Only a couple of weeks after making a reunion performance, only a few months before going on a final tour, and a day before being honored at the Hall of Fame medallion ceremony, Country Music Hall of Famer Naomi Judd of the famous mother/daughter duo The Judds has died. She passed away on Saturday, April 30th at the age of 76.
“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” a statement from Naomi’s famous daughters of Wynonna and Ashley read. “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 was the matriarch of one of the most successful and influential duos in country music history, even if their commercial career was brief. Though they reunited for recordings and reunion shows many times over the years, The Judds with Naomi’s daughter Wynonna were only active for eight years full time between 1983 and 1991.
However, during that time, the two red heads from Ashland, Kentucky amassed 14 No. 1 hits, 25 total charting singles, seven consecutive Top Vocal Duo awards from the ACMs between 1984 and 1990, six consecutive vocal duo or group awards from the CMAs between 1985 and 1991, two other CMA Awards including Single of the Year for “Why Not Me” and the 1984 Horizon Award (Best New Artist), and five Grammy Awards.
Two of The Judds records went 2X Platinum, four others went Platinum, and four more Gold. This was the type of success that helped define 80’s country through the music of The Judds. One of their 2X Platinum albums was their debut on RCA/Curb, Why Not Me issued in 1984. The duo signed the deal after struggling for years to get noticed. From there it was off to the races, with nearly a decade of unparalleled success in the duo space until Naomi was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 1991, and ceased touring full-time.
Personal differences and creative conflicts had also crept into The Judds project, but the duo would still occasionally record and tour throughout the years, becoming synonymous with country music into the 90’s. Wynonna also started a successful solo career, and still tours and records today. Naomi’s other daughter Ashley Judd is also a household name as a successful and prolific actress.
The Judds were both popular and traditional, with songs like “Why Not Me” and “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good ‘Ol Days)” making fans both young and old. The Judds primary run ended just as the “Class of ’89” with Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, and Travis Tritt was taking shape, giving them a good exit as opposed to trying to chase trends with country’s new crop of superstars.
In August of 2021, The Judds were named as the latest inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. They were scheduled to be formally inducted on Sunday, May 1st—the day after Naomi Judd died. They had just appeared as part of a reunion performance on April 11th at the CMT Awards, and had announced a final tour with Martina McBride set to commence in the fall.
Born Diana Ellen Judd on January 11, 1946 in Ashland, Kentucky, as Naomi Judd struggled to raise her daughters as a single mother who gave birth to her first child at the age of 17. Her life became like a sad country song after surviving domestic abuse and rape. She ultimately put all of her struggles into the passion and inspiration behind The Judds, which left a legendary mark on the music that is only fair to characterize as Hall of Fame worthy.