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Sammy Hagar, Brooks & Dunn

When Toby Keith died of cancer on February 5 at the age of 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 arrow and consistently dominated the genre for three decades. Be present.

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

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

Baseball legend Roger Clemens introduced the performance, calling Keith “a true friend and patriot.” Clemens noted that in recent years, as Keith “struggled with that damn word,” the singer “maintained his humor and wit.”

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

Next, Hagar turned to Adrenaline for a tough take on Keith’s 2003 hit “I Love This Bar,” a song about the franchise restaurant owned by country singer Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, which opened in 2005. song, the Van Halen legend notes that while it’s difficult to pull off your own bar, it’s a feat the two have managed over the years.

After introductions by Lucas Nelson and Riley Green, Wilson asks her “How do you like me now?!” closed with – Title track from Keith’s 1999 album. The Grammy winner poured his heart into a joyful, bittersweet performance as Keith’s widow, Tricia Lucas, and children (Shelley Cowell-Roland, Crystal Keith and Stellan Keith Cowell) looked on.

After the performance, a tearful Clemens took the stage and led the entire audience in a red solo cup to the legendary: “Whiskey for my men and beer for my horses!” he shouted, raising his cup to the sky.

This story was first published. Billboard.com.

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