Naomi Judd, the country music legend | Sunday Observer

Naomi Judd, the country music legend

15 May, 2022

America has produced many music legends, and some of them are country music legends. Naomi Judd is a country music legend who along with her daughter Wynonna Judd won nine Country Music Association Awards, seven Academy of Country Music awards and five Grammy awards. The latest news of this singer and song writer is a sad one. On April 30, she passed away at the age of 76.

She is survived by her husband and fellow singer, Larry Strickland, and two daughters, music legend Wynonna Judd and famous actress Ashley Judd. The daughters jointly announced the news of their mother's death in an emotional statement to the media.

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” the statement read. “We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by the public. We are in unknown territory.”

Cause of her death

Naomi Judd had been suffering from depression for a long time. A decade before her death, the depression worsened and was accompanied by anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts. In 2016, she opened up about it during a TV show, "Good Morning America", where she said she had been diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. The singer said at that time she would "not leave the house for three weeks, and could not get out of my pyjamas, and not practice normal hygiene."

The same year, explaining her struggles with the mental illness, she wrote a book titled "River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope". However, her hope was not fulfilled, and the real cause of her death is suicide.

The beginning

Naomi Judd was born Diana Ellen Judd in Kentucky on January 11, 1946. Her father, Charles Glen Judd, owned a gas station, and mother, Pauline Ruth "Polly" (née Oliver), was a housewife.

According to details at the Wikipedia, in 1965, her brother Brian died of leukemia at the age of 17. In 1964, she married Michael Ciminella at the age of 18. The same year, she gave birth to her first child, Christina Claire Ciminella (later Wynonna Judd). Then, in 1968, her second daughter, Ashley Judd, was born. However, in 1972, the marriage ended in divorce.

Naomi brought up both daughters as a single parent. At this time she started to attend a nursing school at California's College of Marin while living in nearby Lagunitas, California.

By the early 1980s, she began pursuing a musical career for her and Wynonna, and made appearances on a local morning show hosted by Ralph Emery. Thanks to their singing talents, both received attention in this show for the first time. The host Emery even named them the “Soap Sisters” because Naomi said she used to make her own soap.

In 1983, Naomi and her daughter Wynonna formed the duo known as ‘The Judds’. Their first single was ‘Had a Dream (for the Heart)’, released in 1983, and it reached number 17 on the Billboard. Then, came their second single “Mama He’s Crazy” which became No. 1 song on country radio, and won ‘The Judds’ their first Grammy in 1984.

As both of them were fans of country music, in their songs they combined country music with the pop music. Especially, they merged the traditional Appalachian sounds of bluegrass with polished pop stylings. This new genre was attracted by many. As a result, ‘The Judds’ scored twenty top-10 hits and went undefeated for eight consecutive years at music awards shows. As a songwriter, Naomi Judd also won a Grammy for country song of the year with the Judds' hit ‘Love Can Build a Bridge’.

Red haired duo

When the Judds first rose to fame, they were mistaken for sisters because Naomi was so young-looking. As their hair was tinted with red, the two were so attractive. Particularly, Naomi was known to prefer flashy stage outfits, full of sparkles and rhinestones, over casual boots and cowboy style clothing.

In singing, Wynonna led the duo with her powerful vocals, while Naomi provided harmonies and stylish looks on stage. Their unique harmonies, together with elements of acoustic music, bluegrass and blues, made them stand out in the genre at the time.

The Country Music Hall of Fame described their music as "characterised by distinctive harmonies," with "powerful" lead vocals and acoustic accompaniments with elements of "traditional folk, blues and family harmony."

Between 1984 and 1991, ‘The Judds’ released six studio albums and an EP. Among her hits are “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.

As said at the outset, the Judds won nine Country Music Association Awards, seven Academy of Country Music awards, and five Grammy Awards on hits like “Why Not Me” and “Give A Little Love.” Naomi earned a sixth Grammy for writing “Love Can Build a Bridge.” And the duo had 14 No. 1 singles. The duo also performed at the halftime of the 1994 Super Bowl, along with Travis Tritt, Clint Black and Tanya Tucker. The themes of their songs were about family, the belief in marriage and the virtue of fidelity.

Sad period

In 1990, Naomi was diagnosed with hepatitis C, a potentially chronic and deadly viral illness. After that, she was forced to retire from performing. So, "Love Can Build A Bridge", released in December 1990, was the duo's final single. Then on, Wynonna had to perform as a solo artist.

Five years later, Naomi Judd fully recovered from the illness, but they did not create musical albums as before. Only occasionally Wynonna reunited with her mother for tours as ‘The Judds’, and returned to awards shows. Especially, they performed at the CMT Music Awards earlier this month.


After 17 years of being a single mother, in 1989, Naomi married Larry Strickland who was a backup singer for Elvis Presley. According to Naomi, “Larry is the most humble person I’ve ever met.”

‘The Judds’, the music duo of Naomi and Wynonna, were set to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on May 1, just a day before of her tragic death.

After hearing that felicitation ceremony, Wynonna had told the media: “We had such a stamp of originality on what we were trying to do.” The ceremony went on as scheduled on May 1 in line with Judd's family wishes.

Following the news of Naomi Judd's death, artists including country stars Carrie Underwood and Travis Tritt shared tributes on social media.

"Country music lost a true legend...sing with the angels, Naomi!!! We're all sending up prayers for the Judd family today," Underwood Tweeted.

Tritt also shared his condolences to the family, writing in a post on Tweet, "Naomi Judd was one of the sweetest people I've ever known. I had the honour of working with her in movies and numerous musical events."

“Honoured to have witnessed “Love Can Build a Bridge” just a few weeks ago,” singer Maren Morris posted on Twitter on Saturday. In this way, the world has lost another music legend.