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Country Weekly - January 7, 2003

War of the Words: Toby Keith leads the spit parade
It seemed like Toby Keith was never far from the headlines this year, whether he was blasting up the charts or setting off verbal fireworks.
His song "Courtesy Of The Red, While And Blue (The Angry American)" was a smash that lit up more than radio request lines - it also started a few opinion fires.  The first flare-up came after Toby was booted from ABC-TV's July 4 special when anchorman Peter Jennings took a dislike to the song's aggressive lyrics.  Toby was royally ticked off with the veteran newsman - and his fans were, too, mailing Jennings boots in line with the song's oft-quoted lyric We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way.
Then another verbal brush-fire struck when Dixie Chick Natalie Maines called the song "ignorant."  Toby cared not one whit for Nat's opinion, suggesting that the big-voiced singer was not quite the songwriter he is, and therefore not qualified to comment.
Toby's infamous "boot" line wasn't the only song lyric that caused controversy this year.  Tim McGraw found himself the target of ire for his hit "Red Ragtop," whose second verse refers to an abortion.  Tim insisted the song was neutral on the politically charged topic, even though some radio stations didn't warm to it.
Sometimes trouble started in 2002 for not what someone sang, but for what they said.  Take Chad Brock, who inflamed the Hispanic community in Greeley, Colo., in July when he told a crowd there that immigrants coming to America should learn to speak English.
And a fan on hand for alt-country favorite Ryan Adam's October show in Nashville discovered the hard way about saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.  When he kiddingly yelled for "Summer of '69," an '80s song by another Adams (Canadian rocker Bryan Adams), an outraged Ryan jumped off-stage, handed the guy $30 to cover his ticket price, and ordered him removed from the auditorium.

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