Naomi Judd: Grammy-winning singer dies at 76


NASHVILLE, Tennessee –

Naomi Judd, the Kentucky-born singer of Grammy-winning duo The Judds and mother of Wynonna and Ashley Judd, has died. She was 76.

The daughters announced their deaths in a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday.

β€œToday we sisters witnessed a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the illness of a mental illness,” the statement said. β€œWe are shaken. We navigate deep sorrow knowing that she was loved by her audience just as we loved her. We are in uncharted territory.”

Naomi Judd died near Nashville, Tennessee, according to a statement on behalf of her husband and fellow singer Larry Strickland. It said no further details of her death would be released and asked for privacy while the family mourned.

The Judds were scheduled to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday and they had just announced an arena tour that was set to begin in the fall, their first tour together in over a decade. They also returned to awards shows when they performed at the CMT Music Awards earlier this month.

“I’m honored to witness Love Can Build a Bridge a few weeks ago,” singer Maren Morris tweeted on Saturday.

“This is heartbreaking news! Naomi Judd was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known,” singer Travis Tritt posted on Twitter, noting that he had collaborated with Judd multiple times on screen and in performances.

The mother-daughter performers scored 14 No. 1 songs in a career that spanned nearly three decades. After rising to the forefront of country music, they quit in 1991 after doctors diagnosed Naomi Judd with hepatitis C. Wynonna continued her solo career.

The Judds’ hits included “Love Can Build a Bridge” (1990), “Mama He’s Crazy” (1984), “Why Not Me” (1984), “Turn It Loose” (1988), “Girls Night Out” ( 1985), “Rockin’ With the Rhythm of the Rain” in 1986 and “Grandpa” 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, along with elements of acoustic music, bluegrass and blues, made them stand out from the genre at the time.

Singers Naomi Judd and daughter Wynonna Judd perform during the 5th Annual TV Land Awards on Saturday April 14, 2007 in Santa Monica, Calif. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas, File)

“We had such a stamp of originality on what we were trying to do,” Naomi Judd told The AP after it was announced they would be inducting the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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. With hits like “Why Not Me” and “Give A Little Love,” they won a total of five Grammy Awards together, and Naomi earned a sixth Grammy for writing “Love Can Build a Bridge.”

The Judds also performed at halftime in the 1994 Super Bowl along with Travis Tritt, Clint Black and Tanya Tucker.

The Judds sang about family, the belief in marriage and the virtue of fidelity. Because Naomi looked so young, the two were mistaken for sisters at the beginning of their careers. She was also known for favoring showy stage outfits full of sparkles and rhinestones over casual boots and cowboy-style clothing.

They first garnered attention when they sang on Ralph Emery’s morning show in early 1980, where the host nicknamed them “soap sisters” because Naomi said she used to make 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 on the fire!”

Naomi Judd performs at the CMA Music Festival on Saturday June 13, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. (AP Photo/Josh Anderson, File)

Naomi Judd has been open about her health issues, as well as major depression and anxiety. In her memoir, River of Time, she described her diagnosis of hepatitis C, which she unknowingly contracted while she was a nurse. She said her doctors told her by 1995 that she was completely free of the virus.

In the memoir, she described feeling like she’d lost her identity as she returned home after a 2010 reunion tour, isolating at her home and coping with debilitating panic attacks. She also said she struggled with trauma from childhood sexual abuse. She was admitted to a hospital psychiatric ward and spent some time in an outpatient treatment program.

Daughter Ashley Judd is an actress and philanthropist known for her roles in films such as Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy and Heat.

Ashley Judd (right) and her mother Naomi Judd arrive at the LA premiere of ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ at the ArcLight Theater on Monday, March 18, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Strickland, who was a backup singer for Elvis Presley, was married to Naomi Judd for 32 years.



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