Naomi Judd, Grammy winner and mother of Wynonna and Ashley, dies at 76

Naomi Judd, the Kentucky-born singer who formed the Grammy winning duo the Judds with her daughter Wynonna, and was also the mother of the actor Ashley Judd, has died. She was 76.

Judd’s daughters announced her death in a statement on Saturday, one day before the Judds were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy,” the statement said. “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. We are in unknown territory.”

The statement did not elaborate.

The Judds had just announced an arena tour to begin in the fall, their first tour in more than a decade. They 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 short weeks ago,” singer Maren Morris posted on Twitter on Saturday.

“This is heartbreaking news,” singer Travis Tritt posted, noting that he worked with Judd several times onscreen and in performance. “Naomi Judd was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known.”

The mother-daughter pair scored 14 No 1 songs in a career that spanned nearly three decades. After rising to the top of country music, the suffered a reversal in 1991 after doctors diagnosed Naomi Judd with hepatitis.

Hits included 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.

Ashley Judd, Naomi Judd and Wynonna Judd, seen at a charity gala in New York.
Ashley Judd, Naomi Judd and Wynonna Judd, seen at a charity gala in New York. Photograph: Theo Wargo/WireImage

Born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Kentucky, Naomi was working as a nurse when she and Wynonna started singing together professionally. Their unique harmonies and elements of acoustic music, bluegrass and blues made them stand out in the genre.

“We had a such a stamp of originality on what we were trying to do,” Naomi Judd told the Associated Press after it was announced that the Judds would be joining the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The Judds released six studio albums and an EP between 1984 and 1991 and won nine Country Music Association Awards and seven from the Academy of Country Music. They won five Grammy Awards, for hits like Why Not Me and Give A Little Love.

The Judds sang about family, belief in marriage and the virtue of fidelity. Because Naomi was so young-looking, the two were often mistaken for sisters.

Ashley Judd is known for movies including Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy and Heat.

Naomi Judd is also survived by her husband, Larry Strickland, who was a backing singer for Elvis Presley.


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