Toby Keith (Cont.)

His most recent album, "Unleashed," has sold more than two-million copies and the singles "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (the Angry American)," and "Who's Your Daddy" held the No. 1 spot on Billboard magazine's country music chart.

"Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" landed Keith in hot water after "ABC World News Tonight" anchor Peter Jennings pulled the plainspoken Okie from the network's Fourth of July celebration. Jennings found several lyrics in the song offensive. Keith said the song was written as an outpouring of grief, anger, and frustration in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy and the earlier death of his father. The song is one of his most requested during live performances.

Over the last two years, Keith has sold more than five-million albums, and was named the 2001 County Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year and 2002 Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year. His 1999 "How Do You Like Me Now" was chosen Album of the Year.

In 2002, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association picked up Keith's song "Should've Been a Cowboy" for use in an advertising campaign.

Keith views his music success as proof that his stubborn willingness to stick to his vision was the right course. "I wouldn't have been happy with compromise, and I never gave up," he said. "I did my last album the way I did my first--my way. It never entered my mind to change or try to conform just to stay afloat. My motto was always: 'Let's go down with the ship or come back up.' "

Both in his personal and professional life, Keith is grateful for the satisfaction of being at the helm of a well-oiled machine. "I don't think I'm at my peak," he says, "but I do think I'm hitting my stride."