Toby Keith gave one of the most buzzworthy performances of his entire life and career when he returned to the stage at the inaugural People’s Choice Country Awards in September of 2023.
The country icon gave a devastatingly emotional performance of “Don’t Let the Old Man In” that had everyone in tears — including him.
Keith revealed that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in June of 2022, and public sightings were few over the next year.
He stunned fans by revealing he would perform on the awards show, where he was set to receive the Icon Award for his decades-long career run.
Keith opted to perform one of his lesser-known songs at the ceremony, taking the stage looking very thin, but with his trademark humor still intact. Accepting his award before performing, Keith quipped, “I bet you all never thought you’d see me in skinny jeans.”
Keith then delivered a haunting rendition of “Don’t Let the Old Man In,” a song that he originally wrote for Clint Eastwood’s 2018 film, The Mule. The song is from the perspective of an older man who refuses to cede any ground to the notion of impending death.
“And I knew all of my life / That someday it would end / Get up and go outside / Don’t let the old man in,” Keith sang to a thunderstruck audience.
He appeared to be physically trembling at times during the performance, and he and his wife, Tricia, both had tears in their eyes at the end.
Watch Toby Keith’s Final Television Appearance Below:
Toby Keith died “peacefully” on Monday (Feb. 5), “surrounded by his family,” according to a post on his social media pages.
“He fought his fight with grace and courage,” the statement adds.
Keith was 62 years old.