Naomi Judd, whose family harmonies with daughter Wynonna made them Grammy-winning country stars The Judds, has died. She was 76 years old.
His daughters, Wynonna and Ashley, announced his death Saturday in a statement provided to The Associated Press.
“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our mother-in-law to mental illness,” the statement read. “We are broken. We navigate deep mourning and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her audience. We are in uncharted territory.
Naomi Judd died near Nashville, Tennessee, said a statement on behalf of her husband and fellow singer, Larry Strickland. He said no further details of his death would be released and asked for confidentiality as the family mourned.
The Country Music Hall of Fame will continue with an induction ceremony scheduled for The Judds on Sunday.
“Naomi overcame incredible adversity on her way to a prominent place in music history. Her triumphant life story overshadows today’s tragic news,” said the Hall of Fame CEO, Kyle Young, in a statement, “His family has requested that we proceed with the official induction into the Judds Hall of Fame on Sunday. We will do it with heavy hearts and weighted minds. The music of Naomi and her daughter Wynonna will live on.
They had also just announced an arena tour that would begin in the fall, their first tour together in over a decade.
The mother-daughter performers scored 14 No. 1 songs during a career that spanned nearly three decades. The red-haired duo combined the traditional Appalachian sounds of bluegrass with polished pop styles, scoring hit after hit in the 1980s. Wynonna led the duo with her powerful vocals, while Naomi provided harmonies and elegant looks on the scene.
They also made a return to award shows when they performed at the CMT Music Awards earlier this month.
“Honored to have witnessed ‘Love Can Build a Bridge’ just a few weeks ago,” singer Maren Morris tweeted Saturday.
“This is heartbreaking news! Naomi Judd was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known,” singer Travis Tritt tweeted, noting that he had worked with Judd on several occasions at the screen and during performances.
“Country music has lost a true legend… sing with the angels, Naomi!!! We all send prayers for the Judd family today,” singer Carrie Underwood wrote on Twitter.
After rising to the top of country music, they called it quits in 1991 after doctors diagnosed Naomi Judd with hepatitis C. Wynonna continued her solo career.
The Judds’ hits include “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’ To the rhythm of the rain” in 1986 and “Papy” in 1986.
Born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Kentucky, Naomi was working as a single mother and nurse in Nashville when she and Wynonna began singing together professionally. Their unique harmonies, combined with elements of acoustic, bluegrass and blues music, set them apart in the genre at the time.
“We had such a stamp of originality about what we were trying to do,” Naomi Judd told the AP after it was announced they would be joining the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In an interview with the AP in March, Naomi Judd said she was already busy preparing for the upcoming tour and looking forward to Hall of Fame induction.
“Having all the amazing opportunities I’ve had, remembering all of that makes me very humbled and I just want to enjoy the moment,” Judd said.
Wynonna Judd remarked that throughout their lives, their music kept them together.
“Music is the bridge between mom and me, and it unites us,” she told the AP. “Even in difficult times.”
The Judds released six studio albums and one EP between 1984 and 1991 and won nine Country Music Association Awards and seven from the Academy of Country Music. They won a total of five Grammy Awards together on hits like “Why Not Me” and “Give A Little Love,” and Naomi won a sixth Grammy for writing “Love Can Build a Bridge.”
The Judds also performed at halftime at the 1994 Super Bowl, alongside Travis Tritt, Clint Black and Tanya Tucker.
The Judds sang about family, the belief in marriage, and the virtue of faithfulness. Because Naomi looked so young, the two were mistaken for sisters early in their careers. She was also known to prefer flashy stage outfits, full of sparkles and rhinestones, to casual boots and cowboy-style clothing.
They first gained attention singing on Ralph Emery’s morning show in the early 1980s, where the host named them the “Soap Sisters” because Naomi said she used to make your own soap.
After the success of “Mama He’s Crazy”, they won the Horizon Award at the 1984 CMA Awards. Naomi began her speech by saying “Slap the dog and spit in the fire!”
Naomi Judd was open about her health issues, as well as her severe depression and anxiety. In her memoir, “River of Time,” she described her diagnosis of hepatitis C, which she said she unknowingly contracted while she was a nurse. She said that in 1995 her doctors 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 from a reunion tour in 2010, isolating herself at home and dealing with crippling panic attacks. She also said she was traumatized by childhood sexual abuse. She was admitted to a psychiatric ward of a hospital and spent time in an outpatient treatment program.
His daughter Ashley Judd is an actress and humanitarian known for her roles in films such as ‘Kiss the Girls’, ‘Double Jeopardy’ and ‘Heat’.
Strickland, who was a backup singer for Elvis Presley, was married to Naomi Judd for 32 years.