Country music legend Toby Keith delighted fans at the People’s Choice Country Awards with a tear-jerking performance amid his years-long battle with stomach cancer that kept him away from the spotlight.
Before Keith hit the stage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville Thursday night, the country legend gave an update on his health and the battle he compared to a “roller coaster.”
“I feel pretty good,” Keith, 62, told E! News. “It’s a little bit of a roller coaster. You get good days and, you know, you’re up and down, up and down. It’s always zero to 60 and 60 to zero but I feel good today.”
Keith played his song “Don’t Let the Old Man In” from Clint Eastwood’s 2018 movie “The Mule” — donning a simple black jacket with white cowboy and button-up.
The “Beer for My Horse” singer chose the song because it was “fitting” for the fans he helped to inspire during his cancer battle.
“I’ve been going through my cancer fight for the last couple of years and it’s really inspiring for a lot of people,” Keith told NBC during the award ceremonies pre-show event.
“Coming back on TV for the first time and performing live in front of a live audience, I thought it was fitting.”
Keith shared in June 2022 that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in the fall of 2021.
Keith reached new heights in his immensely successful career on Thursday when he received the first-ever Country Icon Award.
“Looking at the videos and seeing 30 years, all the stuff we’ve amassed over those years (it’s) pretty crazy because it really went by fast because I’m working all the time,” Keith told the outlet.
Being honored for his contributions to country music, fellow country star Blake Shelton kicked off the tribute to his senior musician and performed Keith’s song, “Who’s Your Daddy?”
Shelton then pointed to Keith — causing the audience to erupt in a thunderstorm of cheers and applause — before directing the crowd to view a video montage celebrating his legacy.
Following the montage with some kind words and how much he admires Keith, the “Red Solo Cup” musician took the stage to accept the inaugural award.
“I want to thank the almighty for allowing me to be here tonight,” the musician said, adding that his Lord and Savior has been “riding shotgun for a little while” with him over his career.
But, the musician had a special thank you to those who made him the icon he is today, saying, “Most of all, I want to thank the fans for still allowing us to do what we do.”
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