April 16, 2009 — Toby Keith has been travelling annually to the Middle East since war broke out in Afghanistan. Earlier this month, he landed in a different battle — a verbal skirmish over a Rolling Stone piece — and both wars seem to be dragging on.
In the first, Toby's repeated trips to the front lines have helped him build a whole new audience: the Afghanis themselves. He discovered during his last trip that the locals appreciate his lampooning of their former government.
"The [base store] had all my CDs in there, and so I did the 'Taliban Song,' and they had a translator back there and they sold out of my CDs," Toby told Dial-Global. "The Marines and the Army already had all my CDs, and [the PX clerk] goes, 'Your CD's been on sale for a week,=2 0but because you did the Taliban song, all of the local Afghanis bought your CDs. They all lined up on here and bought Shockin' Y'all.'"
Toby's returning later this month for his seventh USO trip to the region, in which its politics are treacherously complicated.
The controversy over the Rolling Stone piece is likewise becoming increasingly complex. A 14-page Kris Kristofferson profile written by Ethan Hawke alluded to Toby receiving a verbal dressing-down from Kris in a backstage disagreement at a Willie Nelson concert. It erupted earlier this month into a bigger feud when a reporter for The Tennessean deduced that Toby — who was unnamed in the original piece — was at the heart of the scene and named him in a column item. Toby insisted the confrontation never took place and confronted the Tennessean writer in front of his peers in the press room at the Academy of Country Music Awards.
Willie agrees with Toby that the incident never took place. Kris issued a statement to Rolling Stone and The Tennessean saying he did not recall it, adding that several other details of the story were incorrect.
Now Kris has indicated that his wife, Lisa, does indeed recall Toby and Kris having words.
"That's something that happened six years ago," Kris told The Minneapolis Star Tribune, "and I can't even remember what I had for breakfast."
That development drags the story out and has Toby's representatives scratching their heads. Lisa, Toby's spokeswoman says, sent the statement to Rolling Stone indicating Kris had no memory of it.
Despite the ruckus the whole thing has created, it hasn't seemed to dim either artist's view of the other.
"Actually, I like Toby Keith, but I don't agree with his politics," Kris told The Star Tribune. "There are a lot of things in artistry that transcend politics."
Representatives for Ethan, Kris and Lisa told The Tennessean they have no further comments on the Rolling Stone story. Toby has said his piece. Maybe, just maybe, at least this war is finished.