“80’s Ladies” is a song written and recorded by country music artist K. T. Oslin. It was released in 1987 as the second single and title track from Oslin’s album of the same name. The song reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. It won a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Song of the Year at the 1988 CMA Awards.
But the best part was that “80’s Ladies” stamped her with the feisty, wry, brassy image that kept K. T. Oslin a hot item into the ’90s.
A Song That Celebrates Female Maturity and Sisterhood
Into the beehive of melody in the late 1980s came the forty-five-year-old K.T. Oslin. Although women artists were then a minority on the country charts, K.T. Oslin became one of the most popular female country singers around for a short time.
Her worldly, distinctly modern persona was quite unlike any of her peers, such as Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Rosanne Cash, Tanya Tucker, and Patty Loveless, who were routinely scoring No. 1 hits at that time. What made her even more unique was how she matched that persona with utterly contemporary country-pop production, complete with synthesizers.
And then comes “80’s Ladies,” which was more than a song but instead a manifesto that celebrated female maturity and sisterhood. It advanced the unconventional notion that older women had an abundance of wisdom and insight to contribute.
The song is actually a flashback and flash forward to the “three little girls from school” who transformed into the ’80s ladies: Alice, Betty, and Connie. “One was pretty, one was smart, and one was a borderline fool.” These three girls have now all grown up, and the ending was quite a surprise.
“We were the girls of the ’50s,” K.T. Oslin sang. “Stone rock and rollers in the ’60s and more than our names got changed as the ’70s slipped on by. Now we’re ’80s ladies. There ain’t been much we ladies ain’t tried.”
K.T. Oslin once admitted that she didn’t expect “80’s Ladies” to become her signature hit. “It took me about a year to write it. I wrote it a little piece at a time. It was an idea I had. I thought it would be a song that would be great to do live in concert. I thought it was one of those show pieces,” she said. “I never dreamed or thought it would be a single. It got good response from the initial foray, so we put it out as a single. It obviously struck a nerve.”
And when the song started winning all sorts of awards, Oslin thought “it was ridiculous. It was like, ‘What?! What is going on here?!'”
The Glory Days of K.T. Oslin
But what most people didn’t know was that Oslin had been around the music business for a while the moment Nashville took notice of her. In 1981, she recorded as “Kay T. Oslin,” and slipped onto the charts momentarily with “Clean Your Own Tables,” a song that fizzled at No. 72. Before turning to country music, Oslin even had done some stage acting.
Some might think she came in a little late, but she was still able to make her own glory days. Check out K. T. Oslin’s performance of “80’s Ladies” in the video below.