TobyMac Pays Tribute to His Late Son in Heartbreaking Song and Music Video
"'21 Years' is a song I never wanted to write," the country singer wrote on Instagram
TobyMac is remembering his late son through music.
On Friday, the Christian rapper, 55, released a new song titled “21 Years” to honor Truett Foster McKeehan, his 21-year-old song who unexpectedly passed away in October.
‘”21 years” is a song I wrote about the recent passing of my firstborn son, Truett Foster McKeehan. I loved him with all my heart,” he wrote on Instagram, sharing a clip from the track’s music video. “Until something in life hits you this hard, you never know how you will handle it. I am thankful that I have been surrounded by love, starting with God’s and extending to community near and far that have walked with us and carried us everyday.”
He continued, “Writing this song felt like an honest confession of the questions, pain, anger, doubt, mercy and promise that describes the journey I’m probably only beginning. One thing I know is that I am not alone. God didn’t promise us a life of no pain or even tragic death, but He did promise He would never leave us or forsake us. And I’m holding dearly to that promise for my son as well as myself.”
TobyMac, born Kevin McKeehan, also opened up about the loss on social media earlier this week. Remembering the passing of his son, he told followers the last few months had been “the hardest” he’s ever faced.
“Part of my process has always been to write about the things I’m going through, but this went to a whole new level,” he shared. “What started out as getting some of my thoughts and feelings about losing my firstborn son down on paper, ended up a song. ’21 Years’ is a song I never wanted to write.”
The musician added that he wishes others may also find comfort in the track, saying, “I hope it’s for someone out there, or maybe it’s just for me.”
McKeehan died suddenly on Oct. 23. The Davidson County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed that medics responded to a cardiac arrest call at the family’s Tennessee home.
An aspiring rapper, McKeehan released music on various platforms under the names TRU, Shiloh and Truett Foster. Over the years, he also joined forces with his father on several tracks. TobyMac had penned the song “Scars” after his eldest son left home to pursue his dreams.
“He moved to L.A. and he’s making music and he’s doing his thing,” TobyMac told The Tennessean last October of the song’s inspiration “But to watch him go through that, and watch him get bruised, it’s not easy. So that’s one of the ways life has changed. In that song, I just want him to know he’s not alone.”
TobyMac previously paid tribute to his son in an emotional statement after his death.
“Truett Foster McKeehan had joy that took the room when he entered. He was a magnetic son and brother and friend. If you met him you knew him, you remembered him,” TobyMac wrote in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “His smile, his laugh, the encouragement he offered with words or even without. He had an untamable grand personality and dreams to match. And he hated being put in a box.”
He went on to praise his son’s musical talents, calling him a “true artist.”
“He expressed himself through the music he made. And by made I mean, written, recorded, produced, mixed, and designed the art. All of it. A true artist,” the shared, before reflecting on his son’s first show a week before he died, which was “nothing short of electric.”
“Everyone felt it, everyone knew it. He could’ve easily taken the easy route and put music out when he was 12, 14, 16, even 18, but he always said he wanted to live some life and have something to say before he did it. He didn’t want to be a child star, he wanted to be a man with scars and a story to tell. I always admired, respected and encouraged that stand,” he continued.
Like his father, religion played an important part in McKeehan’s life, although he was not a “cookie-cutter Christian.”
“Truett always had a soft spot for God. The Bible moved him. His heart was warm to the things of his King,” TobyMac wrote. “He was by no means a cookie-cutter Christian but give me a believer who fights to keep believing. Give me a broken man who recognizes his need for a Savior every time. That’s who Truett was and how he should be remembered.”
The star went on to reflect in-depth on the last moment he shared with his son while attending his concert at the Factory in Franklin, Tennessee.
“I had to leave the next morning very early to fly and start our Canadian tour. As I stood in the audience and watched my son bring joy to a room, I was as proud as a ‘pop’ (as tru called me) could be,” he noted. “It was the culminating moment of a dream that he had since he was 12. It couldn’t have been sweeter. Our music, and what we say lyrically couldn’t be more different, but the outcome was much the same… offering a room full of people a few minutes of joy in a crazy world.”