Clint Eastwood said he was “extremely saddened” to hear of country legend Toby Keith’s death when he posted a tribute to the late singer-songwriter on Tuesday (February 6). The award-winning actor, who inspired one of Keith’s last singles of his career, posted a photo of the duo standing side-by-side, and wrote: “Extremely Saddened by the passing of Toby Keith, Rest in peace my friend... [Toby Keith].”
Keith died on Monday night (February 5) following a battle with stomach cancer. He was 62. The country music giant announced in June 2022 that he’d been diagnosed with cancer the previous fall, and had been receiving treatment and undergoing surgery since then. He said at that time that he would take time off to be with his family and recover. Keith played his three final shows in Las Vegas in December, and recently shared a clip from one of his final performances in his last Instagram post before his death. A statement posted to Keith’s social media channels in the early morning hours on Tuesday confirmed that Keith “passed peacefully…surrounded by his family. He fought his fight with grace and courage. Please respect the privacy of his family at this time.” The statement prompted an outpouring of tributes as fans and the country music community mourned his loss.
Keith previously shared how Eastwood, 93, inspired his single “Don’t Let the Old Man In.” It happened while the legendary actor was filming The Mule, a 2018 thriller that follows, “a ninety-year-old horticulturist and Korean War veteran (who) turns drug mule for a Mexican cartel,” per its IMDb synopsis.
“It’s an interesting story, how this song came to be,” Keith, whose song appeared in the movie, said in a video shared on Instagram on December 1. “Clint Eastwood, when asked by me, what he was gonna do on his birthday, he said he was gonna go shoot a movie. He was 88 years old, and I said, ‘what do you do to keep yourself going?’ He said, ‘I try to get up and be productive, and don’t let the old man in.’ So, I wrote (the song, and) sent it to him. He put it in that movie, The Mule, and then it exploded on NBC when I sang it on the People’s Choice [Country] Awards when I was getting the Icon (Award).”
Keith took the stage to perform “Don’t Let the Old Man In” during the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. He was the first recipient of the Country Music Icon Award at the inaugural awards show. Watch that performance again here: