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Lainey Wilson

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The late country music legend Toby Keith was honored during Sunday’s CMT Music Awards with an energetic and celebratory tribute performance by Brooks & Dunn, Lainey Wilson and Sammy Hagar.

Brooks & Dunn opened the tribute with a lively performance of Keith’s “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” Rock legend Sammy Hagar sang “I Love This Bar” and took a moment to joke about the amount of times they got “thrown out” of Cabo Wabo while spending time in Cabo San Lucas together.

Lainey Wilson closed out the set by singing “How Do You Like Me Now,” with an introduction by singers-songwriters Riley Green and Lukas Nelson.

The performers were all backed by Keith’s longtime band members on stage.

Roger Clemens, a former MLB pitcher and friend of the late singer, introduced the performance and appeared to get emotional when he later took the stage to thank Keith’s adult children and his wife, who were in the audience, for sharing Keith “with the world.”

Clemens concluded the tribute with a toast. Holding up red cups – presumably Solo brand – they chanted “whiskey for my men and beer for my horses,” a reference to a lyric from Keith’s hit ”Beer for My Horses.”

Toby Keith, seen here performing at the People’s Choice Country Awards in Nashville in 2023, died in February after a battle with cancer. Katherine Bomboy/NBC/Getty Images

Keith died in February following a battle with stomach cancer. He was 62.

Keith revealed his diagnosed in a statement posted to his X page in 2022, writing at the time that he’d undergone treatment and needed time to “recover and relax.”

According to a statement posted to Keith’s website and social media announcing his death, the renowned country singer “fought his fight with grace and courage” and was “surrounded by his family” when he died.

Keith released his debut album in 1993 and is known for hits including “Red Solo Cup” and “I Wanna Talk About Me.” His 2002 song “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” released in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, made him a household name.

He won seven CMT Music Awards and earned a total of 30 nominations throughout his career. Keith additionally has performed on the award ceremony’s stage 13 times and co-hosted the show twice.

In March, shortly after Keith died, it was announced that he will be posthumously inducted into the 2024 Country Music Hall of Fame this October. In 2021, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

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