老澳门六合彩

Toby Keith wrote all kinds of country songs. His legacy might be post-9/11 American anger

Country music star Toby Keith has died, aged 62. Keith, who was battling stomach cancer, passed peacefully on Monday surrounded by his family. (Feb. 6)

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NORFOLK, Va. (AP) 鈥 Toby Keith鈥檚 songs accomplished, for some, what great art is intended to: They sustained people in challenging times, particularly U.S. service members and their families during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11. For others, Keith鈥檚 work sowed division and was blindly patriotic 鈥 a wedge that deepened America鈥檚 cultural fault lines.

Keith, who died Monday of stomach cancer at age 62, is being celebrated for his immense catalog across a diversity of subjects, from small-town heartache to his preference for red Solo cups. But in the fractured political landscape of 2024 America, it鈥檚 the long-tail legacy of 鈥淐ourtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)鈥 that may be remembered most.

For many in post-9/11 America, the 2002 song caught the mood. It featured the lyric: 鈥淲e鈥檒l put a boot in your ass. It鈥檚 the American way.鈥

Keith鈥檚 steering of his music into overt nationalism defined his career and helped set country music 鈥 one strain of it, at least 鈥 on a more political path that continues to this day in the music of folks like Jason Aldean on the right and Jason Isbell on the left. And yet many observers say it would be unfair to dwell only on those pages from Keith鈥檚 songbook.

鈥淵ou have to recognize that (Keith) was a good songwriter, and that there are songs there to love no matter what political stripe you are,鈥 says Chris Willman, who wrote the 2005 book, 鈥淩ednecks and Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music.鈥

Willman says some people are struggling with Keith鈥檚 legacy because of his overtly political songs. But the man also wrote funny tunes about male virility and smoking marijuana with Willie Nelson.

鈥淵ou almost want to get defensive of him when people are making it all about a handful of songs,鈥 says Willman, chief music critic for Variety. 鈥淎nd yet at the same time, I totally get where people are coming from. And I鈥檓 not sure I disagree with them when they say that he had some negative effect in terms of making country music more about angry Americans.鈥

COUNTRY MUSIC HAS ALWAYS HAD A POLITICAL THREAD

Country music has never been immune to the nation鈥檚 social and political forces, says Amanda Marie Martinez, author of the upcoming 鈥淕one Country: How Nashville Transformed a Music Genre into a Lifestyle Brand.鈥

The genre emerged during 1920s Jim Crow America, when music executives traveled to the South and recorded along racial lines, establishing the myth of country music as 鈥渆xclusively white culture,鈥 Martinez says. Conservatives have looked to country music over the decades to voice political beliefs and react to social change.

FILE - Toby Keith, left, shakes hands with Merle Haggard at the 54th Annual Broadcast Music Inc. Country Awards, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2006, in Nashville, Tenn. Keith's hit ''As Good As I Once Was'' won country song of the year, and Country Music Hall of Famer Haggard was honored as an icon during the BMI Music Awards. Like Toby Keith, Haggard was politically enigmatic. And while Haggard became a hero among conservatives, he later backed prominent Democrats. (Michael Clancy/The Tennessean via AP, File)

Toby Keith, left, shakes hands with Merle Haggard at the 54th Annual Broadcast Music Inc. Country Awards in 2006 (Michael Clancy/The Tennessean via AP, File)

In the Vietnam War era, Merle Haggard sang 鈥淥kie from Muskogee鈥 鈥 an anti-progressive number in which he sings, 鈥淲e don鈥檛 burn our draft cards down on Main Street.鈥 And while Haggard became a hero among conservatives, he later backed prominent Democrats. The man who supported Ronald Reagan and performed for Richard Nixon would pen songs to promote Hillary Clinton and commemorate Barack Obama鈥檚 inauguration. He also sang, 鈥淟et鈥檚 get out of Iraq.鈥

Like Haggard, Keith was politically enigmatic. He was a registered Democrat until 2008. He played at events for Presidents George W. Bush, Obama and Donald Trump.

鈥淚f we look for a kind of consistency throughout his career, it鈥檚 his class politics,鈥 says Joseph M. Thompson, author of 鈥淐old War Country: How Nashville鈥檚 Music Row and the Pentagon Created the Sound of American Patriotism.鈥

鈥淗e鈥檚 aware of his humble roots,鈥 Thompson says, 鈥渁nd it is who he sings for.鈥

鈥楥OURTESY OF THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE鈥 WAS A POST-9/11 ANTHEM

In the weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the nation felt somewhat unified. In that environment, 鈥淐ourtesy鈥 worked like traditional folk music in the way it reflected how many people felt at the time. And more musicians started writing songs that actually addressed wartime in near real time.

FILE - Country singer Toby Keith performs his song "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)," on June 12, 2002, in Nashville, Tenn. Keith, who died on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, of cancer at age 62, is being celebrated for his immense catalog of songs. But his 2002 track 鈥淐ourtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)" may be remembered most. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

Keith performs his song 鈥淐ourtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American),鈥 in 2002 (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

For instance, Alan Jackson penned his introspective 鈥淲here Were You (When the 老澳门六合彩 Stopped Turning)鈥 about 9/11. It lacked the incendiary revenge in Keith鈥檚 anthem, although Jackson sang that he couldn鈥檛 tell you the difference between Iraq and Iran. There also were Darryl Worley鈥檚 鈥淗ave You Forgotten?鈥 and Clint Black鈥檚 鈥淚raq and I Roll,鈥 among others.

Keith鈥檚 song was by far the most popular. And it was at least partially bolstered by a public feud with The Chicks, then known as the Dixie Chicks, over Natalie Maines鈥 opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Maines called Keith鈥檚 song 鈥渋gnorant,鈥 while Keith began performing in front of a doctored photo of Maines with Saddam Hussein.

KEITH WAS A FAN OF THE MILITARY, AND VICE VERSA

In the years following 鈥淐ourtesy,鈥 Keith participated in 18 USO tours, performing for more than 250,000 service members in his lifetime. John A. Lucas, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam, says Keith鈥檚 songs celebrated military personnel and their families in a fresh way.

鈥淗is songs speak to the men and women who win our wars,鈥 says Lucas, 80, who lives outside Richmond, Virginia, and now writes a personal blog on Substack,

FILE - Toby Keith performs at ACM Presents an All-Star Salute to the Troops on Monday, April 7, 2014, in Las Vegas. Keith participated in 18 USO tours, performing for more than 250,000 service members in his lifetime. Keith, who died of cancer on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, at age 62, is being celebrated for his immense catalog of songs. But his 2002 track 鈥淐ourtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)" may be remembered most. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

Keith performs at ACM Presents an All-Star Salute to the Troops in 2014 (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

Lucas says Keith鈥檚 songs resonated when his son deployed to the Middle East, including Iraq, several times in the 2000s as a member of the U.S. Army鈥檚 special forces. Lucas says he and others sent CDs with Keith鈥檚 song, 鈥淎merican Soldier,鈥 to the wives of the men serving with his son. Lucas wrote Keith for permission; Keith approved.

Lucas says 鈥淐ourtesy鈥 also spoke to people in uniform not unlike the way The Animals鈥 more oblique 鈥淲e Gotta Get Out of this Place鈥 did during the Vietnam War. 鈥淐ourtesy,鈥 says Lucas, packed a powerful punch.

鈥淚 think some people use it as a reason to say, 鈥榃ell, this is not a very nice song,鈥欌 Lucas said, referring to the 鈥渂oot in your ass鈥 line. 鈥淏ut I鈥檓 going to tell you that that resonates with an Army infantryman. He鈥檚 talking to the Taliban.鈥

KEITH鈥橲 MUSIC CONNECTS TO TODAY

Last summer, Aldean released the biggest hit of his career, the controversial 鈥淭ry That In a Small Town.鈥 The music video shows Aldean performing in front of a Tennessee courthouse, the site of a 1946 race riot and a 1927 mob lynching of an 18-year-old Black teenager.

People called the video a 鈥渄og whistle鈥; others labeled it 鈥減ro-lynching.鈥 The outcry mobilized conservatives, whose support brought the song to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Willman, the Variety critic, sees a through-line from Keith鈥檚 鈥淐ourtesy鈥 to Aldean鈥檚 鈥淭ry that in a Small Town鈥 or Oliver Anthony鈥檚 鈥淩ich Men North of Richmond.鈥 Keith 鈥渆mboldened others in country music to think viewpoints that might be perceived as angry and conservative were okay to express,鈥 Willman says.

That anger, he says, is part of Keith鈥檚 legacy because it led some musicians to think, 鈥淵eah, there鈥檚 a market for this kind of righteous rage.鈥

FILE - Toby Keith performs during the inaugural concert for Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, in Springfield, Ill. Keith, who died of cancer on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, at age 62, is being celebrated for his immense catalog of songs. But his 2002 track 鈥淐ourtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)" may be remembered most. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
Keith performs during the 2015 inaugural concert for Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in Springfield, Illinois (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
FILE - Jason Aldean performs during CMA Fest 2022 in Nashville, Tenn., on June 9, 2022. Some country music observers see a through-line between Toby Keith鈥檚 2002 track 鈥淐ourtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)" and Aldean鈥檚 2023 song 鈥淭ry That in a Small Town.鈥 (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP, File)
Jason Aldean performs during CMA Fest 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP, File)

Pat Finnerty, who makes a YouTube show called 鈥淲hat Makes This Song Stink,鈥 also sees similarities between 鈥淐ourtesy鈥 and 鈥淪mall Town.鈥

鈥淚f we鈥檙e using wrestling analogies 鈥 and why shouldn鈥檛 we 鈥 Toby Keith is the Hulk Hogan,鈥 Finnerty says. 鈥淚f Hogan鈥檚 move was the leg drop, Keith鈥檚 would be the flag. He is the Hulk Hogan of this brand of, 鈥榃e鈥檙e Americans. We鈥檙e the best country in the world. And we can never do any wrong.鈥欌

Finnerty, 43, of Philadelphia, produced an on why he thinks 鈥淪mall Town鈥 is a terrible track. The thing about 鈥淪mall Town鈥 and 鈥淐ourtesy,鈥 Finnerty asserts, is that each feels calculated, as if it were written only to make money. Keith capitalized on 9/11, while Aldean exploited the nation鈥檚 cultural divide.

鈥淚f you took 鈥楬ey Jude鈥 and made it about mufflers, it鈥檇 still be a great song,鈥 Finnerty says. 鈥淏ut if you took 鈥楽mall Town鈥 and did that, it wouldn鈥檛 work. It鈥檚 only about the lyrics in these songs that is grabbing attention.鈥

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AP Music Writer Maria Sherman contributed reporting from Los Angeles.