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NBC Insider People's Choice Country Awards

Revisit Toby Keith's Gritty, Powerful Final TV Performance at the 2023 PCCAs

The gritty rendition occurred five months before the country star's death at 62. 

By Jackie Manno
Toby Keith Performs "Don’t Let the Old Man In" at the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards | NBC

Just months before Toby Keith's death, the country icon gave a gripping performance of his tune ''Don't Let the Old Man In'' at the People's Choice Country Awards

How to Watch

The People’s Choice Country Awards will return on Thursday, September 26, 2024 at 8/7c. Watch the 2023 ceremony on NBC and Peacock

During his powerful rendition, he strummed his guitar and sang in his signature baritone, taking a defiant stance on stage. 

The moment was even more emotional considering it was one of his first after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. His wife, Tricia Lucus, teared up in the crowd while he was singing the heavy lyrics that describe coping with aging. 

Toby Keith passed away from stomach cancer on February 6, 2024, at the age of 62, 18 months after revealing his diagnosis.

A Toby Keith tribute special will air on NBC in August 2024 

A two-hour special, Toby Keith: American Icon, will air on NBC Wednesday, August 28 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The event will take place at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, and you can attend in person. Tickets will be available on Ticketmaster starting June 28. A star-studded lineup will be performing in honor of Keith, including Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Ashley McBryde, Jelly Roll, Darius Rucker, Carrie Underwood, The War And Treaty, and Lainey Wilson.

RELATED: Blake Shelton Shared a Heartfelt Tribute to Late Country Star Toby Keith

What to know about ''Don't Let the Old Man In'' by Toby Keith

Toby Keith performs on stage during the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards

According to Billboard, Keith wrote ''Don't Let the Old Man In'' for Clint Eastwood's 2018 film The Mule. The lyrics were inspired by a conversation Keith had with Eastwood. When Keith asked the actor how he manages his stamina at the age of 88, Eastwood responded ''I don't let the old man in.''

“When I finally sang the line, I thought, it’s got to be dark, it’s got to be a ballad and it’s got to be simple,'' Keith told the outlet of his songwriting process. 

Following his raw performance at the 2023 PCAA, the song reached the number-one position on the Billboard Country Digital Song sales. 

Toby Keith Performs "Don’t Let the Old Man In" at the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards | NBC

RELATED: The People's Choice Country Award Winners Have Been Revealed

Toby Keith accepts the Country Music Icon award

Honoree Toby Keith accepts the Country Icon award from Blake Shelton on stage during the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards

Former The Voice Coach Blake Shelton, who considered Keith to be a personal inspiration, had the honor of presenting him the very first Country Music Icon Award at the 2023 PCCAs. “[Toby Keith is a] global country superstar, award-winning singer-songwriter, devoted and beloved activist, business powerhouse. Toby Keith is a multi-dimensional artist like no other. A global megastar, a man of the people, and a genuine inspiration. Toby Keith is a true icon,” he said during his speech. 

When Keith went up to accept the award, he made some humorous comments. 

''I bet y'all never thought you'd see me in skinny jeans,'' he quipped. ''I want to thank the Almighty for allowing me to be here tonight. He's been riding shotgun with me for a little while. I want to thank my beautiful families here." 

He continued, thanking ''All the great musicians that have played on these albums in the studios, they've poured their heart and soul into what I do. And most of all, I want to thank the fans for still allowing us to do what we do.''


Originally published Feb 9, 2024.