Naomi Judd: Grammy-winning country music artist

Naomi Judd, who topped the country charts with her daughter Wynonna in the 1980s and early 1990s in Grammy-winning singing duo The Judds, has died at the age of 76.

Naomi and Wynonna Judd began singing together in the late 1970s and rose to prominence after appearing on country music kingmaker Ralph Emery’s morning television show in Nashville. By this point, Naomi had already been married, survived sexual assault and drug use, was supporting her daughters on welfare, and had become a registered nurse.

“I was 35 when we got into country music,” Judd said The Dallas Morning News in 1994. “I’d been through fires and earthquakes, been rammed into the air, had my heart ripped out and I’d been trampled on by men. When I got into country music, I felt like I was just communicating.”

The Judds first topped the country charts in 1984 and had 14 No. 1 hits over the next seven years, including “Mama He’s Crazy”, “Why Not Me”, “Girls Night Out”, “Rockin’ With the Rhythm”. of the”. Rain” and “Love Can Build a Bridge”.

The mother-daughter duo have often been mistaken for sisters because of Naomi Judd’s youthful looks. They sang in tightly woven harmonies and drew on bluegrass and gospel music while winning five Grammy Awards, selling more than 20 million records and garnering top honors on Country Music Awards shows for several years.

At the height of their popularity in 1991, the Judds ceased performing after Naomi was diagnosed with hepatitis C, believed to have contracted it as a nurse. Wynonna Judd continued her successful solo career while Ashley Judd starred in the 1993 film Ruby in Paradise and the Emmy-winning TV drama sisters.

Naomi Judd settled outside of Nashville and wrote a best-selling autobiography. Love can build a bridge (1993).

“I realized I was a metaphor for mortality; lived a short life on stage, taking my last bow before silently disappearing into the darkness,” Judd wrote in the book, the first of nine she published, many about spirituality and self-actualization.

Wynonna (L) and Naomi Judd perform at the 32nd annual Fan Fair country music festival in Nashville, Tennessee in 2003


She and Wynonna reunited regularly as the Judds, including in 1994 at a halftime show of Super Bowl XXVIII. They last performed together on April 11 at the CMT Music Awards, which was broadcast live on CBS. They planned what they billed as a month-long farewell tour beginning in September.

Diana Ellen Judd was born on January 11, 1946 in Ashland, Kentucky. Her father ran a gas station and her mother was a waitress.

Judd, who later took the name Naomi from a favorite biblical character, grew up in a family riddled with trauma, including murder and suicide. She later revealed that she was sexually abused by a great-uncle and later by schoolmates.

The Judds at the halftime show of Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994


“Ever since I was 17, I’ve been on my own,” Judd said Palm Beach Post in 2006. “When I was pregnant with Wynonna when I was 17 in my senior year of high school, no one knew I was pregnant, my little brother was dying [from Hodgkin’s disease], my parents got divorced. The guy who got me pregnant left town when he found out I was pregnant.”

She had her first child, Christina (who later changed her name to Wynonna), the week she graduated from high school at 18. By then she was married to her first husband, Michael Ciminella, who was the father of her second daughter. Ashley, who was born in 1968 after the family moved to California.

The couple divorced in the early 1970s, and Judd lived on welfare and worked in shops and restaurants before beginning to study nursing. She moved back to Kentucky as a single mother in the mid-1970s and encouraged her daughters in their artistic interests.

“I started singing,” Wynonna Judd said Daily independent in 2015, “and Mom would do chores and she would start singing lower harmonies. We sat around the dinner table and just sang to pass the time.”

Naomi Judd performing at the 2009 CMA Music Festival in Nashville


After graduating from Eastern Kentucky University with a nursing degree in 1979, Judd moved to Nashville, where she worked as a registered nurse and attempted to establish Wynonna as a singer. Instead, they found success as a duo, performing their own songs and others by Nashville songwriters.

For seven years, the Judds were country music kings, selling arenas and topping the charts. After Naomi Judd’s initial retirement in 1991, she had several television and film roles. She recovered from hepatitis and began touring with her daughter again from time to time, but after that, Naomi said, she would withdraw to her country house and fall into a deep depression.

“I literally couldn’t leave the house for weeks,” she said People Magazine in 2016. “I was completely immobilized and every single second was like a day.”

She said she had suicidal thoughts, which she sought to overcome through therapy and treatment in psychiatric hospitals. She chronicled her struggle in several books including an honest memoir from 2016, Flow of Time: My Descent into Depression and Emerging with Hope.

“I’m still trying desperately to help myself,” she said People“but I’m vulnerable.”

In addition to her daughters, the survivors since 1989 include her husband Larry Strickland and two grandchildren.

At the final concert of the Judds’ first farewell tour in 1991, they sang “River of Time,” a song co-written by Naomi about the death of her younger brother: “My future isn’t what it used to be, only today is all I was promised . Flow on, river of time, wash away the pain and heal my spirit.”

Naomi Judd, singer and songwriter, born January 11, 1946, died April 30, 2022

© The Washington Post Naomi Judd: Grammy-winning country music artist

Bobby Allyn

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