Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)

Toby Keith, 2002

What cases were made for and against going to war in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks?

How would you describe the mood or moods of the song? Are there shifts of mood in the music? What words or phrases help establish these moods?

Why would the Statue of Liberty shake her fists?

Why do you think this song united some Americans while also sparking division?

"Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" performed by Toby Keith on Unleashed, Dreamworks Nashville, © 2002. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

For more information about Toby Keith, visit his official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult the following online resource for lyrics:

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/tobykeith/ courtesyoftheredwhiteandbluetheangryamerican.html

Toby Keith (b. 1961) grew up in Oklahoma. He received his first guitar for Christmas when he was eight, and his grandfather, who was a church musician, gave him his first lessons in harmony. He began composing songs when he was sixteen, writing several every day. After working on oil derricks and playing football for a semi-professional team, he formed the band Easy Money and performed around Oklahoma and Texas. He moved to Nashville in the early 1990s and released his first album in 1993.

Marketed as "America's favorite redneck," Keith conveys the image—carefully cultivated with the assistance of manager TK Kimbrell—of a working-class tough guy. His strong support of America's military is reflected in his songs and his fan base. (On his website, his fans are referred to as "warriors.") He also has his own line of tequila (Wild Shot) that he sells on his website, along with a variety of "Made in America" apparel.

Courtesy of the Red White and Blue single cover
Single cover for "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)."

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, inspired Keith to write "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)." Keith began performing the song in 2002, and it was especially well received at a concert at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. According to Mark Binelli in Rolling Stone, "He played the song live, as a gift to the troops. The band didn't know the music, so he played it solo. The room went silent, then, when he hit the chorus, broke into a roar" (Binelli). The enthusiasm at this and other concerts led Keith to release the song on his album Unleashed.

Although it was popular, the song's support for an aggressive military response to 9/11 was controversial. In 2002, Keith was considered for an appearance on a Fourth of July special on ABC, but the show's host, news anchor Peter Jennings, objected to the song's inclusion. Keith quickly pointed out that Jennings is Canadian and cited that as a potential reason for his opposition. Keith later defended his song, saying, "I'm not saying every time we disagree with somebody we should go to war. But they attacked us. We knew who did it. We had to stop them from doing it again. For me, it's like sticking your head in the sand if you criticize my song. They said, 'You should have more tact.' There's nothing tactful about war" (Binelli).

Keith was a registered Democrat until 2008 and prior to 2016 he claimed he tried to stay out of politics. Although he avoided partisanship, his image engaged with the politics of class. As Nadine Hubbs puts it, he was political in that his positions were “working-class-affirmative” (p. 141). After voicing concerns about Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, Keith became one of the musicians most closely associated with Trump’s presidency. He was a headliner at his inauguration festivities and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom just before Trump left office in January of 2021.