K.T. Oslin, country singer-songwriter best known for '80's Ladies,' dies at 78 (2024)

K.T. Oslin, a witty and sophisticated country star who found both critical and commercial success in the late 1980s, died Monday in suburban Nashville. She was 78.

Her death was confirmed by the Country Music Association, which didn’t state a cause, though the Nashville trade publication Music Row said Oslin had Parkinson’s disease and had been living in an assisted-living facility since 2016. Last week, Music Row added, Oslin tested positive for COVID-19.

The first female songwriter to win the CMA’s coveted song of the year award — which she took in 1988 with her hit “80’s Ladies” — Oslin made polished, lightly twangy music about women’s lives with a keen eye on the complexities of work, family and romance. In “80’s Ladies,” which helped drive her album of the same name to No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart, she tracked the intersecting paths of “three little girls from school” as they approach middle age:

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We burned our bras
And we burned our dinners
And we burned our candles at both ends
And we’ve had some children
Who look just like the way we did back then

K.T. Oslin, country singer-songwriter best known for '80's Ladies,' dies at 78 (1)

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In a series of tweets on Monday, Brandy Clark described Oslin as “smart, funny, elegant, beautiful” and called her “one of my musical heroes.” Chely Wright wrote on Instagram that Oslin, who was in her mid-40s when “80’s Ladies” came out, “shattered the longstanding industry norms of who got a shot at making it in the business.”

Oslin — whose other hits included four chart-toppers in “Do Ya,” “I’ll Always Come Back,” “Hold Me” and “Come Next Monday” — sang in a breathy voice and favored plush, synth-heavy arrangements that had as much to do with the era’s adult-contemporary style as they did with country music.

Nevertheless, Nashville claimed her as one of its own: In addition to the song of the year prize, Oslin won a CMA Award for female vocalist of the year in 1988 — unseating Reba McEntire for the first time in nearly half a decade — and she received four Academy of Country Music Awards, including album of the year for 1988’s “This Woman.” She also won three Grammys.

Kay Toinette Oslin was born May 15, 1942, in Crossett, Ark., and grew up in Mobile, Ala., and Houston. After studying drama in college, she moved to New York, where she performed small roles in Broadway musicals such as “Hello, Dolly!” and “Promises, Promises” until she decided she was unlikely to make any money in musical theater, as she told the Los Angeles Times in 1991.

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“I didn’t see that I could live anything other than a grimy little actor’s life,” she said. So she turned to singing jingles and acting in commercials.

K.T. Oslin, country singer-songwriter best known for '80's Ladies,' dies at 78 (2)

K.T. Oslin at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 1993.

(Paul Natkin / Getty Images)

In the mid-1970s she got a gig touring as a vocalist with an experimental synthesizer group. During a breakfast stop one morning in South Carolina, she glimpsed a bit of bathroom-wall graffiti — “I ain’t never gonna love nobody but Cornell Crawford” — that set her songwriter’s wheels turning. Back in New York, she and a friend, Joe Miller, conjured up the story of a woman attached despite her best interests to a man by that name.

“He’s dumb and he’s dirty and he’s way over 30,” it goes. “But that Cornell is so smooth / He knows what to do.”

Following a short-lived deal with Elektra Records that went nowhere, Oslin borrowed money from an aunt to stage a showcase in Nashville in 1986. “I can’t believe I went after a record contract that way,” she told The Times a few years later. “But my back was against the wall.”

The bet paid off when RCA signed her and put her in the studio with producer Harold Shedd, who’d worked closely with McEntire and with the popular country group Alabama. “80’s Ladies,” Oslin’s debut LP, sold more than 1 million copies, as did her follow-up, “This Woman.”

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K.T. Oslin, country singer-songwriter best known for '80's Ladies,' dies at 78 (3)

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Oslin returned to acting in the mid-’90s with roles on TV’s “Evening Shade” and in director Peter Bogdanovich’s film “The Thing Called Love,” about a young singer from New York who moves to Nashville with dreams of making it big in country music. (Oslin played a nightclub owner.)

A member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Oslin went on to make records that explored a rootsy Americana sound and brassy big-band pop. In 2001 she even crashed Billboard’s club chart with a thumping dance-music take on the old Rosemary Clooney hit “Come On-A My House.” Her most recent studio album, “Simply,” came out in 2015, with a stripped-down piano-ballad rendition of “80’s Ladies.”

“You can call what I do country because of the simplicity and the story songs and some of the country instrumentation,” she told The Times in 1988, adding that she thought of her music as a blend of pop and Southern rock and R&B. “It’s a mishmash of stuff. I’m surprised people like it. They should be asking, ‘What is this stuff?’

“I ask that myself all the time.”

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K.T. Oslin, country singer-songwriter best known for '80's Ladies,' dies at 78 (2024)

FAQs

K.T. Oslin, country singer-songwriter best known for '80's Ladies,' dies at 78? ›

She was 78. Her death was confirmed by the Country Music Association

Country Music Association
The Country Music Association (CMA) is an American trade association with the stated aim of promoting and developing country music throughout the world. Founded in 1958 in Nashville, Tennessee, it originally consisted of 233 members and was the first trade organization formed to promote a music genre.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Country_Music_Association
, which didn't state a cause, though the Nashville trade publication Music Row said Oslin had Parkinson's disease and had been living in an assisted-living facility since 2016. Last week, Music Row added, Oslin tested positive for COVID-19.

What was the cause of KT Oslin's death? ›

In June 2015, Oslin was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and moved into an assisted-living facility the following year. She died on December 21, 2020. She was 78 years old. She was interred at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Nashville adjacent to fellow country music star Tammy Wynette.

Who is the country singer in 80's Ladies? ›

"80's Ladies" is a song written and recorded by American country music artist K. T. Oslin. It was released in April 1987 as the second single and title track from Oslin's album 80's Ladies.

Did KT Oslin have children? ›

K.T. Oslin's life was singular and sophisticated. She never married. She never had kids.

Who is Katie Oslin country singer? ›

Ms. Oslin also won three Grammy Awards, as well as female vocalist of the year honors from the Country Music Association in 1988. She was later inducted into both the Texas and Nashville songwriter halls of fame. Kay Toinette Oslin was born on May 15, 1942, in Crossett, Ark.

Who sang "Daddy's Hands" first? ›

"Daddy's Hands" is a song written and recorded by American country music artist Holly Dunn. It was released in August 1986 as the third and final single from the album Holly Dunn. The song reached #7 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.

What is the longest number one hit of all time? ›

The current record holder is “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X at 19 weeks, and the longest record held is “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men with 8,554 days. Ref. Note: "The Battle of New Orleans" by Johnny Horton tied the record for 6 weeks at number one on July 6, 1959.

What is the greatest one hit wonder of all time? ›

#ARTISTTITLE
1Los Del RioMacarena [Bayside Boys Mix]
2Soft CellTainted Love
3Dexy's Midnight RunnersCome on Eileen
4Right Said FredI'm Too Sexy
52 more rows

What is the world's biggest hit of all time? ›

The Guinness World Records named the holiday single "White Christmas" (1942) by Bing Crosby as the best-selling single worldwide. According to Guinness, "White Christmas" sold over 50 million copies. The single is known as the "best-selling single of all time". It was released before music charts were created.

Who is the female country singer KC? ›

KC Johns is an American Country Music singer and songwriter.

These inspirations create a sound that is country, Raw and sticking with her Memphis roots.

Who sings "Do Ya"? ›

"Do Ya" is a song written and recorded by American country music artist K. T. Oslin.

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