K.T. Oslin’s legacy is being celebrated by fans and country singers who were inspired by her songs, talent and moxie. Her Top 40 country radio career was brief — just five years — but her impact was as long-lasting as her biggest hit.
“Do Ya” is the song fans think of first when Oslin’s name comes up, but the greatest tangible honors of her career came for a pair of very different hits. Officially, Billboard tallies four No. 1 songs for Oslin and seven Top 10 hits, all from three albums released between 1987 and 1990. The Grammy winner would continue to record after she lightened her touring load in the early 1990s. Simply, her 2015 album on Red River Records, would be her final bow, released just before she shared her Parkinson’s disease diagnosis with fans and the country music community.
Most remarkable about Oslin was that her commercial career started long after an age at which many women in country are pushed out of the mainstream section of the genre. She was 45 years old when “80s Ladies” was released.
“The gatekeepers didn’t even have a chance to decide whether or not they’d let her in,” Chely Wright said on Twitter in the hours after Oslin’s Dec. 21 death. “K.T. Oslin didn’t ask anyone for permission to enter. She waltzed in with her brilliant songs, her unmatched intellect, her perfectly foul mouth and she changed everything — forever.”
Artists including Travis Tritt, the Oak Ridge Boys and Brandy Clark also spoke highly of Oslin, an Arkansas native who grew up in Houston, Texas, before heading to New York City to begin a successful career in theater. Below you’ll find a list of her most well-known songs, biggest hits and career accolades, arranged alphabetically.
While the official cause of Oslin’s death has not yet been announced, Music Row shares that she had contracted COVID-19 the week prior.
See K.T. Oslin’s Top Songs and Biggest Hits:
“80s Ladies” (1987)
This coming-of-age story was Oslin’s first big country hit. “80s Ladies” tells of three girls raised in the ’50s growing up and navigating love, loss, laws and liberation. The Top 10 single would help earn Oslin her first serious country honor: a Top New Female Vocalist trophy at the 1987 ACM Awards.
“Come Next Monday” (1990)
“Come Next Monday” would end up being Oslin’s final No. 1 hit, and really her final taste of radio success. Released just three years after her debut, the uptempo track speaks of letting a man go; in a way it forms its own circle of life with “80s Ladies,” a song that touched on some of the same subjects.
“Didn’t Expect It to Go Down This Way” (1989)
Oslin wrote many of her most well-known songs and often worked alongside Harold Shedd in producing singles such as “Didn’t Expect It To Go Down This Way.” This sultry ballad from the This Woman album exemplifies the singer’s powerful, expressive vocals. She teases the audience with each verse before growling through an immersive chorus.
“Do Ya” (1987)
Without a doubt, “Do Ya” is Oslin’s signature song, and the one that will be listed in the first line of every obituary. It’s a classic ’80s vibe with a timeless lyric that’s been recreated many times sense. One feels it wouldn’t take much to take the song to No. 1 again in 2020. Her yearning through the chorus highlights a great country standard.
Oslin released five songs from This Woman, including “Hey Bobby,” a song that brought tones of Janis Joplin. This performance from Farm Aid shows the singer’s live appeal.
“Hold Me” (1988)
A pair of Grammy wins for “Hold Me” would seemingly make it Oslin’s career song, but the No. 1 hit didn’t keep a hold on country music America quite like a couple others on this list. It’s a moving ballad and a stirring vocal performance, but as so often happens, her lyrics describe a time that may have passed or become too familiar to be remarkable.
“I’ll Always Come Back” (1988)
After “Do Ya,” “I’ll Always Come Back” raced to No. 1 on country radio airplay charts. It’s a good time to point out that Oslin was an important music video artist, who used her training in theater to her advantage throughout several clips that featured a nuanced plot between song lyrics. The above clip is but one example.
Not only did Oslin write many of her hit songs, she wrote many of them by herself. “Money” is one example of her fine songwriting and interpretive performance. Her partnership with Harold Shedd was magical for a bit, but as you listen to this list of 10 songs, you begin to hear similarities that may have helped spell an end to her success.
“Silver Tongues and Gold Plated Lies” (1996)
Oslin’s voice had changed by the mid-’90s, when the then 54-year-old singer released “Silver Tongues and Gold Plated Lies.” Her swagger had not diminished, however. This ice-cold vocal performance cuts down a no-good man who serves to deceive her. She’d chart one more time after this song, in 2001, with “Live Close By, Visit Often.”
“This Woman” (1989)
Oslin plays a woman poised to do her man wrong in “This Woman,” a Top 5 track from 1989. It’s a reversal of roles that would even draw a few raised eyebrows in 2020, but the veteran singer pulls it off with some level of sympathy.