Sammy Hagar, Brooks & Dunn, Lainey Wilson Pay Tribute to Toby Keith at CMT Music Awards – Hollywood Reporter

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When Toby Keith died of cancer on Feb. 5 at age 62, the country world mourned the loss of one of its biggest stars. Notching 20 No. 1 songs on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the Country Airplay chart, Keith was an uncompromising, often controversial figure who followed his own arrow and remained a consistent presence in the genre for three decades.

So when the 2024 CMT Music Awards took over the Moody Center in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, it went without saying that the planned tribute to Keith would be one of the night’s highlights.

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Led by Keith’s longtime friends Brooks & Dunn and Sammy Hagar as well as Lainey Wilson, whom Keith mentored, the tribute was supported by Keith’s longtime backing band.

Baseball legend Roger Clemens introduced the performance, calling Keith “a true friend and patriot.” Clemens noted that in recent years, as Keith was “battling that damn C-word,” the singer “kept his sense of humor and his wit.”

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Brooks & Dunn opened the tribute, delivering a rousing rendition of Keith’s breakthrough 1993 single, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” as everyone in the crowd (especially Jelly Roll) sang along.

Then, Hagar turned up the adrenaline for a raucous take on Keith’s 2003 hit “I Love This Bar,” a song that ties into the franchise restaurant the country singer inspired, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, which opened in 2005. Introducing the song, the Van Halen legend noted that while it’s hard to get kicked out of your own bar, it’s a feat both of them managed over the years.

After an introduction from Lukas Nelson and Riley Green, Wilson closed it out with “How Do You Like Me Now?!” — the title track to Keith’s 1999 album. The Grammy winner put her whole heart into a joyful, bittersweet performance as Keith’s widow, Tricia Lucas, and children (Shelley Covel Rowland, Krystal Keith and Stelen Keith Covel) watched.

After the performance, a tearful Clemens took the stage and led the entire audience in a Red Solo Cup cheers to the legend: “Whisky for my men and beer for my horses!” he shouted, raising his cup up to the heavens.

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