Naomi Judd, matriarch of The Judds, dies at 76

Induction into Country Music Hall of Fame will go as scheduled at family’s request
The 76-year-old member of the Grammy-winning duo The Judds passed away Saturday.
Published: Apr. 30, 2022 at 8:56 PM CDT|Updated: May. 1, 2022 at 10:29 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Naomi Judd, the mother of Wynonna and Ashley Judd, died on Saturday, according to a statement from the sisters. She was 76.

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” the statement said. “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.”

Naomi Judd’s death occurred the day before The Judds, the country music duo of Naomi and Wynonna, was to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The medallion ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame will continue Sunday afternoon as scheduled, according to a statement from the Hall of Fame.

“We are shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Naomi Judd, who enters the Country Music Hall of Fame tomorrow as a member of the mother-daughter duo The Judds,” Kyle Young, CEO, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement released Saturday night. “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’ official Hall of Fame induction on Sunday. We will do so, with heavy hearts and weighted minds. Naomi and daughter Wynonna’s music will endure.”

In addition to The Judds, Eddie Bayer, Ray Charles and Pete Drake will be formally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Hailing from the Appalachian foothills of Ashland, KY, The Judds were first discovered by RCA label head Joe Galante in 1983 after appearing regularly on The Ralph Emery Show, the daily morning show on then WSM-TV.

They made their chart debut by the end of the year with “Had A Dream (For The Heart),” and the two were on their way to becoming one of the best-selling duos of all time.

For the rest of the 1980s, each single from The Judds released by RCA went to the Billboard Top 10 with 14 hits going to No. 1. The Judds swept the CMA’s Vocal Group/Duo category from 1985 to 1991 and garnered six Grammy Awards.

The Judds embarked on their “Farewell Tour” in 1991 after Naomi’s diagnosis of Hepatitis C forced her to retire from the road. Naomi focused on her health, beating the disease, and wrote several New York Times best-selling books. The duo reunited briefly in the 2000s and again to honor Kenny Rogers in the fall of 2017. They recently announced “The Final Tour” to play a number of concerts in North America, including the final stop at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The Nashville show in October had already sold out.

They recently performed “Love Can Build a Bridge” on a stage outside the Hall of Fame during the CMT Music Awards last month.

“We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of the legendary Naomi Judd and honored to have shared many unforgettable moments and performances together over the years. Our hearts go out to her husband Larry, daughters Wynonna and Ashley, and her legions of fans around the world during this difficult time.”

CMT Spokesperson

Recently, Naomi Judd was promoting her new memoir “River of Time: My Descent Into Depression and How I Emerged With Hope.” She has been open about her health struggles, as well as severe depression and anxiety. In her memoir, she described her diagnosis of hepatitis C, which she said she unknowingly contracted during her time as a nurse. She said that by 1995, her doctors had told her she was completely free of the virus.

In the memoir, she described feeling like she had lost her identity when she returned home after a 2010 reunion tour, isolating herself at her home and dealing with crippling panic attacks. She also said that she had been dealing with trauma from childhood sexual abuse. She was admitted to a psychiatric ward at a hospital and spent time in an outpatient treatment program.

She is survived by her husband of 32 years Larry Strickland, a backup singer for Elvis Presley, and daughters Wynonna and Ashley.

Naomi Judd’s passing on Saturday took the music world by surprise.

“I’m just heartbroken over the loss of Naomi Judd. My fellow Kentucky girl, my friend, and an amazing singer. There are no words,” Loretta Lynn said in a statement posted on social media. “Please pray for Wynonna, Ashley, Larry, and grandchildren.”

“This is heartbreaking news! Naomi Judd was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known,” Travis Tritt said in a statement posted on social media. “My deepest heartfelt condolences go out to her family.”

“Country music lost a true legend … sing with the angels, Naomi,” Carrie Underwood said in a statement posted on social media. “We’re all sending up prayers for the Judd family today.”

“I have so many memories with Naomi Judd – from our early years on stage around the country, awards shows to recently neighborly encounters at church or around our town of Franklin. I am speechless and so sad,” Lee Greenwood said in a statement. “My prayers go out to Wynonna, Ashley, and the rest of her family. God bless you and comfort you all.”

“The first time I ever met Naomi, I was 14 years old and we were performing on the Ralph Emery Show. Ralph lovingly called them the “Soap Sisters” since Naomi made her own lye soap,” Kelly Lang said in a statement. “She was so sweet and kind and remained so every time I was ever with her through the years. She wrote me the most precious note recently about my commercial and how much she loved my music. I will cherish it forever. I’m so deeply saddened by this loss. We were so looking forward to The Judds’ induction into the Hall of Fame. The music business will never be the same. Please join us in prayer for her family’s comfort during this time.”

“The Judds were the superstars of their time, and I knew them from the beginning when I played piano for Naomi and Wynonna on the ‘Ralph Emery Morning Show,’” Tim Atwood said in a statement. “Back then Ralph called them the Soap Sisters because Naomi made homemade lye soap and brought it to the show as gifts for us all. I knew from the beginning they were destined for greatness.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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