed that Keith has 100 million terrestrial radio spins. And in the digital world, he has exceeded 10 billion streams. Those numbers are currently being boosted by his single “Oklahoma Breakdown,” which continues to rack up airplay and consumption numbers.

In putting the song on his latest album Peso In My Pocket and releasing it as a single, Toby has taken the local favorite by Mike Hosty to the national stage. “A singer-songwriter around my hometown does a bunch of songs with some local flair,” Keith explains. “Mike was playing somewhere and I saw him do it, so it reminded me. The song has some miles on it, so I called him and asked if he wanted to play on it if I cut it. I figured everyone in that part of the world would get a kick out of him being on the record. So that’s him on rhythm and that slide solo.”

Also this, the 18th annual Toby Keith & Friends Golf Classic in May raised another $1.45 million – among the highest totals ever – to benefit OK Kids Korral, the cost-free home for families of children being treated at The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center. In September, Keith was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the SabesWings Foundation founded by Major League Baseball pitching legend Bret Saberhagen and wife Kandace. Like his own Toby Keith Foundation, SabesWings assists cancer patients in a trying time of life.

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