Every No. 1 Country Single of the Eighties: Cristy Lane, “One Day at a Time”

“One Day at a Time”

Cristy Lane

Written by Kris Kristofferson and Marijohn Wilkin


#1 (1 week)

June 21, 1980

Cristy Lane’s biggest hit and signature song topped the chart in 1980.  It was the culmination of many years of working toward country music stardom.

Lane was a housewife with three children when her husband overheard her singing.  Encouraged by her talent, he became her manager and she recorded for independent labels for more than a decade, starting in 1966.  Lane considered retiring after the emotionally exhausting experience of performing for soldiers during the Vietnam War, but she found the resilience to move forward, moving the family to Nashville in the early seventies.

When no label would sign her, she went ahead and formed her own label with her husband.  After two singles cracked the top sixty, she cracked the top ten with a cover of Lobo’s “Let Me Down Easy,” which caught the attention of United Artists Records.  They partnered with LS, Lane’s self-founded label, to release a string of top ten and top twenty hits through the end of the decade.

1980 brought with it the biggest hit of her career.  “One Day at a Time” was written by Marijohn Wilkin as she was struggling with her alcoholism, and she brought it to Kris Kristofferson, who helped her complete it.  Released first by Marilyn Sellars, it was a top twenty country hit in 1974, and won the Dove Award for Song of the Year in 1975.  Irish singer Gloria did even better with it, taking it to the top of the Irish singles chart, where it spent  ninety weeks in the top thirty.

But it was Lane’s recording that made the largest impact, and it’s hard to imagine it being sung by anyone else, despite it being one of the most recorded songs of all time.  She is the perfect vehicle for the song’s lyric, and she strikes that difficult balance of vulnerability and resilience in her performance.  Her faith gives her certainty that she can get through today, even if tomorrow and beyond are not promised to her.

The record changed the course of her career for good.  She scored another top ten hit from Ask Me to Dance, the album that was led off by her only No. 1 hit.  “Sweet Sexy Eyes” would be her last visit to the top ten, though her 1981 album I Have a Dream produced a top twenty hit with its title track.  It’s a cover of the ABBA classic and it fits well within her wheelhouse.

Lane would record mostly Christian music for the remainder of her career, publishing an autobiography named after her signature hit and operating a theater in Branson, Missouri for many years.  Lane was also a pioneer in the direct marketing of music, advertising her albums on television and shipping them directly to customers.

“One Day at a Time” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. What a beautiful song.

    It affected a lot of people and in many cases, changed people’s lives spiritually.

    It is so beautifully written and as you say, Lane gave it the vocal it needed with heart and gusto.

    We sang it for years in church and I witnessed many people in tears as they sang it. Amazing song and I’m thrilled to see it receiving an A.

  2. A beautiful song with a beautiful voice behind it, one that my late dad and I listened to a lot and one that brings back some sweet memories.

  3. A great go to song when going through a tough patch in life! Agree with the A for sure! This song could have easily been over sung but she treats it with the perfect amount of restrain.

  4. Marilyn Sellars did a pretty good job with the song, although I very slightly prefer Cristy’s version of the song. According to Record World, Sellar’s version reached #4 on their country charts and WHOO (Orlando) & WSUN (St. Petersburg) both had it reach #1 on their local charts so I suspect that the Sellars version must have been a strong regional hit.

  5. I feel like a heel disliking this performance. As much as I love the songwriting, I have always found Lane’s vocals too sanitary and safe. It sounds like somebody who thinks they have the answers singing about somebody else’s problems. There is a sincerity disconnect for me. I don’t hear the struggle in her voice as she wrestles with realizing her own potential, being all that she could be. It’s all too polite and pat. I don’t believe that she has any emotional skin in the game.

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