Kay Toinette Oslin, a Grammy-winning pioneer in country music and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer, died Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. She was born May 15, 1942, in Crossett, and also grew up in Memphis and Houston. Known professionally as “K.T.,” her 1987 debut album, “80s Ladies,” became a country music juggernaut, with the hit song of the same name earning her the CMA Award for Song of the Year — the first female composer to do so. The Ashley County native was named CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, and the album went platinum and won a Grammy.

With a background in folk music as well as on and off Broadway, Oslin was 45 years old when her country music debut album was released, in a genre that has, if anything, skewed younger in the decades since. Her songs not only nimbly and often addressed issues rarely heard in country music of sexism, but also ageism. Her follow-up, “This Woman,” won a CMA Award, two Grammys and also went platinum. In addition to her solo career, Oslin’s songs have been recorded by such country music legends as Dottie West and the Judds.

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With four No. 1 songs as a performer through the late 1980s, she’d already released a greatest hits album and retired from the road by the early 1990s. Oslin did some acting, including in the 1993 film “The Thing Called Love,” and a one-off on the Arkansas-based TV sitcom, “Evening Shade,” which at the end of its run began featuring country music performers. Oslin released music and made stage
appearances only sporadically. Her final album, “Simply,” was released in 2015, and was her first album release in 14 years. It included a reworking of the song that started it all for her, “80’s Ladies.” She’d been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for some time, and was diagnosed with COVID-19 just last week. Oslin was 78.