Carrie Underwood paid tribute to 2022 BMI Icon Award recipient, Toby Keith during the 2022 BMI Country Awards on Tuesday (Nov. 8) with a special performance of his first chart-topping hit.
The “Hate My Heart” singer honored her fellow Oklahoma native during the coveted awards ceremony, which marked the event’s 70th year. The event took place inside Broadcast Music Inc on Music Row in Nashville.
Underwood took to the stage, which was situated in the middle of the star-studded audience, to perform “Should’ve Been A Cowboy.”
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“It was artists like you that taught kids like me that greatness is possible,” Underwood said before going into her performance.
Joined by a two-piece band, the powerhouse vocalist belted out the lyrics to Keith’s 1993 breakout hit.
“I should’ve been a cowboy / I should’ve learned to rope and ride / Wearin’ my six-shooter, ridin’ my pony on a cattle drive / Stealin’ the young girls’ hearts / Just like Gene and Roy / Singin’ those campfire songs / Woah, I should’ve been a cowboy,” Underwood sang as Keith watched on from the crowd.
Keith’s frequent collaborators Dean Dillon and Scotty Emerick also honored the country hitmaker with a performance of “A Little Too Late,” a fan-favorite tune released by Keith in 2006 on his tenth studio album, White Trash with Money.
In addition to Underwood, Dillon, and Emerick, Eric Church also delivered an acoustic performance of “I Love This Bar,” a tune that was written by Keith and Emerick that appears on Keith’s 2003 project, Shock’n Y’all.
Toby Keith was honored as this year’s BMI Icon, joining an elite list of songwriters including Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams, Jr., to receive the coveted title.
“When I got to Nashville, they said, ‘You got to get affiliated,’” Keith shared from the stage. “I said, ‘What does that mean?’ They said, ‘Well, you wrote these songs — you gotta get affiliated.’ So, since 1990 or ’91, I have been affiliated with the greatest organization in the music business, and that’s BMI. They’ve been so great to me as a songwriter, because I knew that even if I didn’t make it as an artist, that maybe somebody would cut my songs. I always felt that the songwriting was the most important part of this whole industry.”
“When you get older and you look back at your cassette tapes or your CD, it’s like everybody that rocked country, R&B, whatever it was, the artists that I had were songwriters,” he continued. “They weren’t artists that covered music. They were songwriter/artists. Something in my gut, down in my core, said that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t know if I’d make it as an artist, but I knew if I wrote as good as the next guy, that somebody might sing one of my songs.”
With 32 No.1 singles and 40 million albums sold, Toby Keith is regarded as one of country music’s biggest hitmakers. He wrote a chart-topping hit every year for 20 consecutive years, including “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American),” “I Love This Bar,” “Beer For My Horses,” and “As Good As I Once Was.”