The Heart-Wrenching Death Of Naomi Judd

Naomi Judd, matriarch of the multi-generational country music family the Judds, has died, according to a statement from the family. She was 76 (via AP). Born in Kentucky, Naomi Judd performed as one half of the Grammy Award-winning duo The Judds, alongside her daughter Wynonna, per AllMusic. She's also mother to actress and activist Ashley Judd. Few additional details of the beloved star's death were given in the family statement. "We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness," it read.

The duo that made the Judd name famous had started singing together as a way of getting along with each other and to hopefully skirt the typical brand of mother-daughter headbutting. The idea that the two should sing together came to Naomi while listening to country records. "They were all coal-mining songs. And as these women harmonized together, it came to me: Wynonna and I couldn't talk to each other, but, low and behold, we could sing together," Naomi said according to PBS. "Their songs were not just a balm between the two of us, but they were teaching Wynonna the history of country music."

The Judds became country music royalty

A country singer from the age of 17, Naomi Judd began performing in the late '70s with her oldest daughter, Wynonna. The height of the mother-daughter country duo's success came throughout the '80s and '90s. The Judds released six studio albums from 1983 to 1991, according to PBS, and some of their most well-known tunes include "Why Not Me," and "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Old Days)," among others. 

The mother-daughter duo stopped performing in the early '90s when Naomi was diagnosed with hepatitis C, at which point they embarked on a farewell tour. The final show of that run was broadcast on television, and according to the Sun Sentinel, it became the most successful pay-per-view event in history to that point, drawing more than 18.5 million viewers.  The farewell show served as both a send-off for Naomi and the launch of Wynonna's solo career, but that didn't stop the younger Judd from being concerned about the end of The Judds, and what it meant for the future. 

"We had one of the greatest 'good-byes' in the history of Country Music," Wynonna said. "We went out with a bang. And the next day, I woke up and, 'Oh, my gosh. What do I do now?' It was devastating." Fortunately, with the support of both her mother and her manager, Wynonna embarked on what became a highly successful solo career in its own right.

Naomi Judd struggled with mental health

After Naomi Judd's sudden retirement from music on account of her hepatitis C diagnosis, the Nashville star spoke openly about her experience with depression. She also advocated for the American Liver Foundation and started the Naomi Judd Education and Research Fund (via The Boot). In 2017, she also released "River of Time: My Descent Into Depression and How I Emerged With Hope."

In the book, Judd recounted her traumatic childhood, issues with mental health, and suicidal ideation. She also wrote of her experience seeking therapy and time spent in hospitalization. According to JubileeCast, the singer said that she wrote the book, "with the sincere hope of offering encouragement to the 40 million Americans who suffer from depression and anxiety every minute of every day and night. I want them to know that I understand, and I'm here to help." Also in 2017, it was announced Naomi Judd was free from hep C.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

The Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2021

According to Consequence of Sound, The Judds announced a 10-show run in the Fall of 2022. It was slated to be the first time the mother-daughter duo had returned to stages together in many years. Sadly, the popular singer's death came just weeks prior to this highly-anticipated tour from The Judds (via Stereogum). They were in the midst of a musical comeback at the time that Naomi Judd died. Roughly one week prior, The Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and at the 2022 CMT music awards, Naomi and Wynonna reunited to sing "Love Can Build A Bridge." 

The Judd family statement announcing the death of Naomi Judd also read (via AP), "Today we sisters experienced a tragedy ... 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." After news broke, country singer Maren Morris shared her condolences on Twitter, as did many others. "Rest In Peace, Naomi Judd. Honored to have witnessed 'Love Can Build a Bridge' just a few short weeks ago," her tweet read.