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Songwriter Marijohn Wilkin


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Hall of Fame Songwriter Marijohn Wilkin

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Marijohn Wilkin

NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- Songwriter Marijohn Wilkin, who helped pen such classics as "The Long Black Veil" and "One Day at a Time," died on Saturday, October 28, following a lengthy struggle with heart disease, according to S. Reese, director of Woodlawn Roesch-Patton Funeral Home. She was 86.

Wilkin had learned last year that her 2003 triple-bypass heart operation had failed and that she was not a candidate for another procedure. "It's Okay," she said. "I have my faith. I am ready to go. Don't be sad for me."

Wilkin was a founder of the Nashville Songwriters Association, a nonprofit group that advocates for songwriters, and was dubbed "the den mother of Music Row." She was inducted into Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1975.

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Wllie Nelson, Marijohn Wilkin and Kris Kristofferson

Wilkin is credited with discovering Kris Kristofferson. Kristofferson said, "Marijohn taught me more in the first couple of years I was in Nashville about the heart and soul of the Nashville music world than I could ever have learned on my own. I'll be forever grateful to her for saving my life."

Commenting on her life, Kristofferson said, "Marijohn embodied the spirit of the way of life to which I was to commit myself some 40 years ago. A highly respected artist -- singer, songwriter, publisher -- she was a tough, intelligent and funny woman making it in a man's world."

Born Marijohn Melson in Texas, she was the grandchild of a country fiddler and learned to play piano as a child. After graduating from college, she became a schoolteacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and started writing songs for her choir.

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Marijohn Wilkin

She moved to Nashville in 1958 and was signed as a songwriter by Cedarwood Publishing company. She scored her first major hit when she and John D. Loudermilk created "Waterloo" in 1959. Stonewall Jackson's recording topped the country and pop charts.

On the same day Wilkin and Danny Dill composed "The Long Black Veil" in 1959, she was scheduled to pitch songs to Lefty Frizzell. He recorded it that night. The song has become an evergreen, with recordings by Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, The Band, The Kingston Trio, Burl Ives and dozens of others.

Similarly, "One Day at a Time" was a hit for Marilyn Sellers and Cristy Lane and has been recorded more than 200 times. Among the many artists who recorded her songs include Brenda Lee, Johnny Horton, Mel Tillis, Les Paul, the Fleetwoods, the Chordettes and Debbie Reynolds.

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Marijohn Wilkin and Brenda Lee

As a recording artist, she released two Columbia albums in the early '60s and a project for Dot Records later in the decade. Her vocal group, The Marijohn Singers, appeared on numerous recordings in Nashville during the '60s.

After leaving Cedarwood Music, Wilkin established her own publishing company, Buckhorn Music. Her son, Bucky Wilkin, wrote the first song in the company's catalog -- "G.T.O." -- and turned it into a major pop hit in 1964 when he recorded it as Ronny & the Daytonas.

Her other hits from the late '50s and early '60s include Jimmy Dean's "P.T. 109" and Webb Pierce's "Fallen Star" and "Take Time." Another original, "Cut Across Shorty," was eventually recorded by Eddie Cochran, Carl Smith, Rod Stewart, Nat Stuckey and others.

Funeral services are pending.

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