Happy Birthday Toby Keith! (His Top-10 Songs)
Toby Keith's songs are some of the most popular of the last two decades in country music.
While the Oklahoma native has built much of his success on the strength of his rugged, blue-collar drinking anthems, he's capable of a wider range of material, using his sense of humor to write and record some very unique and funny novelty songs. Keith has also demonstrated his softer side in a select handful of well-crafted ballads.
The Boot's list of the Top 10 Toby Keith Songs draws on all of the different facets of his career.
Keith experienced big success right out of the gate with his self-titled debut album. The third single was a virtual paradigm for many of his future successes, with a clever hook repeating throughout and a lyric that finds the narrator seeking "a lot more action" from a woman in a bar. Hank Williams Jr. previously recorded the song in 1992, but Keith's version became a big hit, reaching No. 2.
Keith showed his more sensitive side with "Who's That Man," which he wrote by himself. The song's narrator drives by his old house and sees all the things that used to be his but now belong to another man -- his ex-wife's new husband. Released as the first single from Keith's sophomore album, "Who's That Man" became his second No. 1 hit.
Keith wrote "Cryin' for Me" as a tribute to his friend Wayne Tisdale, after the basketball player and jazz musician passed away in May of 2009. The track employs a greater musical subtlety than much of Keith's recorded output, focusing on acoustic guitar and saxophone. In the lyric, Keith says that he is not crying for his departed friend, "I'm cryin' for me." The song reached No. 6 on the country charts.
Keith wrote this patriotic anthem after working extensively with the USO. He wanted to write a song to express his support for American troops who put their lives at risk "because freedom don't come free." Written with Chuck Cannon, the song -- which perfectly captured the flag-waving sentiment of post-9/11 American culture -- reached No. 1 for four straight weeks beginning in February of 2004.
"Beer for My Horses" brings together two disparate elements of Keith's songwriting. Written in a somewhat comical tone, the song tells of a group of men who band together to fight injustice, then order "whiskey for my men, beer for my horses." But in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, lines like "We'll raise up our glasses against evil forces" seemed to be aimed squarely at anti-terrorist sentiments in the U.S. Recorded as a duet with Willie Nelson, the song reached No. 1 for six weeks.
Keith scored another of his very biggest career songs with "As Good As I Once Was." The song is a rueful anthem for anyone who's getting older, as the narrator goes out to a bar, tries to pick up women and gets involved in a bar fight, leading him to conclude, "I ain't as good as I once was ... that's just the cold, hard truth." The song reached No. 1 for six straight weeks and was named BMI's Song of the Year for 2006.
"My List" is a rarity for Keith, in that it's a song that he recorded and released as a single but did not write. Written by Tim James and Rand Bishop, the song talks of a man who is going through the motions of getting things done on his list of obligations but finally decides to make more time for family and "start living -- that's the next thing on my list." Apparently that sentiment rang true for a number of listeners -- "My List" scored Keith a five-week run at No. 1.
Keith not only scored a No. 1 hit, he built an empire on the back of this song. Written by Keith and Scotty Emerick, "I Love This Bar" is reminiscent of a countrified "Piano Man," describing the patrons of a bar on any given day: "We got winners, we got losers / Chain-smokers and boozers." Keith adapted the title as the branding for his chain of I Love This Bar & Grill restaurants.
Two separate events inspired Keith to write what has become, in many ways, a career-defining song. His father passed away in March 2001, and after the 9/11 attacks later that year, he wrote the song about his father's patriotism and faith in the U.S. The fist-in-the-air anthem perfectly captured the mood of the times, scoring Keith another No. 1 hit, though it wasn't without controversy.
Perhaps no other song on the list of the Top 10 Toby Keith Songs inspires such fierce debate. Written by the Warren Brothers and Brett and Jim Beavers, "Red Solo Cup" is, as Keith himself tells The Boot, "the stupidest song I ever heard in my life, but it's so stupid it's good." Some fans think it's way too silly, but admit it -- this track is just too much fun not to top this list. We'll drink to that!