NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Songwriter Marijohn Wilkin, who helped pen such classics as “The Long Black Veil” and “One Day at a Time,” has died. She was 86.

Wilkin died Saturday, said S. Reese, director of Woodlawn Roesch-Patton Funeral Home.

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 OK,” 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.

She is credited with discovering Kris Kristofferson, who released a statement Sunday calling her 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, Okla., and started writing songs for her choir.

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.


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