Did you know “One Day at a Time” was recorded by more than 200 artists and has been No.1 in several territories? The popular Country and Western-style Christian song became best known among country fans when American country gospel singer Cristy Lane recorded it.
Lane began enjoying mainstream success in the late 1970s after releasing several secular hits, including “Simple Little Words” and “Let Me Down Easy.” She recorded “One Day at a Time” after the song became a No. 1 hit in the United Kingdom by Scottish singer Lena Martell. At first, Lane’s record label – United Artists Records – hesitated at releasing the song, despite its previous track record of success. However, Lane’s husband-manager, Lee Stoller, predicted the song would be successful, and United Artists Records gave in.
Lane’s version was released in the late winter of 1980. By the end of the spring, the song again became a big success – reaching No. 1 on the chart of Billboard Hot Country Singles. It was Lane’s only No. 1 hit.
A Cry For Help
Written by Marijohn Wilkin and Kris Kristofferson, “One Day at a Time” was “literally a cry for help,” as Wilkin said.
The song was written during one of the toughest times in Wilkin’s life. Wilkin was unable to admit her own alcoholism. Her husband, who also relied too heavily on the bottle, was having an affair – putting their marriage on the rocks. Her mother had recently died after suffering a stroke while her business partner, Hubert Long, had passed away. Her close friend, who tended to her boat, also died. On top of that, singer Dottie West was six months behind in paying back a loan. Things couldn’t have gotten much worse, so Wilkin drove up for counseling in a brand new El Dorado.
When Wilkin unloaded her burdens to the minister, he gave her some unusual advice. He suggested that she thank God for her problems. Wilkin followed the advice while driving home, and her tears gave way to laughter as she realized how unbelievable her situation had become. When she finally got home, Wilkin sat down at her piano and started singing the first verse and the chorus of “One Day At A Time.”
She called her friend and former protégé Kris Kristofferson and asked him to help her wrap up the song.
“She was a good songwriter herself, and I was in the room when she was writing ‘One Day At A Time,’ and I might have given her a line or two,” Kristofferson said. He admitted he did not sing the song because he did not write it. “If I studied the lyrics, I might find a phrase of mine, but I think she wrote the whole song, and I remember her singing it to me. Marijohn was paying me back for some of the songs I had written for her – it was her way of saying ‘Thank you.’ I’ve done it myself. I’ve given a lot of people who’ve never written a word a piece of one of my songs.”
“One Day At A Time” quickly became a gospel standard. In 1975, the country gospel favorite won a Dove Award for “Song of the Year” from the Gospel Music Association. That same year, Wilkin was also inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“One day at a time, sweet Jesus, that’s all I’m asking from you. Just give me the strength to do every day what I have to do. Yesterday’s gone, sweet Jesus, and tomorrow may never be mine. Lord, help me today, show me the way. One day at a time,” the song goes.
You can listen to it in the video below.