What We Know About Late Country Legend Toby Keith's Political Views

Few musicians, especially country music stars, are more synonymous with patriotic songs than the late Toby Keith. Yet, his political views seemed more elusive than his penchant for patriotism. He catapulted to fame largely because of the 2002 song "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)," which came to him shortly after the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. "I wrote it so that I had something to play for our fighting men and women," he told Time. "But once people said I should release it, I knew there was going to be trouble. I'm comfortable being extreme, but saying 'boot in your ass' is so extreme. Of course, if you say, 'foot in your butt,' you got no song."

Suddenly Keith became known in part for his very American anthems. Besides "Red, White, and Blue," he also wrote two additional sorts of propaganda songs: "American Soldier" and "The Taliban Song." Although Keith's songs supported the military, Keith himself was not a veteran, and he also wasn't very forthcoming about which side of the line he stood on in recent years.

Keith never quite settled into an identity

His patriotic party anthems got him favor with die-hard conservatives, but Toby Keith played the political field pretty heavily. He crossed party lines to do events for presidents on both sides, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama — who he may have voted for, by the way. After all, despite public perceptions of him, Keith praised then-presidential candidate Obama in 2008 in speaking to the Associated Press.

"I think he's the best Democratic candidate we've had since Bill Clinton," Keith told AP (via Wired). "And that's coming from a Democrat." In fact, Keith was a registered Democrat for years, he explained to the Chicago Tribune in 2016. But political labels weren't his thing, and he changed to being an Independent in 2016. "It just keeps people off balance," Keith told the Chicago Tribune of changing parties. "They don't know what to think. They see you hanging out with Willie Nelson or Sammy Hagar, they go, 'What the hell are these people thinking?' They don't know you. They just want to label you."

Something else he told the Chicago Tribune is that he no longer felt welcome in the Democratic party because of his support of the military. Besides writing patriotic songs as a means of supporting the troops, Keith also went on 18 USO tours.

Keith saw performing as his duty

Despite disliking political labels, Keith wasn't afraid to tell the public that he thought the presidential election cycle was an absolute mess in 2016. During the Route 91 Harvest Festival, Keith let the audience know that he saw both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as poor options. "This is by far the best country you could ever live in and we picked these two candidates to be media whores and go out there and take care of the world, huh? You gotta pick one," he said on stage at the festival (via Rolling Stone).

So, it may have surprised folks when it was announced that Keith would be Trump's headliner at his 2017 Inauguration Concert. But to Keith, the ask from Trump wasn't a matter of personal politics. Keith told The Atlantic that it was a necessary obligation: "[If] the president of the frickin' United States asks you to do something and you can go, you should go instead of being a jack-off." That didn't mean he agreed with him politically; after all, Keith had different opinions on abortion and gay marriage than the former president. Even so, when he spoke to Atlantic writer Spencer Kornhaber again months later, he was defensive of Trump's early days as president. Perhaps his political leanings were as his music was, forever changing because there "ain't no right way" to be.