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Toby Keith’s Son Cries During Tribute Performance at 2024 ACM Awards

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Toby Keith’s life and legacy were celebrated and honored at the 2024 ACM Awards on Thursday, with a special performance by Jason Aldean.

The segment was introduced by Blake Shelton, who reflected on Keith, praising him for his music and sharing that the singer “was a loving husband” and “a proud father.”

Keith’s son, Stelen, was in the audience, alongside his sisters, Shelley and Krystal, as well as Keith’s wife of 40 years, Tricia, who were both brought to tears by the tribute.

Shelton introduced Aldean, Keith’s longtime friend, who came out to delivered a musical tribute in the late artist’s honor.

Seated on simple stools, Aldean and two accompanying guitarists performed an emotional rendition of Keith’s 1993 single “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” that flooded the theater with emotion.

Jason Aldean honors Toby Keith at the 2024 ACM Awards.Rich Polk/Penske Media via Getty Images

Keith died on Feb. 5 following a stomach cancer battle that lasted more than a year. He was 62. 

Stelen paid tribute to his dad days after his death, sharing a throwback photo to Instagram, alongside a heartfelt memorial.

“You are the strongest man I have ever known. A fighter. A true titan of your industry. My guiding star. My coach. My hero,” Stelen began his caption. “An embodiment of the American Spirit. You are a man whose strength, prowess, and talent could only be trumped by his ability to be a father and husband. Your impact is forever stamped on the world and on millions of people, yet not one person knew you the way I did.”

“You were my biggest champion and the guiding light in my darkest times. The best mentor a man could ask for. You held a passion that was greater than mountains and it radiates through every lyric and chord,” he continued. “In the everlasting echo from the legacy of your music, you leave me strength and faith to lean on in the silence that follows. You truly did it your way, from the starting gates to the finish line, and never apologized for it. The only thing I truly ever wanted in life was to make you proud. I promise I will continue to make you proud.”

He concluded, “It’s not goodbye forever; it’s just goodbye for now. I love you cowboy.”

The 59th annual Academy of Country Music Awards streams live May 16 on Prime Video. Check out all the nominees and the full winners list. 

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