Keith, who died Monday at the age of 62, said he had to "work" on his diaphragm following the surgery in an interview recorded a month before his death
Toby Keith had to put the work in to get the “belt” back in his voice after his stomach cancer surgery.
“The thing that I've had to overcome, the surgery I had on my stomach, they had to stick on my diaphragm, so not using it to sing every night, that is a muscle, so I’ve had to really work that to get it,” the "Red Solo Cup" crooner said in the Jan. 5 interview.
“I sing really, really hard and really, really violent and loud. And I didn’t have that last 10 per cent on the bottom where I could just really belt anything, you know?” he continued. “Like when I sang ‘MacArthur Park’ at Carnegie Hall, that was like opera stuff. So I don’t know if I could do that. But what I do on stage is no problem.”
“I’ve had to work on my diaphragm and it’s getting better all the time. I went through about three hours yesterday, off and on, going through our list, working it up. And I didn’t have any issues,” he added.
The country singer died Monday after announcing his cancer diagnosis in June 2022. In the announcement, Keith, who said he’d received his diagnosis “last fall,” confirmed that he'd already gone through six months of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Keith's family revealed in a statement posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) Tuesday that the musician had died the previous day.
"Toby Keith passed peacefully last night on Feb. 5 surrounded by his family,” the statement read. “He fought his fight with grace and courage. Please respect the privacy of his family at this time.”
Despite his diagnosis, Keith continued to play live, with his last shows taking place just two months ago at Park MGM in Las Vegas.
Related: Toby Keith's Life in Photos
"3 sold out shows in Vegas was a damn good way to end the year," he posted on Instagram on Dec. 28.
The shows, which Keith announced in October 2023, were his first since he revealed his diagnosis.
"Hey everybody! This is Toby Keith. It’s been a while. You know what I’ve been doing — been on the old rollercoaster, but Almighty’s riding shotgun. He’s letting me drive for some reason, but we’re making a big announcement," he said in a YouTube video announcing the shows. "I’m doing a little deal and thought I’d start in the great Las Vegas."
"It’ll be my first two shows. They’re kind of rehab shows — get the band back in sync, get me rolling again," he added. "First time in my whole life I’ve been off over two years. I’ve never been off a year in my life."
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"Through COVID and cancer, the old devil’s been after me a little bit," Keith continued. "I’ve got him by the horns right now, so instead of just sitting around and waiting, we’re gonna get the band back together."
The star, who also performed at the ceremony, told E! News at the time that his cancer struggle is "a little bit of a roller coaster. You get good days and, you know, you're up and down, up and down.”
“It's always zero to 60 and 60 to zero but I feel good today," said Keith, who shared three children with his wife of 40 years, Tricia Lucus.
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