HomeEntertainmentMusicToby Keith’s ‘American Ride’: Story Behind the Hit Song

Toby Keith’s ‘American Ride’: Story Behind the Hit Song

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Toby Keith focuses on America and the many issues of the land of the free in this up-tempo tune “American Ride.”

Released in 2009, the song still feels as relevant today as it did back in. The tune focuses on much political and economic upheaval, but Keith’s narrator is also still proud to be an American. It’s the kind of song that Keith made his career on. But songwriters Dave Pahanish and Joe West didn’t write the tune for Keith.

The two songwriters felt inspired by various events they saw on the news or on social media. They specifically targeted topics that irritated them.

“We started writing the song about the time we had seen that video on YouTube about that girl getting beaten up by her friends,” West told The Boot. “And then the movie ‘Mean Girls’ came out. It was just a lot of topical stuff.”

Neither West nor Pahanish intended for the song to preach a message or teach a parable. They wanted to focus on the absurdity of it all.

“I never felt like the song was saying right or wrong, but absurdity or just wild,” West said. “One of the things we heard was this comedian saying, “Why are kids in the Sudan not lactose intolerant like American kids are?” Because of our culture, we have a whole sort of problems that other cultures don’t. So you could say we’re celebrating the absurdity.”

The Songwriters Recruited Toby Keith

So where does Toby Keith enter the picture? The two envisioned the tune for the country singer, but he always felt like a long shot. They took the song to Keith’s record label with hopes of attracting the star’s attention.

“The great thing about it is, we didn’t write it for Toby Keith,” West said. “It was just a funny song, and an entertaining song. We took Dave over to ShowDog [Keith’s label] to play for Allison Jones to get a record deal for Dave. We ended up playing the song for her.”

Keith liked their song and even wanted to make a music video for it. But he wanted to change the name from “American Life” to “American Ride,” to which the songwriters agreed.

“One day they called and said he was going to cut the song,” Keith said. “Within a week of that phone call, he was doing it live in concert. Then we heard he was going to do a video. And I wasn’t actually sure he understood everything about the song. But you can see, play by play, he had every single thing down. It might not be as cryptic as we thought it would be. But when you look at the video, it is even more so.”

Upon release, the song landed at No. 1 on the charts, the 19th of Keith’s career.