Naomi Judd, the matriarch of the Grammy-winning country music duo The Judds, died Saturday (April 30). Her death was announced on the Judds' social media and came just before the duo had been scheduled to be formally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Naomi was 76 years old.
Alongside Ray Charles, veteran session drummer Eddie Bayers, and pedal steel guitarist Pete Drake, The Judds were scheduled to be formally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame yesterday, May 1. Daughters Wynonna and Ashley attended the event despite their mother's passing.
“I’m sorry that she couldn’t hang on until today,” said a tearful Ashley Judd. Her and Wynonna Judd were described as holding onto one another and reciting Psalm 23 together, according to Variety.
“I didn’t prepare anything tonight because I knew mom would probably talk the most,” Wynonna told the audience. “I’m gonna make this fast, because my heart’s broken, and I feel so blessed. It’s a very strange dynamic, to be this broken and this blessed. … Though my heart’s broken, I will continue to sing, because that’s what we do,” she said.
"We are shocked and saddened by the death of Naomi Judd, who enters the Country Music Hall of Fame tomorrow as a member of the @juddsofficial. Her family has asked that we continue with the Judds' Hall of Fame induction Sunday. We will do so, with heavy hearts."— Country Music HOF (@countrymusichof) May 1, 2022
—Kyle Young, CEO pic.twitter.com/4mcLLQrjfX
Born Diana Ellen Judd in January 1946, Naomi Judd grew up in Ashland, Kentucky where she played piano at her local church. After marrying Michael Ciminella in 1964, she had her first daughter, Christina (aka Wynonna), followed by her second daughter, Ashley, in 1968.
After divorcing Ciminella in 1972, Judd became known by her more familiar name (Naomi) and began pursuing nursing. To ease mother-daughter tensions, she started singing with Wynonna. "Wynonna and I couldn’t talk to each other, but, low and behold, we could sing together,” she told PBS.
In 1979, Judd moved the family to Nashville to pursue a career in country music. Through a connection made at her nursing job, Judd convinced a record producer to hear them play at her house. The session was successful, and the Judds were signed by RCA and Curb.
The Judds released their debut album, Wynonna & Naomi, in 1984, which contained their #1 single “Mama He’s Crazy.” The duo followed it up that same year with Why Not Me and 1985’s Rockin’ with the Rhythm. The Judds released five more studio LPs: 1987’s Heartland and Christmas Time with the Judds, 1989’s River of Time, and 1990’s Love Can Build a Bridge. Throughout their career, the Judds won five Grammy awards, eight CMA awards, and sold more than 20 million records.
Naomi Judd married her second husband Larry Strickland in 1989 and eventually retired from music for health reasons. The mother-daughter duo split in 1991 with a farewell tour. However, throughout the 2000s, the Judds sporadically reunited, with a tour, Las Vegas residency, and even a reality show. The duo was also set to tour later in 2022. The Judds’ final live performance as a duo took place in April 2022 at the CMT Music Awards.
Besides Wynonna, Ashley, and Larry, Naomi is survived by her two grandchildren: Elijah Judd and Grace Pauline Kelley.
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