Apr 30, 2022: Naomi Judd, of Country Duo The Judds, is Mourned

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Naomi Judd and Wynonna Judd

When country music star Naomi Judd died April 30, 2022—on the eve of her induction, with daughter Wynonna, for their achievements as the popular duo, The Judds, into the Country Music Hall of Fame—she was mourned by her music peers. Wynonna and her sister, the actress Ashley Judd, announced her death at age 76. Their mother died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after struggling with depression for years.

“Today, we sisters experienced a tragedy,” they wrote. “We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness. We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory.” Judd was also survived by her husband, Larry Strickland, a former backup singer for Elvis Presley.

The Judds had just announced a celebratory concert tour that was set to begin in the fall. Ten dates at arenas in the midwest were scheduled from Sept. 30 to Oct. 28. The duo earned five Grammy Awards.

When they were selected for induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Judd told The [Nashville] Tennessean, “So much of my life, I felt anonymous. I felt neglected… So to all of a sudden have somebody saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute. You did something right. You actually pulled it off, and somebody else is validating you.’ That means that it must be real.”

The Hall of Fame‘s CEO, Kyle Young, 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 Judds. Naomi overcame incredible adversity on her way to a significant place in music history. Her triumphant life story overshadows today’s tragic news. Her family has asked that we continue with the Judds’ Hall of Fame induction Sunday. We will do so, with heavy hearts and weighted minds.”

The Hall canceled their Red Carpet Experience out of respect for the Judd family. At the induction, Ashley Judd told the assembled audience, “My momma loved you so much, and she appreciated your love for her and I’m sorry that she couldn’t hang on until today.

“Your esteem for her and your regard for her really penetrated her heart and it was your affection for her that did keep her going in these last years. And while this is so much about The Judds as a duo, I want to recognize my sister.”

In her acceptance speech, Wynonna Judd said, “Though my heart is broken I will continue to sing.”

The Judds’ final performance was on April 11 at the 2022 CMT Music Awards.

Naomi Judd was born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Kentucky, on Jan. 11, 1946. Her daughter, Wynonna, was born Christina Ciminella in Ashland on May 30, 1964. They moved to Los Angeles where Diana’s second daughter, Ashley Ciminella, was born on April 19, 1968. Diana renamed herself Naomi, and Christina became Wynonna before they relocated to Nashville in 1979.

In 1980, Naomi worked at Williamson County Medical Center as a nurse and she began pursuing a musical career for herself and Wynonna, making appearances on Ralph Emery’s local morning television show. In 1982, their break came via a chance encounter with Nashville producer Brent Maher, whose teenage daughter – a schoolmate of Wynonna’s – was injured in a car accident. Maher recognized Naomi from her television appearances and when Maher’s daughter was discharged, Naomi gave Maher a tape she and Wynonna had made. Maher started working with them and following a live audition, they secured a recording deal with RCA/Curb Records.

The Judds’ 1984 debut LP, Why Not Me

The Judds’ first single, “Had a Dream (For the Heart),” was released in November 1983 and made it to #17 on the Billboard country chart. Their next single, “Mama He’s Crazy,” was their first #1 song at country radio and won them their first Grammy award in 1984. All but two of their next 16 singles went to #1, including “Why Not Me,” “Have Mercy,” “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Ole Days),” and “Rockin’ With the Rhythm of the Rain.”

The duo released six studio albums and would go on to sell over 20 million records, win five Grammy Awards, nine CMA Awards, and eight ACM Awards. In 1986, The Judds received their first of three nominations for CMA Entertainer of the Year, making 22-year-old Wynonna the youngest person ever to be nominated for the honor, a distinction she held for more than 20 years.

In 1990, Naomi announced her retirement from performing due to chronic hepatitis. In 1991, The Judds embarked on a 124-date Love Can Build a Bridge Farewell Tour and ended it with a Pay-Per-View special. “Love Can Build a Bridge” was their final single, released in December 1990, and was their last top five single.

Johnny Lee said, “”Such a sad day in country music with the loss of Naomi Judd. Her family is in my prayers.”

Travis Tritt wrote, “This is heartbreaking news! Naomi Judd was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known. I had the honor of working with her in movies and numerous musical events. My deepest heartfelt condolences go out to her family.”

Ricky Skaggs wrote, “I was thinking about Sunday’s Hall of Fame induction for The Judds and how excited they must be feeling when I received the news about Naomi’s passing. It hit me so hard, and I could hardly believe it. I told my wife Sharon and she burst into tears. All we could think about was Wynonna and Ashley. I’ve known them all for so long. It’s heartbreaking. Pray for their loss. Another sad day for Country Music.”

The one that started it all.

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