Naomi Judd: Country music stars react to Grammy-winning singer’s death at 76


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The country music world is mourning the loss of one of its beloved performers.

Naomi Judd, whose family harmonies with daughter Wynonna turned them into the Grammy-winning country stars The Judds, died at the age of 76. Her daughters, Wynonna and Ashley, announced her death on Saturday in a statement provided to The Associated Press.

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy,” the statement read. “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.”

The matriarch died near Nashville, according to a statement from husband and fellow singer Larry Strickland. It said no further details about her death would be released and asked for privacy as the family grieves.

NAOMI JUDD, GRAMMY-WINNING ARTIST, DEAD AT 76

"We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness," Naomi Judd's daughters wrote Saturday.

“We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” Naomi Judd’s daughters wrote Saturday.
(Stephen Cohen/Getty Images)

Tributes for the star immediately poured in on social media following the announcement.

“Country music lost a true legend,” Carrie Underwood tweeted. “Sing with the angels Naomi!!! We’re all sending up prayers for the Judd family today…”

“So very sad to hear of #NaomiJudd passing today,” wrote John Rich. “I had the great honor of knowing her, and she was no doubt one of the most iconic entertainers ever to make country music. Thinking of my good friend @Wynonna right now, this is a very tough day for her and the family. #TheJudds.”

“This is heartbreaking news!” shared Travis Tritt. “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.”

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“Sending our love and prayers to Wynonna and Ashley and the entire Judd family,” tweeted Tim McGraw. “We grieve with you and so many others.”

“I have so many memories with Naomi Judd — from our early years on stage around the country, awards shows to recent neighborly encounters at church or around our town of Franklin,” wrote Lee Greenwood. “I am speechless & so sad! My prayers go out to Wynonna, Ashley & the rest of her family. God bless you.”

“So sad at the loss of my friend and music legend @TheNaomiJudd,” tweeted Billy Ray Cyrus. “My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends. As a fellow Kentuckian my hats off in honor of the legacy of music she shared with the world and the doors she opened for so many others like me.”

“Naomi Judd — so sad to hear this news,” Cole Swindell wrote. “Thinking of all of her family & friends. Tough day for country music.”

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“Rest In Peace, Naomi Judd,” tweeted Maren Morris. “Honored to have witnessed ‘Love Can Build a Bridge’ just a few short weeks ago.”

“I’m just heartbroken over the loss of @TheNaomiJudd,” shared Loretta Lynn. “My fellow Kentucky girl, my friend, and an amazing singer. There are no words. Please pray for Wynonna, Ashley, Larry, and grandchildren. Heartbroken. Sending all my love.”

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend and fellow Kentuckian, Naomi Judd,” tweeted Crystal Gale. “Naomi was always so special to be with. She accomplished so much and she will be missed and loved forever. My prayers go out to Naomi and her family.”

The Country Music Hall of Fame will continue with a planned induction ceremony for The Judds Sunday.

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“Naomi overcame incredible adversity on her way to a significant place in music history. Her triumphant life story overshadows today’s tragic news,” Hall of Fame CEO Kyle Young said a statement. “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.”

They had also just announced an arena tour to begin in the fall, their first tour together in over a decade.

The mother-daughter performers scored 14 No. 1 songs in a career that spanned nearly three decades. The red-headed duo combined the traditional Appalachian sounds of bluegrass with polished pop stylings, scoring hit after hit in the 1980s. Wynonna led the duo with her powerful vocals, while Naomi provided harmonies and stylish looks on stage.

They also made a return to awards shows when they performed at the CMT Music Awards earlier this month.

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Wynonna Judd, left, and Naomi Judd attend the 2022 CMT Music Awards.

Wynonna Judd, left, and Naomi Judd attend the 2022 CMT Music Awards.
(Jason Kempin/Getty Images for CMT)

After rising to the top of country music, they called it quits in 1991 after doctors diagnosed Judd with hepatitis C. Wynonna continued her solo career.

The Judds’ hits included “Love Can Build a Bridge” in 1990, “Mama He’s Crazy” in 1984, “Why Not Me” in 1984, “Turn It Loose” in 1988, “Girls Night Out” in 1985, “Rockin’ With the Rhythm of the Rain” in 1986 and “Grandpa” in 1986.

Born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Kentucky, the singer was working as a single mother and nurse in Nashville, when she and Wynonna started performing together professionally. Their unique harmonies, together with elements of acoustic music, bluegrass and blues, made them stand out in the genre at the time.

In an interview with the AP in March, Judd said she was already deep into preparation for the upcoming tour and was looking forward to the Hall of Fame induction.

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From left: Ashley Judd, Wynonna Judd and Naomi Judd at The Ritz Carlton in Pasadena, Calif.

From left: Ashley Judd, Wynonna Judd and Naomi Judd at The Ritz Carlton in Pasadena, Calif.
(Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc.)

“To have all the incredible opportunities that I’ve had, being reminded of all that just makes me very humbled, and I just want to bask in the moment,” Judd said.

Wynonna remarked that, throughout their lives, music had kept them together.

“Music is the bridge between mom and me, and it bonds us together,” she told the AP. “Even in the not easy times.”

The Judds released six studio albums and an EP between 1984 and 1991 and won nine Country Music Association Awards and seven from the Academy of Country Music. They earned a total of five Grammy Awards together on hits like “Why Not Me” and “Give A Little Love,” and Naomi earned a sixth Grammy for writing “Love Can Build a Bridge.”

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Naomi Judd and husband Larry Strickland pose for a portrait in 2005.

Naomi Judd and husband Larry Strickland pose for a portrait in 2005.
(Harry Langdon/Getty Images)

The Judds also performed at halftime of the 1994 Super Bowl along with Travis Tritt, Clint Black and Tanya Tucker.

The Judds sang about family, the belief in marriage and the virtue of fidelity. Because Judd was so young looking, the two were mistaken for sisters early in their career. She was also known to prefer flashy stage outfits, full of sparkles and rhinestones, over casual boots and cowboy-style clothing.

They first got attention singing on Ralph Emery’s morning show in early 1980, where the host named them the “Soap Sisters” because Judd said she used to make her own soap.

After the success of “Mama He’s Crazy,” they won the Horizon Award at the 1984 CMA Awards. Judd started her speech by saying “Slap the dog and spit in the fire!”

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Naomi Judd, left, and Wynonna Judd speak onstage for the new exhibition debut, "The Judds: Dream Chasers," at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Aug. 8, 2018 in Nashville.

Naomi Judd, left, and Wynonna Judd speak onstage for the new exhibition debut, “The Judds: Dream Chasers,” at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Aug. 8, 2018 in Nashville.
(Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

Judd was open about her health struggles, including severe depression and anxiety. In her memoir, “River of Time,” 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.

Daughter Ashley Judd is an actor and humanitarian known for her roles in such movies as “Kiss the Girls,” ″Double Jeopardy” and “Heat.”

Strickland, who was a backup singer for Elvis Presley, was married to the late hitmaker for 32 years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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