K.T. Oslin, ’80’s Ladies’ Country Star, Dies at 78

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K.T. Oslin, a singer and songwriter best known for her 1987 debut country album and single, 80’s Ladies, died Dec. 21, 2020, at age 78. The three-time Grammy Award winner had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2015. The publication MusicRow.com noted that Oslin had been living in an assisted living facility since 2016 and had been diagnosed with Covid-19 one week ago.

She was far from an overnight sensation. She was 45 years old when her debut for RCA Records reached #1 on the country chart and sold over a million copies thanks, in part, to its definitive anthem title track, which reached #7. Two subsequent singles from the LP, “Do Ya” and “I’ll Always Come Back,” reached #1.

Within that first year, Oslin was the toast of Nashville, earning such honors as 1988 Female Vocalist of the Year and 1988 Song of the Year from the Country Music Association, the first female songwriter to earn that honor, 1987 Top New Female Vocalist from the Academy of Country Music, and the Grammy Award in 1988 for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female, for “80’s Ladies.”

Oslin had virtually no social media presence. Her Twitter account, established in 2018, had just a single tweet.

From her biography: Born in Crossett, Ark., on May 15, 1942, and raised in Houston, Tex., Kay Toinette Oslin initially performed as a folk singer with fellow Texan Guy Clark. She moved to New York and worked as a chorus girl in the musical Promises Promises, and revivals of Hello Dolly and West Side Story. She began doing ad-jingle singing, which led to appearances in TV commercials.

Her songwriting talent led her to Nashville. She sang backup on Guy Clark’s 1978 album for Warner Bros. Records, then had a brief stint as an Elektra Records artist in 1981-82. Meanwhile, her songs were being recorded by performers such as Gail Davies, Dottie West, Sissy Spacek, Judy Rodman and the Judds.

She broke through as an artist on RCA Records in 1987. A year later she became the first female songwriter in history to win the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year award. Her other Grammys were for writing 1988’s #1 country single, “Hold Me,” and for her recording of the same.

Her 1988 follow-up album, This Woman, reached #2 on the country chart and also went Platinum.

In the early ‘90s Oslin had guest-star roles on such television series as Paradise, Carol and Company and Evening Shade. She was featured in the 1993 theatrical film The Thing Called Love, co-starring Sandra Bullock and River Phoenix. Oslin’s 1992 USO tour became the basis for her first cable special, and a year later she hosted the country-music community’s first AIDS benefit concert.

She was a frequent guest with Oprah Winfrey, Johnny Carson, Larry King and many other talk show hosts who were charmed by her quips and wit.

Oslin was sidelined by coronary bypass surgery in 1995, but returned to recording with an Americana music CD, My Roots Are Showing, a year later.

In later years, Oslin become a popular convention speaker, and in 2004 she began writing a memoir. She debuted her one-woman, autobiographical theater show at Belmont University in 2006.

In November 2013, Oslin celebrated her 25th anniversary of the release of her iconic debut album “80’s Ladies” by performing two shows in Nashville.

Related: Musicians we’ve lost in 2020

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5 Comments so far

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  1. Christy
    #1 Christy 22 December, 2020, 14:58

    Best hard working country woman! She shined her whole life.bless her soul. Rest now our 80’s lady.

    Reply this comment
    • Laukie
      Laukie 22 December, 2020, 18:19

      I’m not a big Country Music fan, but LOVED this woman’s voice. If u really listen to lyrics of songs she wrote, the woman was deep!

      Reply this comment
  2. Mzz Kay
    #2 Mzz Kay 22 December, 2020, 15:16

    RIP Beautiful Lady!

    Reply this comment
  3. samantha
    #3 samantha 22 December, 2020, 18:17

    I loved her voice and her songs were heart felt. Missing you KT Oslin. Peace and love.

    Reply this comment
  4. Jim in Tampa
    #4 Jim in Tampa 23 December, 2020, 10:01

    Sad, sad news. What a voice. What a lady.

    Reply this comment

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