NASHVILLE, TN (AP) – Naomi Judd, the Kentucky-born singer of duo The Judds and mother of Wynonna and Ashley Judd, has died. She was 76 years old.
The girls announced his death on Saturday in a statement provided to The Associated Press.
“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to mental illness,” the statement read. “We are devastated. We navigate deep grief and know that, as we loved her, she was loved by her audience. We are in uncharted territory.” The statement did not give further details.
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 Judds were due to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday and had just announced an arena tour that would begin in the fall, their first tour together in more than a decade. They also made a return to awards 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 posted on Twitter on Saturday.
NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 08: Naomi Judd visits ‘Varney & Co’ at Fox News Channel Studios on December 8, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
“This is heartbreaking news! Naomi Judd was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known,” singer Travis Tritt says posted on Twitternoting that he had worked with Judd many times on screen and in performances.
The mother-daughter performers scored 14 No. 1 songs during a career that spanned nearly three decades. After reaching the peak of country music, they called it quits in 1991 after doctors diagnosed Naomi Judd with hepatitis. 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 “Grandfather” in 1986.
Born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Kentucky, Naomi was working as a 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.
TheJudds 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 made her 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 “Hit 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.