Some folks are wondering why I have such a poison pen for their hero. They can’t believe I would compare Toby Keith’s winning a songwriter of the decade award to an apocalypse.

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(And by the way, where was Kanye West when we needed someone to yank an award out somebody’s hand?)

Toby is probably a swell guy. I’ve never met him. But you either like entertainers or you don’t based on what they show you.

Toby came onto my radar when I first heard him on the radio back in the early 1990s. He had some decent songs like “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” and “A Little Less Talk And A Lot More Action.” Nothing too inspiring, just fun country-rock. I liked him fine.

Then the songs got worse and worse. And then, somehow, they got even worse. His release of “How Do You Like Me Now?” in 1998 marked a low point in country music. Or so I thought, until he released “I Wanna Talk About Me” the following year.

Yes, I understand those records made money and people loved them and he had hits with them, but there is no accounting for taste among the masses, particularly when it comes to country music. If that makes me sound conceited, or like I think I have better taste than most people, well, so be it. Explain massive hits songs like “Achey Breaky Heart” and “Elvira” to me and maybe I’ll understand better.

Anyhoo, back to this decade’s greatest songwriter:

Eventually, Keith made up for his lack of musical inspiration by becoming the Post-9/11 Super Patriot who’s gonna “shock and y’all” and stick his boot up some ferner’s ass, by God. It wreaked of exploitation to me. The mad rush among entertainers to record post-9/11 patriotic  songs, particularly among country musicians, made me want to hurl.

I’m a big fan of Willie Nelson, who sang a song with Keith and toured with him and did a music special and video and whatnot. So there is surely plenty that I don’t know about Keith and he’s probably a good guy or why would Willie be wasting time on him?

But again I only know what I see and hear, and what I saw and heard of Keith was a turn off. Even his novelty song about smoking weed with Willie on the bus seemed exploitative (and not very funny).

Keith’s feud with the Dixie Chicks was kind of the icing on the cake for me. I’ve never been much of a Dixie Chicks fan but what they said about President Bush was harmless, it was their right to say it, and it was a completely American thing to do — bitch about politicians. Whether they said it in America or on a European stage doesn’t matter.

So anyway, all these things are why I equate his songwriter of the decade award with the apocalypse. Now that I think about it, I was too kind. I somehow understated the situation. Surely there is something worse than world obliteration to  serve as a more appropriate comparison.


  1. This is more about politics than music.

    Some may feel uneasy about what they see as exploitation, but that’s about their feelings, not a quantifiable effect on the “national good”.

    In that regard, I see Toby Keith as a net gain, and see no real downside to a popular entertainer who (in my eyes) is sincere and robust in his love of country singing about it. If he makes money at it? Better yet.

    As for his “shock and y’all” and stick his boot up some ferner’s ass, by God…” approach., all I can say is this is America, and this may reflect what many feel in regards to the changing geopolitical realities. His popularity would suggest so. And while it may offend in Berkeley, it will get well-received at Camp Pendleton,

    I’ll take that trade-off.

  2. This is from the press release..

    “Keith and Wiseman were chosen by their fellow songwriters. The 42-year-old, 5,000-member group bills itself as the world’s largest not-for-profit songwriters’ trade organization.”

    I guess I would believe 5,000 songwriters over an internet blogger..

  3. Noracquets: Here is an age-old truth in the songwriting business — the only people who join songwriters associations are ones who can’t write a decent song to save their lives. The NSAI’s selection of Toby Keith reflects this.

    And, yes, you should believe this lone blogger over those 5,000 hacks at NSAI. Your way of blind thinking is what paved the way for the Nazi regime and WWII. Do you want that burden on your shoulders?

  4. “…The NSAI’s selection of Toby Keith reflects this…”

    Well, there’s your story. The power hierarchy of the association. Who lobbied for Keith? See what songwriters might pop up on upcoming Toby discs, there might be a correlation, or even a songwriter who felt that the association done him wrong.

    Of course, anyone who would blow this lid off this had better be prepared to take precautions, move the family to New Rochelle, get a dog, that sort of thing.

  5. Toby Keith is the last of country music singers who actually write their own music. Too bad idiots like you dont recognize talent like that. He is a true american who is patriotic and does so much for our soldiers, much more than other entertainers.

  6. Jeff,

    I respect your opinion, but I don’t agree with it necessarily. Also, I think the Nashville Songwriters Assocation probably awarded Toby Keith this award not for quality of songs, but success of songs. He is the most successful country artist of the decade so far and his music that was so successful were songs that he also wrote. If they were going for quality, yes, they probably would have picked someone else. That said, I love Toby Keith. It’s not Mozart, but it’s not Backstreet Boys or NSYNC eitehr.

  7. good point aaron.
    obama’s seat, i think i’m the idiot she was referring to, but i could be wrong.
    i’ve enjoyed reading everybody’s comments on this one. it was fun. now what can we do?

  8. He did not support Obama for President- that was a rumor started after stating that both were good candidates. He is a great song-writer and for this idiot writing this piece- You should respect your country and not go bad mouthing your country’s leader in another country or any where else in a public forum- they first bashed Toby’s song and called it ignorant- he just retaliated. Their career is over-move on! The Dixie Chicks don’t even write 90% of their own music so they shouldn’t bash real country song writers!!!

  9. This is the story from a newspaper article from back then:
    Who said country music was lame? Dixie Chicks frontwoman Natalie Maines’ loose tongue seems to have gotten her and her bandmates into trouble yet again. Hot on the heels of the controversy over Maines’ opinionated comments about President Bush, the feud between Maines and country singer Toby Keith has heated up considerably. The battle of the country stars started back in August 2002 when Maines criticized Keith’s single “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American).” She said of the single, “I hate it. It’s ignorant.” In turn, Keith was quoted in December 2002 as saying, “I’ll bury her. She has never written anything that’s been a hit.”

    Well, the war is on! On May 21, Maines performed on television at the AMC Awards wearing a F.U.T.K. tee shirt – which viewers declared a definite telling off of T.K. (Toby Keith). According to a Dixie Chicks rep, “It’s my understanding that according to chatter on their web site, Natalie’s T-shirt stands for FREEDOM, UNDERSTANDING, TRUTH, AND KNOWLEDGE.” Yeah, right! If you are going to have the guts to make a bold statement, you should be able to back it up! The following night, Keith appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, while his faithful supporters showed up sporting tee shirts that read F.U.D.C. Maybe their tees mean Freedom, Understanding, Democracy and Country. Or maybe it is just what the message seems!

    Whatever happened to freedom of speech? There are plenty of people out there that would like to sport tees that read F.U.C.M. (Country Music) So what?! We aren’t all programmed to like the same thing! So why the battle between Maines and Keith? It seems that The Dixie Chicks’ latest album Home remains steadfast at number 4 in the country music charts and Keith’s Unleashed remains at number 1! The conflict between the two just may be the reason they have remained at the top.

  10. Except they aren’t on top so much anymore- at least Toby stands by his beliefs – she is a fake that is why she isn’t popular anymore

  11. How is she a fake, because SHE is the one who stood by her beliefs?

    Hmm, how exactly has TK stood by his beliefs? He flip flopped on the war, first supporting it, then when it went sour, he didnt.

    He attacked Natalie simply because she thought his Angry American song is ignorant, which it is, by posting a deplorable picture of Natalie with Saddam Hussein and then has the gall to say in an interview concerning the recent Kayne West/Tayor Swift debacle:

    “After all is said and done, however, Toby says, “It doesn’t have anything to do with that celebrity stuff … it’s easy for guys to come out of the closet and kick somebody when they’re down. I’m not that guy.”

    Yet, he attacked the Chicks when they were down!

    What a hypocrite.

    The Chicks sold $45 mil. in concert tickets in 2006, 3 million copies of Taking the Long Way and won 5 Grammy Awards in 2007.

    They seem pretty popular to me.

    But I agree Mr. Prince, him winning a songwriter of the decade award must mean some sort of world ending event, cause his songwriting “skills” are horrible at best….

  12. Dang…still carrying on a celebrity fight that was over years ago? So Toby says he doesn’t want to comment on the Kayne West / Taylor Swift deal tot he media…maybe he’s learned a thing or two in the past few years one of the biggest being that he’ll never be quoted correctly so why give the media any fodder to clip and use as they see fit? He stopped the “feud” with the Dixie Chicks a long time ago…they are the ones “not ready to make nice” all these years later.

    Toby’s music, not just the radio play, but the album cuts that he may not be known by, are some of the cleverest, touching, fun…insert positive emotion in here and one of his songs will fit…songs out there!!

    Congrats Toby! Back off “haters”. Love everyone!