Naomi Judd, the Kentucky-born matriarch of the Grammy-winning duo The Judds and mother of Wynonna and Ashley Judd, has died, her family announced Saturday.

The Judds star, mother of Wynonna, Ashley, was 76

NASHVILLE – Grammy-winning country vocalist Naomi Judd, one half of mother-daughter duo The Judds, died Saturday. She was 76. 

Judds’ daughters Wynonna and Ashley announced her death on Saturday.

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

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A statement shared on behalf of her husband and fellow singer, Larry Strickland, said she died near Nashville. It said no further details about her death would be released and asked for privacy as the family grieves.

The Judds will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday as planned.

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

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The duo achieved 14 No. 1 hits over three decades, splitting as a performing act in 1991 after doctors diagnosed Naomi Judd with hepatitis. Between 1984 and 1991 alone, The Judds had 20 top 10 hits, and tallied five Grammys, nine CMA Awards and seven Academy of Country Music Awards.

Since arriving in Music City in 1979, The Judds were foundational staples of country music’s continued pop evolution through the 1980s and beyond.

In a 2019 interview with The Tennessean (part of the USA TODAY Network), Wynonna noted of her and her mother’s careers, “She was 36 and I was 18. To go from the outhouse to the White House, to know that we went from welfare to millionaire, and we’re the American dream. People are going to see this and see themselves in us. It’s important to remember we are a mother and daughter who came out of nothing and made it … and if we can do it, you can, too.”

In 2016, Naomi opened up about her battle with depression, telling ABC’s “Good Morning America” in an interview that she had been diagnosed with severe depression and had spent time in psychiatric hospitals. At the time she said she was confronting lingering issues from her childhood as part of her therapy, including being molested by a relative when she was 3. 

Naomi was born Diana Ellen Judd on Jan. 11, 1946, in Ashland, Kentucky. A musically gifted honor roll student, she became pregnant but married Michael Ciminella – instead of the child’s biological father. She missed her high school graduation to give birth to that child, Christina (Wynonna), in 1964. 

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Naomi’s musical desires persisted as she raised Wynonna amid significant turmoil.

By 1972, Naomi and her husband had moved to Los Angeles, where she also gave birth to Wynonna’s sister Ashley. However, in that same period, she and Ciminella also divorced. Naomi attempted to piece together a life for her family in LA as a welfare recipient also working secretarial, waitressing and modeling jobs, but eventually moved back to Kentucky.

“We were (living) on a mountaintop in Kentucky. We didn’t have a telephone or a TV,” she told The Tennessean in 2021. “We were so broke, and wearing flea market dresses. We’d have these fantasies, and we were really goofy. We had such a sense of humor. And (we were) so eager to try new stuff and make fun of ourselves.”

After a brief stint back in LA, Naomi moved the family to Nashville in 1979 and took a job working as a nurse at a hospital in Franklin, Tennessee. She also formed a duo with her then 19-year-old daughter: The Judds. By 1983, she’d met producer Brent Maher, and the duo was signed to RCA Records. A year later, their single “Mama, He’s Crazy” was on top of Billboard’s country charts.

After that hit, The Judds enjoyed a near-consecutive run of 14 No. 1 hits, including “Why Not Me,” “Love Is Alive” and “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days).”

Then-RCA Records executive Joe Galante recalled to The Tennessean that, upon hearing The Judds, Conway Twitty told him, ” ‘Son, I want to tell you. I heard The Judds. You did a great thing for country music.’ Then he hung up.”

Naomi and Wynonna parted ways as a recording tandem in 1991 after Naomi was diagnosed with life-threatening hepatitis C. They reunited for an extensive farewell tour in 2010 and 2011 and performed together in 2017 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, as part of an all-star tribute to Kenny Rogers.

Last year saw a resurgence of popularity in The Judds, as they were named as 2022 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame, alongside Ray Charles, Eddie Bayers and Pete Drake. 

Upon The Judds being named Hall of Fame inductees, Naomi told The 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 Judds also performed their 1990 No. 1 single “Love Can Build A Bridge” the 2022 CMT Music Awards. The appearance was coupled with the announcement of an 11-date nationwide tour, their first in more than a decade, which was expected to kick off on Sept. 30 in Michigan.

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

Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.

Contributing: Melissa Ruggieri and Elise Brisco, USA TODAY, and Dave Paulson, The (Nashville) Tennessean

#Judds #star #mother #Wynonna #Ashley

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