Naomi Judd, Grammy-winning matriarch of country music's The Judds, dead at 76 (2024)

Judds' daughters Wynonna and Ashley announced her death on Saturday in a statement provided to The Associated Press.

Marcus K. Dowling|Nashville Tennessean

Grammy-winning country vocalist Naomi Judd -- one half-of mother-daughter duoThe Judds, died Saturday. She was76.

Judds' daughters Wynonna and Ashley announced her death on Saturday.

"Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness," they said in a statement shared by the duo's publicist. "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."

The Judds areto be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday.

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The duo achieved 14 No. 1 hits overthree decades, splitting as a performing act in1991 after doctors diagnosed Naomi Judd with hepatitis. Between 1984 and 1991 alone, the Judds had 20Top Ten hits, and tallied five Grammys, nine CMAAwards, and seven ACM Awards.

Since arriving in Music City in 1979, Naomi Judd -- and her family -- were foundational staples of country music's continued pop evolution through the 1980s and beyond.

In a 2019 Tennessean interview honoring an exhibition in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Wynonna noted in regards to her and her mother's careers, "She was 36 and I was 18. To go from the outhouse to the White House, to know that we went from welfare to millionaire, and we’re the American dream. People are going to see this and see themselves in us. It’s important to remember we are a mother and daughter who came out of nothing and made it … and if we can do it, you can, too.”

TRIBUTES TO NAOMI JUDD: 'Iconic in every sense of the word': Country music world reacts to the death of Naomi Judd

Naomi Judd was born Diana Ellen Judd on Jan. 11, 1946, in Ashland, Kentucky. A musically gifted honor roll student, she became pregnant butmarriedMichael Ciminella -- instead of the child's biological father. She missed her high school graduation to give birth to that child, Christina (Wynonna), in 1964.

Mother Naomi's musical desires persisted as she raised Wynonna amid significant turmoil.

By 1972, Judd and her husband had moved to Los Angeles, where shealso gave birth to Wynonna's sister Ashley. However, in that same period, she and Ciminella alsodivorced. Judd attempted to piecemeal togethera life for her family while in Los Angeles as a welfare recipient also working secretarial, waitressing and modeling jobs, but eventually moved back to Kentucky.

"We were (living) on a mountaintop in Kentucky. We didn't have a telephone or a TV,"she told the Tennessean in a 2021 interview.“We were so broke, and wearing flea market dresses. We'd have these fantasies, and we were really goofy. We had such a sense of humor. And (we were) so eager to try new stuff and make fun of ourselves.”

After a brief stint back in Los Angeles, Naomi moved the family to Nashville in 1979 and took a job working as a nurse at a hospital in Franklin, Tennessee. She alsoformeda duo with her then 19-year-old daughter: TheJudds. By 1983, she'd met producer Brent Maher, and the duo was signed toRCA Records. A year later, their second-ever mainstream single,“Mama, He’s Crazy" was on top of Billboard's country charts.

After that hit,TheJudds enjoyed a near-consecutive run of 14 No. 1 hits, including “Why Not Me,” “Love Is Alive” and “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days).”

Then RCA Records executiveJoe Galante recalled to The Tennessean that, upon hearing The Judds, Conway Twitty told him, "Son, I want to tell you. I heard the Judds. You did a great thing for country music.Then he hung up."

Naomi and Wynonna parted ways as a recording tandem in 1991 after Naomi was diagnosed with life-threatening hepatitis C. They reunited for anextensive farewell tour in 2010-11 and performed together in 2017 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, as part of an all-star tribute to Kenny Rogers.

Last yearsaw a resurgence of popularity in The Judds, as they were named as 2022 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame, alongsideRay Charles, Eddie Bayers and Pete Drake.

Upon The Judds being named Hall of Fame inductees, Naomi Judd toldThe Tennessean,"So much of my life, I felt anonymous. I felt neglected…So to all of a sudden have somebody saying, 'Hey, wait a minute. You did something right. You actually pulled it off, and somebody else is validating you.' That means that it must be real."

The Judds also performed at the 2022 CMT Music Awards, which was coupled with the announcement of an 11-date nationwide tour. The CMT Music Awards performance of their 1990 No. 1 single“Love Can Build A Bridge" included anintroductionby Kacey Musgraves before singing in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

"A motherand daughter whose unique sound, prolific songwriting and non-stop perseverance made them one of the most successful duo in country history," Musgraves said.

Naomi Judd, Grammy-winning matriarch of country music's The Judds, dead at 76 (2024)


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