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Trailblazing country singer-songwriter K.T. Oslin dies at age 78

She was the first female writer whose work won CMA Song of the Year, for her 1987 hit "80s Ladies."
K.T. Oslin In Central Park
K.T. Oslin in Central Park, New York on Sept. 5, 1987.Oliver Morris / Getty Images file

Trailblazing country musician K.T. Oslin - the first female writer whose work won CMA's Song of the Year - died on Monday, industry officials said.

The singer-songwriter was 78.

Oslin's passing was first reported by the trade publication Music Row then later confirmed by the Country Music Association. She'd been fighting Parkinson's disease in recent years, while residing in an assisted living facility, Music Row reported.

She's best known for the 1987 hit "80's Ladies," which topped out at No. 7 on the Billboard country chart. That tune was named Song of the Year at the 1988 CMA Awards, making her the first female writer whose work won that coveted honor.

Oslin also won Female Vocalist of the Year at that 1988 show.

"K.T. Oslin was a pioneer in every sense of the word. Oslin shattered long-standing industry norms of who got a shot at making it in the business," according to a statement by singer Chely Wright.

"Nashville was absolutely gobsmacked by her genius and the gatekeepers didn’t even have a chance to decide whether or not they’d let her in. 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."

Not only did she break barriers as a female, Oslin is among the very few middle-age women to find Nashville success at a later point of life, according to Music Row.

Before hitting it big in Music City, Oslin made a living on Broadway in the late 1960s and early 1970s performing in shows such as "Promises, Promises" and "Hello Dolly!"

She eventually found her true calling in Nashville and was nominated for six Grammys between 1987 and 1990, and took home three miniature phonographs.

At the 1988 show, she won awards for Best Country Vocal Performance by a female singer and Best Country Song for "Hold Me."

A year earlier, "80's Ladies" garnered her Best Country Vocal Performance by a female singer.

CMA CEO Sarah Trahern said Oslin was quick to recognize and guide young talent.

"I was fortunate to work with K.T. on a number of television shows in the late '90s. She was always gracious to the crews and up-and-coming talent performing alongside her," Trahern said in a statement.

"She truly had one of the best voices in the history of our format. Our thoughts go out to her loved ones at this difficult time.”

Oslin was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018 and the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014.

"She was a brilliant songwriter and a helluva lady," country star Travis Tritt said Monday, fondly recalling his early days touring with the late artist.

Oslin's work was even loved in galaxies beyond Nashville.

"Very sad to hear this. K.T. Oslin's music blew me away when I first heard it in the late '80s," famed filmmaker and comic book writer Greg Pak said in a statement. "The best kind of heartfelt story songwriting. Rest in peace."