Country's Sammi Smith Dead At 61

Grammy winner hit No. 1 in 1970.

Country singer/songwriter Sammi Smith died Feb. 12 in Oklahoma City after an extended illness. She was 61.

Smith took the Kris Kristofferson-penned "Help Me Make It Through The Night" to No. 1 on Billboard's country singles chart in 1970, and it also became a crossover pop hit. The song earned her a 1971 Grammy Award for best country vocal performance, female. It also won her the Country Music Assn. Award for single of the year. Her 1970 album of the same name went to No. 1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart, where it remained for three weeks. It was the most successful of the nine titles she placed on the album chart.

"Help Me Make It" was one of 37 singles Smith landed on the Billboard country chart between 1968 and 1986, on such labels as Columbia, Mega, Elektra, Zodiac and Sound Factory. Her other top-10 hits were "Then You Walk In" in 1971 and "Today I Started Loving You Again" in 1975.

Smith began her career singing in clubs at age 11. As a songwriter, her compositions were recorded by other artists, including Waylon Jennings, who had a top-15 hit with her "Cedartown, Georgia," in 1971.

Smith's son, Waylon Payne, is also a country performer. In addition to Payne, she is survived by sons Robert and Bobby White and daughter Snow White of Fort Smith, Ark., as well as sons Alfred and Albert Keay of Globe, Ariz.

A funeral is set for Feb. 16 at Guardian West Funeral Home in Oklahoma City. Donations may be made in Smith's memory to the MusiCares Foundation, 1904 Wedgewood Ave., Nashville, Tenn., 37212.