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Toby Keith said faith led him through 'dark hallways' of cancer battle before death

Toby Keith performs onstage for the BMI Icon Award during the 2022 BMI Country Awards at BMI on November 08, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Toby Keith performs onstage for the BMI Icon Award during the 2022 BMI Country Awards at BMI on November 08, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. | Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Country music star Toby Keith, who died Monday at 62 after a yearslong battle with stomach cancer, told a local Oklahoma news outlet weeks before his death that his faith sustained him through the illness.

"Keith passed peacefully last night on Feb. 5, surrounded by his family," his website said in a statement. "He fought his fight with grace and courage. Please respect the privacy of his family at this time."

In an interview that aired Jan. 24, Keith described his cancer ordeal to local Oklahoma City CBS affiliate KWTV-DT as "a lot of dark hallways." When asked how he maneuvers through those "dark hallways," he answered: "Faith."

"You have to have your faith," he said. "Thank God that I got it, too." 

"You take it for granted on the days that things are good, and you lean on it when days are bad," Keith added. "It has taught me to lean on a little more every day."

In response to whether he experienced "a peace that passes all understanding," Keith said, "Oh, yeah." 

Keith was first diagnosed with cancer in October 2021. As he was enduring chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, he said he "got to the point where I was comfortable with whatever happened."

"I had my brain wrapped around it, and I was in a good spot either way," he added.

"Cancer is a roller coaster," he also said. "You just sit here and wait on it to go away. It might never go away."

Born July 8, 1961, in small-town Clinton, Oklahoma, Keith's music career spanned three decades. Before he rose to fame in the 1990s, he worked in the oil fields of Oklahoma and also played semi-pro football as a defensive end for the Oklahoma City Drillers.

After going to Nashville, Keith inked a deal with Mercury Records and released his eponymous debut album Toby Keith in 1993, which went platinum and skyrocketed him to fame.

"Should've Been a Cowboy" from his first album became the most-played country song of the decade, according to The Associated Press.

He would release other hits such as "How Do You Like Me Now?!," "Beer for My Horses," and "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue."

Keith would go on to sell more than 40 million albums and notch 42 top-10 hits, 32 No. 1 songs and more than 10 billion streams. He also broke into the top five wealthiest country singers.

He won the Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2001 and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015.

He also received a National Medal of the Arts in 2021 from then-President Donald Trump.

Keith was also outspoken about his patriotism, getting into a tussle with The Dixie Chicks in 2003 after they publicly criticized then-President George W. Bush and the Iraq War. He played music for the troops during 11 USO tours.

Keith's last public performance was on Dec. 14 at Dolby Live at Park MGM in Las Vegas, the third in a string of sold-out shows, according to Variety.

In September, Keith told Fox News that faith was his "rock."

"I lean on my faith, and I just pray and lean into it," Keith stated. "You got to do what you got to do, and I don't know how people do it without faith. … That's what I did, it was my rock." 

Jon Brown is a reporter for The Christian Post. Send news tips to jon.brown@christianpost.com

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