Jason Aldean Pays Tribute to Toby Keith With Tearjerking Cover of ‘Should’ve Been a Cowboy’ at 2024 ACM Awards

Jason Aldean paid tribute to the late Toby Keith at the 2024 ACM Awards on Thursday night (May 16) — produced by Dick Clark Productions — with a stripped-down rendition of one of the country legend’s signature hits.


Blake Shelton, who had just finished performing new single “Purple Irises” with wife Gwen Stefani, was tasked with introducing the tribute to Keith. “Toby was a great friend to me, and he was a straight shooter,” Shelton raved about the country great. “Right to the end of the ride, which ended way too soon.”

Aldean performed a ballad version of Keith’s 1993 breakout hit “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” along with just a couple of acoustic guitarists and a background string quartet for accompaniment. As Aldean and his gutarists played in front of a montage of color and black-and-white photos of the late country legend, the crowd could be heard clearly singing along to the song’s famous chorus, with cutaways to some of the audience members showing them to be in tears. “We love you, Toby,” Aldean ended his rendition.

“Way to go, Jason, that was beautiful,” host Reba McEntire raved about the performance.

“Cowboy” was Keith’s first of 39 entries on the Billboard Hot 100, debuting at peaking at No. 93 in June 1993. It also became topped the Country Airplay chart that same month, first of his 20 songs to do so.

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