THE JUDDS: a tragedy of our times

THE JUDDS took country music back to its roots

Norman Warwick shares the views of others.

Naomi and Wynonna Judd helped take country music back to its roots with lean, tuneful songs influenced by traditional folk music, and family harmony acts.

That was the wording of the citation for The Judds´ admission to The Country Music Hall Of Fame in April 2022.

Naomi Judd was born : January 11, 1946 in  Ashland, Kentucky and died tragically on: April 30, 2022

Her daughter Wynonna Judd was born: on May 30, 1964, also  in: Ashland, Kentucky

Ashley Judd (left) was born in April 1968 in Los Angeles. The American actress and political activist Ashley Judd was born Ashley Tyler Ciminella on April 19, 1968, in Granada Hills, California. She grew up in a family of successful performing artists as the daughter of country music singer Naomi Judd and the sister of Wynonna Judd. While she is best known for an ongoing acting career spanning more than two decades, she has increasingly become involved in global humanitarian efforts and political activism.

Judd has starred in many films that have been well received as well as films that have been box office successes including: Ruby in Paradise (1993), Heat (1995), Norma Jean & Marilyn (1996), A Time to Kill (1996), Kiss the Girls (1997), Double Jeopardy (1999), Where the Heart Is (2000), Frida (2002), High Crimes (2002), Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood (2002), De-Lovely (2004), Twisted (2004), Bug (2006), Dolphin Tale (2011), Olympus Has Fallen (2013), Divergent (2014), Dolphin Tale 2 (2014), Big Stone Gap (2014), Barry (2016) and A Dog’s Way Home (2019).

She starred as Rebecca Winstone in the 2012 television series Missing, for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.

Ashley´s mother Naomi and sister Wynonna made their name as The Judds country music duo in more or less parallel with Ashley´s film and tv career.

There is, however, somewhat more to the story than that.  Diana Ellen Judd was born January 11, 1946, in Ashland, Kentucky. At age seventeen, she married Michael Ciminella, and on May 30, 1964, she gave birth to daughter Christina Claire. The Ciminellas moved to Los Angeles in 1968, and the couple divorced in 1972.

As a struggling single mother, Diana moved often with her daughters, Christina and Ashley. Leaving Los Angeles in 1975, they resided for brief periods in Berea, Kentucky; Marin County, California; Austin, Texas; and Las Vegas. After settling in Franklin, Naomi and Wynonna began performing in a style influenced by the Delmore Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard, Bonnie Raitt, and Doc Watson.

In 1980, the Judds began performing on The Ralph Emery Show, an early morning Nashville TV program hosted by the influential disc jockey and TV personality (now a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame). After Naomi presented Emery with a homemade bar of soap, he started jokingly calling the duo “the Soap Sisters.”

Naomi pursued musical opportunities while working as a nurse at a hospital. When the daughter of record producer Brent Maher became her patient, Naomi slipped the young woman a tape of the duo’s music. Maher, impressed by what he heard, worked with veteran guitarist Don Potter to help the duo develop a distinctive acoustic sound focused on Wynonna’s lead vocals and Naomi’s tender harmonies. In 1983, after Curb Records gave the Judds a production deal and Curb executive Dick Whitehouse arranged an audition for Joe Galante, head of RCA Nashville, the Judds signed a joint recording contract with RCA/Curb. Curb covered production costs of recording, and RCA handled all other corporate responsibilities.

The Judds’ six-song debut EP, Wynonna & Naomi (1983), quickly found favor among country fans. The second single, “Mama He’s Crazy,” written by Kenny O’Dell, became their first #1—and the first top country hit by a female duo in more than thirty years. Their first full-length album, Why Not Me (1984), jumped to #1 on the country album chart. The next three singles—“Why Not Me,” “Girls Night Out,” and “Love Is Alive”—came from the album and gave the Judds four consecutive #1 hits. “In 1983, Mom had been floating checks to pay the rent,” Wynonna said. Two years later, they ranked among the most popular musical acts in America.

The duo’s career continued to soar. In the mid-1980s, the Judds headlined concerts at the Astrodome in Houston and Arlington Stadium in Arlington, Texas. They booked concerts in historic venues that rarely hosted country music concerts, such as New York’s Radio City Music Hall and the London Palladium.

The hits continued. The albums Rockin’ with the Rhythm (1985), Heartland (1987), and River of Time (1989) added ten more #1 hits to the Judds’  momentous decade. They thrived by other measures, too. The band U2 invited Wynonna to sing with them at a sold-out arena concert. The duo hosted a 1988 CBS-TV special, The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, then starred in their own CBS special, Across the Heartland, in 1989.

In September 1990, the Judds released Love Can Build a Bridge, their fifth album. The title track, co-written by Naomi with John Jarvis and Paul Overstreet, would win a Grammy for Best Country Song. Five weeks after the album’s release, however, with their career still peaking, Naomi announced that she had contracted hepatitis C. The chronic illness led to a decision to stage a goodbye tour and then end their musical partnership. “We didn’t know for sure, at that point, if I was going to make it,” Naomi said later. “Those were dark hours.” The long-running Farewell Tour ended with a pay-per-view live telecast on December 4, 1991.

Wynonna signed a new record deal with MCA/Curb and, working for the first time with producer Tony Brown, recorded her 1992 debut album, Wynonna—funkier and harder-edged than the music she created with her mother. It entered the country album chart at #1 and sold more than five million copies. Her first three singles—“She Is His Only Need,” “I Saw the Light,” and “No One Else on Earth”—all hit #1 on the country charts. She quickly established herself as a successful solo artist, earning gold and platinum albums.

In 1994, Naomi walked onstage to join her daughter for the finale of the halftime show at the Super Bowl in Atlanta, which also featured country stars Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and Tanya Tucker. As Naomi took her daughter’s hand, the duo and the other artists performed “Love Can Build a Bridge.”

The duo periodically reunited, including for a short series of arena concerts in 1998 and 2000, a concert in 2006 at the Kennedy Center with other country stars under the auspices of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, several festival appearances in 2008 and 2009, and a two-year Last Encore Tour that began in 2010. The Judds starred in their own reality series on the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2011.

Wynonna continued to release successful albums as she, and country music, evolved into new phases. Naomi became a spokesperson for the American Liver Foundation in 1991 and created the Naomi Judd Education and Research Fund. After declaring her hepatitis to be in remission, she returned to entertainment and wrote books, starred in television shows and films, hosted a talk show, and became a motivational speaker.

In early April 2022, the Judds announced they would embark later in the year on what they billed as The Final Tour. Tragically, Naomi died at age seventy-six on April 30, 2022, the day before she and Wynonna were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Together, mother and daughter overcame many hardships and setbacks on the way to achieving the pinnacle of success in country music. Their lives and their musical partnership will be forever enshrined and remembered in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Diana Judd and her daughter Christina Ciminella may not have seemed like country music revolutionaries when they arrived in Franklin, Tennessee, in 1979. Yet, rechristened as Naomi and Wynonna, the vocal duo shook up the American musical landscape in the 1980s by helping return country music to its roots with unadorned, tuneful songs influenced by traditional folk music, acoustic blues, and family harmony acts.

Along with future Country Music Hall of Fame members Reba McEntire, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, and Randy Travis (right), the Judds changed country music’s direction by proving that music rooted in tradition could sell albums and concert tickets in huge numbers. Wynonna’s voice—husky and expressive—gave the duo its edge. The younger Judd could growl with blues intensity and articulate heartache with tender sensitivity. Naomi supported her daughter with harmonies, wit, and a sashaying stage presence. Between 1984 and 1991, they had twenty Top Ten country hits, including fourteen #1s. During that time, the duo won five Grammys, nine Country Music Association awards, and seven Academy of Country Music awards.

A long-time advocate for mental health awareness, Naomi Judd told PEOPLE in 2016, “Nobody can understand it unless you’ve been Naomi Judd, iconic country star and one-half of the mother-daughter duo The Judds, took her own life on Saturday following a longtime battle with mental illness at 76 years old, multiple sources confirm. A rep for the late singer hasn’t commented.

Naomi’s daughters, Ashley Judd and Wynonna Judd, announced their mother’s death in an emotional statement obtained by PEOPLE on Saturday.

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

An additional statement from Naomi’s husband of 32 years, Larry Strickland, read: “Naomi Judd’s family request privacy during this heartbreaking time. No additional information will be released at this time.”

Naomi was a longtime advocate for mental wellness, and she wrote an open letter for Mental Health Awareness Week in 2018, shared exclusively with PEOPLE.

. “To understand this issue better, we have to bring the study of suicide into mainstream neuroscience and treat the condition like every other brain disorder,” continued the note. “People who commit suicide are experiencing problems with mood, impulse control and aggression, all of which involve discrete circuits in the brain that regulate these aspects of human experience, but we still don’t understand how these circuits go haywire in the brains of suicide victims.”

The country musician had also been open about her mental health in her 2016 book, River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope, revealing she had suffered from suicidal depression

.”Nobody can understand it unless you’ve been there,” Naomi told PEOPLE at the time. “Think of your very worst day of your whole life – someone passed away, you lost your job, you found out you were being betrayed, that your child had a rare disease – you can take all of those at once and put them together and that’s what depression feels like.”

Over their decades-long careers as mother-daughter duo The Judds, Naomi and 57-year-old Wynonna earned 14 chart-topping songs including “Mama He’s Crazy,” “Why Not Me,” “Turn It Loose,” “Change of Heart,” and “Let Me Tell You About Love.” They also earned five Grammys, nine CMA Awards and seven ACM Awards.

The duo stopped performing in 1991 when doctors diagnosed Naomi with hepatitis C, which she had contracted while working as a nurse. The pair had just appeared on the CMT Music Awards show stage earlier this month, where they made their first televised appearance in 20 years.

Accompanied by a choir of gospel singers, the duo belted out their 1990 hit “Love Can Build a Bridge” and came together at the end for a touching family moment. 

The family act also recently announced their first tour in over a decade, titled The Final Tour. The 10-date arena tour, which was nearly sold-out, was set to kick off on Sept. 30 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and would conclude in Nashville on Oct. 28.

The Judds were also set to celebrate their induction into Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday, and Wynonna attended the ceremony to accept the honor and gave a tearful but composed speech. 

“I’m gonna make this fast because my heart’s broken — and I feel so blessed,” Wynonna Judd told the 800 people gathered in Nashville’s CMA Theater for the Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony. “I mean, it’s a very strange dynamic to be this broken and this blessed.”

Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the night’s MC, also took the stage to speak about the performers’ family bond and the much-publicized turbulence in their relationship. 

“We can’t ever know all their struggles, but we know all their songs,” he said. “Their stories have been well documented, Naomi and Wynonna, a mother and daughter forced together and forged together. It’s all complicated — and it all emerged in beauty and triumph.”

On Saturday, Wynonna, 57, and her actress sister, Ashley Judd, 54, shared the news that they had lost their “beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness.” And though they described themselves as “shattered” by the death, hours later, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum announced that Wynonna still planned to attend the event — a decision that seemed in keeping with the steely, strong-willed personality that her fans have come to know over her decades-long career.

After the duo had spent years of hoping and waiting, this day was to be their crowning achievement together, anticipated since the 2021 Hall of Fame class was announced last August. Just three weeks ago, Wynonna and Naomi, 76, performed their signature anthem, “Love Can Build a Bridge,” on the CMT Awards — across the street from the Hall of Fame building where their plaque would soon be hanging. That appearance, in turn, was priming the pump for their just-announced final tour this fall.

All of it evaporated into one grief-stricken longing that Ashley Judd, joining her sister onstage, expressed during the induction: “I’m sorry that she couldn’t hang on until today.” (PEOPLE has confirmed Naomi died by suicide.)

Before they took the stage, the two sisters sat side by side in the audience through a lengthy tribute, beginning with a video that traced the duo’s hardscrabble beginnings in Kentucky, their improbable discovery in Nashville while Naomi was working as a nurse and Wynonna was still a teenager, their meteoric rise with their now-classic roots-based harmonies. Along the way, they earned 14 No. 1 singles, five Grammys, nine CMA awards and seven ACM awards.

Young further put their accomplishments — and relationship — in perspective. “We can’t ever know all their struggles, but we know all their songs,” he said. “Their stories have been well documented, Naomi and Wynonna, a mother and daughter forced together and forged together. It’s all complicated — and it all emerged in beauty and triumph.”

Fellow Kentuckian Carly Pearce then appeared to lend her voice in tribute, mouthing, “I love you,” to Wynonna before delivering a heart-rending version of The Judds’ 1986 No. 1 hit “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days).”

As Wynonna listened and dabbed at tears, she stretched an arm over Ashley, who leaned in and rested her head on her big sister’s shoulder. There were more tears when Americana artists Gillian Welch and David Rawlings (left) performed “Young Love,” a No. 1 hit for The Judds in 1989.

Country Music Hall of Fame member, Ricky Skaggs, (right) another fellow Kentuckian, had the honour of inducting The Judds, but first the devout Christian offered solace from scripture. “Blessed are those who mourn,” he said, quoting Matthew 5:4, “for they shall be comforted.”

Skaggs also offered encouragement in the face of grief. “Not only are we feeling and mourning your mom’s passing,” he told Wynonna and Ashley, “but all of country music and all of the people around the world that love your music and love the Judds are here praying for you guys and just saying, keep going, keep going. Don’t turn back.”

Once Skaggs finally called Wynonna and Ashley to accept the honour, the audience leapt to their feet, and the sisters held a long embrace amid the ovation. With the two women finally onstage, Skaggs draped a Hall of Fame medallion around Wynonna’s neck as Ashley ceremoniously bowed to her country-queen sister. Then, after the Judds’ plaque was unveiled, Skaggs poignantly presented to Ashley the medallion that had been destined for her mother’s neck.

Taking her turn at the microphone first, Ashley, (left) acknowledged her mother’s love for the country music community in their midst. “And she appreciated your love for her,” she said. “Your esteem for her and your regard for her really penetrated her heart, and it was your affection for her that did keep her going in these last years.”

But then, acutely aware of how much focus was on who was missing in the moment, she turned her attention to the woman who was present beside her.

“I’ve always been so proud of the music and so proud of you,” she told Wynonna. “So I know that we’re talking a lot about mom tonight, as we should be — our beautiful mother … ” Her voice caught momentarily. “But I want you to know,” she continued, gathering herself, “that you also are being inducted into the Hall of Fame tonight … I love you and I’m proud of you. And mom is proud of you, and she always was.”

Finally taking the microphone for remarks that lasted less than three minutes, Wynonna (right) first turned to humour, making light of her mother’s penchant for gab: “I didn’t prepare anything tonight because I knew Mom would probably talk the most.”

She then offered thanks to several people pivotal in her life, beginning with her husband of almost 10 years, Cactus Moser, who was also in attendance.

“Though my heart’s broken, I will continue to sing, because that’s what we do,” she assured the crowd, who responded with applause.

And then she spoke of her final moments with her mother the day before, telling how, “at 2:20, I kissed her on the forehead, and I walked away.” Though she didn’t indicate any further circumstances, she described a circle gathered around Naomi reciting perhaps the most beloved words in the Bible, the six verses of the 23rd Psalm. And then from memory, Wynonna tearfully, painstakingly recited them again for her rapt listeners, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want … “

She slowed in the final verse, emphasizing the syllable of each word — “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me in all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” — before she lifted her eyes and a hand heavenward.

She then offered thanks to several people pivotal in her life, beginning with her husband of almost 10 years, Cactus Moser, who was also in attendance.

“Though my heart’s broken, I will continue to sing, because that’s what we do,” she assured the crowd, who responded with applause.

And then she spoke of her final moments with her mother the day before, telling how, “at 2:20, I kissed her on the forehead, and I walked away.” Though she didn’t indicate any further circumstances, she described a circle gathered around Naomi reciting perhaps the most beloved words in the Bible, the six verses of the 23rd Psalm. And then from memory, Wynonna tearfully, painstakingly recited them again for her rapt listeners, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want … “

She slowed in the final verse, emphasizing the syllable of each word — “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me in all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” — before she lifted her eyes and a hand heavenward.

Sustained applause carried the sisters back into the audience, and Grammy-winning musician-producer Tommy Sims, who co-wrote Wynonna’s 1996 song “Change the World,” appeared onstage to deliver a soulful, comforting “Love Can Build a Bridge.” Wynonna moved her lips to some of the familiar lyrics — co-written by her mother — as she bowed her head and wept.

“If I could, I would not say goodbye because that’s not how I feel,” Sims sang, adding his own coda to the song. “I know God is love and love is God and heaven is real / but these are just some of the words I was once told by a lady so dear / She said love can surely be the bridge / That is why we’re here. Sure enough, that’s why we’re here. Don’t you think it’s time? Don’t you think it’s time?”

Wynonna could be heard raising her voice in affirmation: “Yes. Yes!”

The Judds were just one of four honorees at the annual event. Other inductees included two studio musicians, the late steel guitarist Pete Drake and drummer Eddie Bayers, and soul legend Ray Charles, whose forays into country brought millions to the genre. Among the performers were Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, and recent standout on The VoiceWendy Moten.

Following tradition, the ceremony ended with a singing of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” considered the “national anthem” of country music. Hall of Famer Marty Stuart took over the lesser-known verses, and it was immediately clear that no song could be more appropriate for this broken and blessed evening: They describe the grief over a mother’s death.

Wynonna and Ashley Judd had exited by then, but the crowd seized the moment and belted out the celebrated chorus with its message of hope and eternity: “There’s a better home a-waiting / in the sky, Lord, in the sky.”

It seems unbelievable to me that after driving down from Manchester to London (some thirty five to forty years ago) to see The Judds perform their UK debut, that I find when called upon, I cannot recall which theatre that was. What I can recall is that I fell in love with Naomi Judd in the course of a ninety minutes concert. She danced, smiled, blew kisses, and flashed her petticoats but she and daughter Wynonna, driven by the younger´s guitar, created harmonies to the very ´limits of the marvellous´. Both had flaming red hair and both were very attractive with Naomi´s energy and enthusiasm adding to her beauty.

I cannot even remember where I had first heard of them, and what sent me speeding to the concert. I guess a likely source would have been the Radio 2 country music programme but who was presenting it then, I´m not sure: Whispering Bob Harris was my most trusted point of reference but it could have as easily been Dace Allen, Wally Whyton or Spencer Leigh, all djs from whom I was prepared to accept recommendations.

I find it hazy now, even when I try to think whether I had ever heard a Judds´ track before that evening. I must have I suppose, and anyway, all this is easily verifiable, or would be if I was prepared to check old diaries, dates of albums, expenses claims or whatever but whoever said never let the facts get in the way of a good story had it spot on, I reckon.

On May 12th 2022, two weeks or so after the death of Naomi, her daughter Ashley Judd revealed more details about the death of her mother Naomi Judd, who passed away on April 30 at the age of 76, during an emotional interview with Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America.

Though still grieving their mother’s death, Judd said it was important that their family be upfront about the cause of her mother’s death before everything became public without their control.

“There are some things that we would just like to retain as a family,” said Judd. “Both sister and pop [Judd’s stepfather Larry Strickland] have sort of deputized me in certain ways to speak on behalf of the family at this early time before things about the 30th of April become public without our control.”

Judd added, “We’re aware that although grieving the loss of a wife and a mother, we are, in an uncanny way, a public family, so that’s really the impetus for this timing. Otherwise, it’s obviously way too soon, so that’s important for us to say upfront.”

Film-actress and tv star Ashley, along with her sister, singer-writer Wynonna Judd, who was scheduled to go back on tour with their mother as The Judds this year, added that it’s also important for them to maintain their mother’s dignity.

‘There are many places to begin,” said Judd. “I think that I would start with… my mother knew that she was seen and she was heard in her anguish and that she walked home. When we’re talking about mental illness, it’s very important… to be clear and to make the distinctions between our loved ones and the disease. It’s very real… it’s lies. It’s savage.”

Judd then described the day her mother died. She was back home in Tennessee and went to visit Naomi’s house. “Mom said to me ‘Will you stay with me?’ and of course, I said ‘Of course I will,’” shared Judd.

Later that day, Judd says a friend of her mother´s came by to visit. When she went up to tell her mother, she discovered her.

“Mother used a firearm,” said Judd. “That’s the piece of information that we are very uncomfortable sharing, but understand that we’re in a position that if we don’t say it someone else is going to.”

Judd said that the impact of her mother’s death has left her with immense grief and trauma and she prays that her family can have some privacy during this difficult time to heal. She also added that she wants to remember her mother for the woman she was and the people who connected with her throughout her life. Judd added that her mother once said that performing on stage was like flying and made her feel most alive. The Judds gave their final performance together singing their 1990 hit “Love Can Build a Bridge” during the 2022 CMT Awards.

“She was very isolated in many ways because of the disease,” added Judd. “And yet there were a lot of people who showed up for her over the years, not just me. I really accepted the love my mother was capable of giving me because I knew she was fragile. And every time we hugged and she drank me in, I was very present for those tactile experiences, because I knew there would come a time when she would be gone, whether it was sooner or whether it was later —whether it was by the disease or another cause.”

Towards the end of the interview, Judd talked about her own struggles with mental illness, which she documented in her 2011 memoir All That is Bitter and Sweet (left) and emphasized the importance of seeking help when needed, naming the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and the National Alliance for Mental Illness as resources for help.

Judd also took a moment to read a letter her sister Wynonna wrote for her to share during the interview. “I’m thinking a lot about you today,” wrote Wynonna. “I love you. I’ve been looking at photos of us when we were little. LOL, Good Lord. You were such a cutie pie. I laugh and I cry, and I thank God we have each other. I need to take some time to process, and I need this time to myself.”

Wynonna went on to say that she wasn’t ready to speak publicly about her mother’s death yet, which is why she could not join Ashley for the interview.

“We have each other, and I’m grateful we’re connected as we walk together through this storm,” said Wynonna. “I just can’t believe she’s gone. I’m here. This will take time. I love you, dear sister. I’m proud of you, and I’m here whenever you need me.”

Even to fair-weather fans like myself this honesty and sharing sounds so heart-breaking. We who had no awareness of any Naomi´s struggles with mental health perhaps cannot comprehend how savagely they must have affected her to drive her to end life in this ultimate tragedy. Our incomprehension arises from, I guess, her physical attractiveness, her pure love of music, her on stage energy, her voice, her patently obvious pride in her family and her smile that would have lit Blackpool´s golden mile. It still feels counter-intuitive to see such traits in a person to not assume that there still be mental health issues behind them.

Even over the last week or two since her death I have listened to loads of The Judds music and realised what a gift Naomi left for the world with a ´new / old country´ catalogue that asked Grandpa, Tell Me ¨Bout Those Good Old Days. They evoked small-holding farming with images of a John Deere Tractor in a half acre field, and delivered songs that were gentle, nostalgic, sentimental and family-bound without ever being schmaltzy, and when it was time to Turn It Loose and dance on a Girl´s  Night Out, Naomi (right) was happy to do so..

When working as a revenue funded artist in the UK for most of my life I saw astonishing art work — music, paintings, creative writing, sculptures, — produced by people with mental health issues of varying levels of severity, and saw first-hand what solace art, and the creating of art, could offer participants. I remember one young man quite high on the autistic scale who told me how the autism imposed on his life, and how he needed routine and order in that life and how he was sometimes frightened by disorder. And yet, in his own words, ´In my writing, I feel safe to be lost, and to allow the act of writing bethe controlling force.´

I admire The Judds for the way they have so far handled this awful sorrow, and how they seem determined to create greater awareness of  how mental health is so important and requires more understanding.

We should be reminded by that ubiquitous title of a song forever associated with The Judds, that between those with mental health issues they struggle to articulate and those who struggle to understand, and between those who are taken from us and those who are left behind, Love Can Build A Bridge.

photo 14 Jacob Iotti, one my favourite music journalists, described in America Songwriter recently how some country music stars built a bridge of their own when Ashley McBryde, Emmylou Harris, Allison Russell, Little Big Town, (left) Martina McBride as well as actors Salma Hayek and Morgan Freeman, and other special guests performed on a televised tribute: Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration, aired in the USA live from the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on May 15th.

In partnership with Sandbox Live and The Judd family, the televised honoured r the late Judd, who died on April 30, co-hosted by Carly Pearce and Cody Alan.

Daughters Wynonna and Ashley Judd, and others also made special appearances, and Naomi’s husband Larry Strickland was also in attendance.

Naomi, who died on April 30, must have been smiling down at the event, which took place at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. The event, Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration, was broadcast on CMT.

Wynonna sang “River of Time” during the ceremony, early on, and then closed out the night with her local Christ Church choir singing the song “Love Will Build a Bridge.” She also sang with Carlile on a duet of “The Rose.”

Said Wynonna, “It’s so strange to be here, but natural at the same time. I’ve lived my life in public since I was 17, so it feels natural to be here with my family of choice.”

Others in attendance were Brad Paisley, Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde, Little Big Town, Jamey Johnson, Harris, and Allison Russell. Television show host Robin Roberts was there along with Bono, Oprah, Reba McEntire, Salma Hayek, Reese Witherspoon, and Morgan Freeman.

“We can pretend to care, but we can’t pretend to show up, so thank you for showing up for our mother,” said daughter Ashley Judd.

Later in the event, Wynonna and Ashley remembered their mother. “Let’s talk about what a sultry single mama she was,” said Wynonna. “Enough of this love stuff.”

“She was a little wacky but she loved us,” said Ashley.

Naomi’s husband and former Elvis backup singer, Larry Strickland, joined Naomi’s daughters on stage, saying, “Naomi never met a stranger. Much to my displeasure, she would start a conversation with anybody who made eye contact with her.”

Bono next took the stage to recite the lyrics from the Judds song “Guardian Angel,” which was co-written by Naomi.

In a filmed testimonial, Oprah talked about having the Judds as a guest on her show some 22 years ago. Oprah said Naomi would be fondly remembered “for every life she touched. I thank you Miss Naomi Judd for touching mine.”

Offered Hayek, “I remember Naomi as one of a kind, a force of nature to be reckoned with that managed to have, at the time, a disarming sweetness that was almost hypnotic. She was always so kind to me, and yet she always managed to intimidate me … I feel very, very privileged that she came into my life.”

At the celebration’s conclusion, Wynonna said, “It’s so devastatingly beautiful, what happened here tonight. Life is so strange.”

My Judds associated memories are vibrant and various:

My wife Dee and I were on holiday in Ibiza in April 1986, staying in a hotel of which neither of us can now remember the name. We had made friends with a group of similar thiorty somethings, and tokk part in a midnoight hour Mr. &  Mrs quiz,….amazingly, we were withion question of winning and I was feeling pretty confident until that last question was addressed to Dee, asking her who were my favourite female group. As the question was asked I knew she wouldn´t have a clue. I might have bent her ear on several occasions about The Judds but I knew that ear would always be closed but we didn´t then, as we don´t now, share the same taste of music. She would have long forgotten, or might have known nothing about, my trip to London town years earlier.  She was asked to write down the answer and I was bopught back on to stage to ´guess´ her answer. There was a slight double jeopardy here as we stood to win all the vino we could drink or I would be dropped ion the swimming pool if I got wrong what I knew she would have got wrong. I picked a girl group at random as I guessed she would have written down the name of one her own favourite female groups. Taking a punt, I leaned in to the microphone and said,….The Supremes.

SPLASH, ….. my wife, who neither listens to a word I say, nor reads a word I write had written in big, block capitals THE JUDDS. I ought to say at this point that I can´t swim and my wife instructed the boyfriends of the four young nurses we were playing with to throw me in at the deep end. After much coughing and spluttering and drowning an arm that didn´t belong to my wife reached down to help’ me out.

I sat down next to my wife shivering and with chattering teeth asked her how she had known…. but she has never revealed her source !

please note logo The primary source for this article was a piece published by People Magazine USA and a TV interview conducted with Ashley Judd on Good Morning by Diane Sawyer-

In our occasional re-postings Sidetracks And Detours are confident that we are not only sharing with our readers excellent articles written by experts but are also pointing to informed and informative sites readers will re-visit time and again. Of course, we feel sure our readers will also return to our daily not-for-profit blog knowing that we seek to provide core original material whilst sometimes spotlighting the best pieces from elsewhere, as we engage with genres and practitioners along all the sidetracks & detours we take.

This article was collated by Norman Warwick, (left) a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.

Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve Bewick, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Four.

As a published author and poet Norman was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (for which he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.

From Monday to Friday, you will find a daily post here at Sidetracks And Detours and, should you be looking for good reading, over the weekend you can visit our massive but easy to navigate archives of over 500 articles.

The purpose of this daily not-for-profit blog is to deliver news, previews, interviews and reviews from all across the arts to die-hard fans and non- traditional audiences around the world. We are therefore always delighted to receive your own articles here at Sidetracks And Detours. So if you have a favourite artist, event, or venue that you would like to tell us more about just drop a Word document attachment to me at with a couple of appropriate photographs in a zip folder if you wish. Beiung a not-for-profit organisation we unfortunately cannot pay you but we will always fully attribute any pieces we publish. You therefore might also. like to include a brief autobiography and photograph of yourself in your submission.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sidetracks And Detours is seeking to join the synergy of organisations that support the arts of whatever genre. We are therefore grateful to all those share information to reach as wide and diverse an audience as possible.

correspondents               Michael Higgins

                                        Steve Bewick

                                        Gary Heywood Everett

                                        Steve Cooke

                                        Susana Fondon

                                        Graham Marshall

                                        Peter Pearson

Hot Biscuits Jazz Radio       



Jazz In Reading           

Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues 

Rob Adams                                      Music That´s Going Places

Lanzarote Information

all across the arts                   

Rochdale Music Society      

Lendanear                              www.lendanearmusic

Agenda Cultura Lanzarote

Larry Yaskiel – writer

The Lanzarote Art Gallery   

Goodreads                              https://www.goodreads.

groundup music                    HOME | GroundUP Music


Joni Mitchell newsletter

passenger newsletter

paste mail ins

sheku kanneh mason newsletter


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.