||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (November 2010)|
July 14, 1920|
Kemp, Texas, United States
|Origin||Nashville, Tennessee, United States|
|Died||October 28, 2006
|Genres||Gospel music, country, Christian music|
|Years active||1958 – 2006|
Marijohn Wilkin (July 14, 1920 – October 28, 2006), née Melson, was an American songwriter, famous in the country music genre for writing a number of hits. Wilkin won numerous awards over the years and was referred to as "The Den Mother of Music Row," as chronicled in her 1978 biography from Word Books--Lord, Let Me Leave a Song (authored with Darryl E. Hicks).
Wilkin was born in Kemp, Texas and raised in Sanger, north of Dallas. She became a teacher, and was widowed when her husband Bedford Russell was killed in World War II. She remarried in 1946, with one son; her 1950 marriage to Art Wilkin, Jr. was her third.
Her father, a baker, had been a fiddle player. From 1955 she toured with Red Foley, and in 1956 her songs were recorded by Mitchell Torok and Wanda Jackson. In 1958 she moved to Nashville, and had major hits, written with John D. Loudermilk, for Stonewall Jackson (the number one country hit "Waterloo", which also made the pop top ten) and Jimmy C. Newman.
Wilkin also wrote "The Long Black Veil" for Lefty Frizzell (with Danny Dill), the classic "Cut Across Shorty" for Eddie Cochran, and "I Just Don't Understand" which became a pop hit for Ann-Margret and was covered by The Beatles. Although primarily a country songwriter, her songs have been recorded by several pop and rock acts, including Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger. Wilkin herself also recorded occasionally for Columbia Records and Dot Records in the 1960s and at times worked as a background vocalist. She is billed simply as "Marijohn" on a few of her recordings.
Marijohn Wilkin may be most famous for "One Day at a Time", often considered the biggest gospel song of the 1970s. Wilkin wrote the song in 1973 with some assistance by her former protégé, Kris Kristofferson. The song won a Dove Award from the Gospel Music Association in 1975 (see also: Dove Award for Song of the Year). The song was a top 20 country single for Marilyn Sellars in 1974 and hit #37 on Billboard's Hot 100 pop chart. The song also launched a career as a gospel recording artist for Wilkin, who released several albums on Word Records. A remake became a No. 1 country hit for Cristy Lane in 1980 and has since been recorded more than 200 times.
Johnny Duncan and Ed Bruce were among the many songwriters she helped get a foothold in the music business. Kris Kristofferson was in the Army with one of her distant cousins. So he sent some of his work to her at Buckhorn, Marijohn's publishing company. She became the first to publish his songs, notably "For the Good Times." In 1970 it became a massive pop and country hit for Ray Price. Hundreds have since recorded it. Marijohn Wilkin is credited for the discovery of Kris Kristofferson and being the first person to give him work as a legitimate songwriter. In fact, it is rumored that he wrote much of his hit "Help Me Make It Through The Night" in the basement of her Nashville home on Shy's Hill Road, later owned by Country legend Dottie West.
Wilkin formed a new publishing company, 17th Avenue Music. It became profitable when its songs were recorded by LeAnn Rimes. In 2005, Wilkin was honored by the SOURCE organization as a pioneering Music Row businesswoman. This was her last notable public appearance. She died of heart disease in October 2006. Her last marriage was to the record producer Clarence Selman in 1967.
- Ballads of the Blue and Gray (Columbia, 1962)
- Country and Western Songs (Columbia Harmony, c. 1963)
- I Have Returned (Word, 1974)
- Isn't it Wonderful (Word, 1975)
- Where I'm Going (Word, 1975)
- Reach Up and Touch God's Hand (Word, 1976)
- Higher Than High (Word, 1977)
- Lord, Leave Me a Song (Word, 1978)
- One Day at A Time (Word, 1980)
- A Little Bit of Jesus (Word, 1981)
- His Kind of Love (Buckhorn Music Publishers, UNK date)
- Cooper, Daniel (1998). "Marijohn Wilkin". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 587.
- Interview with Marijohn Wilkin in the International Songwriters Association's "Songwriter Magazine", dealing mainly with her songwriting : 1983
- Obituary in The Independent, October 30 2006