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Toby Keith will be sorely missed
Teresa Hammond

There’s just something special about music.

Many refer to favorite songs, genres or certain artists as being responsible as the “soundtrack” of their lives. Personally, I’d have to agree with that.

Many years ago, characters on one of my favorite television shows spoke about music by way of “what’s your anthem? your personal soundtrack?” or for the baseball lovers, “your walk on song?”

Thinking about this, I’m inspired by a few things.

First, I must confess, several years back, while out on Lake Melones in the middle of summer surrounded by a group of college kids on a ski boat I learned about “Yacht Rock.” Now not to be confused, the music on this playlist was far from new to this ‘80s girl with primary years spent in the ‘70s. It was in fact like putting on an old favorite pair of blue jeans that fit just right. This playlist felt like “home.”

The funny thing about music – most especially good music – is you can go years without hearing a certain song and the moment you hear it again you’re not only transported to a certain day and time, but the lyrics just seem to return to your lips. I love that.

Right around this time, the “Yacht Rock” summer, I was asked what my favorite type of music was. Taking a moment to ponder the question and give a good, solid, thoughtful answer, my reply was simply: good music. 

As I looked at the puzzled faces, I expanded a bit. I grew up surrounded by a vast variety of music. So much so that up until the moment that question was asked, I likely wouldn’t have considered myself a country fan.

But that would’ve been wrong.

Names like Willie, Waylon, Linda, Dolly, Merle, Barbara, Naomi and George were commonly played in our home growing up. Years later (married to a cowboy) names like Garth, Kenny, Shania, Wynonna, Randy and yes, Toby, were commonly played in our car on road trips, as well as in our home.

It was good music, plain and simple. While other genres were played just as much, truth be told I’ve just never been an all metal, soul, modern rock or the like kind of girl.

Yet Tuesday morning, Feb. 6 as I opened social media and saw the news of Toby Keith, my heart broke.

Many of us knew he’d battled stomach cancer and as realists we know the prognosis of that cancer is not one which is great. But as I told someone recently when hearing of someone’s passing, even when you know it’s coming, the finality of it all still stings.

As my daughter got ready for school I asked if she’d mind if we played a little Toby, she said go for it. She too had her own memories attached to Keith and his impressive playlist. As the songs played and we floated through our morning, I couldn’t help but feel grateful.

Of the many songs that played, smiles continued to find my face.

“Red Solo Cup,” memories. The many times I’ve played “I Love This Bar,” at a couple favorite watering holes, surrounded by friends and friendly bartenders. And of course, “I Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” and “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” each have special spots in my playlist heart.

There’s just something about music that makes your foot tap that you just can’t deny; or at least I can’t. Toby Keith made that type of music.

He was a guy’s guy, a storyteller and down to his final months a regular all-American boy and yes, like so many others … taken too soon.

That being said, when I first learned of his passing the first word that came to mind was “legend” and that he was. Seeing the texts, answering phone calls and seeing via social media the vast array of people affected by his passing, I couldn’t help but think – that’s a life well lived.

So now as we all go forward, recover from the shock of yet another lost to cancer way too young, how lucky are we to continue to hear him in our soundtrack. Cheers to a man who followed a dream, loved a filled red solo cup and shared the wisdom of “Don’t Let the Old Man In.”

— Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 209-847-3021.