Music fans and musicians alike are grappling with the loss of revered country star Toby Keith, with many offering touching tributes to the “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” singer.
A fixture in country music, his impact can be traced back decades. In the wake of his passing, a 2005 video from a Nashville news station has resurfaced, showing a teenage Taylor Swift lauding Keith, months before the release of her debut album.
Keith, a major stakeholder in Big Machine Records, Swifts’ former label, was said to have advocated for the Pennsylvania native early in her career.
“You’re in the room with him and you can feel it. There’s a power there, and you’re just like ‘Oh my God,'” Swift told Nashville’s WSMV. “I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I won’t see him and be like, ‘Oh my God, that’s Toby Keith!'”
Keith would split from Big Machine in 2006, but still had equity within the company. Swift had a fiery ending with the label in 2018, after the two parties agreed to go their separate ways. Scott Borchetta, the CEO of Big Machine, later sold the company to Scooter Braun in 2019, giving him the rights to Swifts’ first six albums.
In 2015, when Keith was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Swift made reference to her humble beginnings and Keith’s influence, in a congratulatory video full of celebrities.
“Hey Toby! It’s Taylor! Remember me? Last time you saw me I was like 15, had crazy curly long hair. Wore cowboy boots and like prom dresses everywhere. A lot has changed in the last 10 years, but you introduced me at Country Radio Seminar back in 2005, and I wanted to say thank you for doing that,” she said.
“And congratulations on your induction into the Songwriter’s Hall of fame. And so in the words of a great Toby Keith song,” she said raising a small shot solo cup, “How do you like me now?”
The music industry was left stunned on Tuesday by the announcement of Keith’s death. Publicly battling stomach cancer since 2022, the musician succumbed to his battle on Feb. 5. “He fought his fight with grace and courage,” a statement read on his social media pages, noting that the 62-year-old was surrounded by his family at the time of his death.