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Naomi Judd, matriarch of the Singing Judd family, dies at the age of 76

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Naomi Judd, who topped the country charts in the 1980s and early 1990s with her daughter Wynonna in the Grammy-winning singing duo Judds, has died near Nashville at the age of 76.

Wynonna Judd and her sister, actress Ashley Judd, released a statement Saturday, saying, “We lost our beautiful mother to the disease mental illness,” without specifying the exact date or cause of death.

The death was announced a day before Naomi and Wynonna Judd were scheduled to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Naomi Judd had written and talked about her struggles with depression, which had required hospitalization.

Naomi and Wynonna Judd began singing together in the late 1970s and became famous after appearances in country music kingpin Ralph Emery’s morning TV show in Nashville. By that time, Naomi Judd had already been through one marriage, survived sexual assault and drug use, supported her daughters on welfare, and been registered as a nurse.

“When we entered country music, I was 35,” Judd told the Dallas Morning News in 1994. “I had been through fires, earthquakes, slam-dunked, my heart torn out and trampled on by men. When I entered in country music, I feel like what I did was just communicate. “

The Judds first reached the top of the country charts in 1984 and had 14 No. 1 hits over the next seven years, including “Mama He’s Crazy”, “Why Not Me”, “Girls Night Out”, “Rockin ‘With the Rhythm “. of the Rain “and” Love Can Build a Bridge. “

The mother-daughter duo was often confused with sisters because of Naomi Judd’s youthful appearance. They sang in tightly woven harmonies, borrowed from bluegrass and gospel music as they won five Grammy Awards, sold more than 20 million records and for several years swept the best honors at country music awards.

At the height of their popularity, in 1991, Judds stopped performing after Naomi Judd was diagnosed with hepatitis C, which she was thought to have contracted when she was a nurse. Wynonna Judd continued with a successful solo career, while Ashley Judd starred in the 1993 film “Ruby in Paradise” and the Emmy-winning television drama “Sisters”.

Both daughters credited their mother as an inspiration and for her firm belief in their ability to succeed in showbusiness.

Naomi Judd settled outside Nashville and wrote a best-selling autobiography, “Love Can Build a Bridge” (1993).

“I realized I was playing a metaphor for mortality; a short life lived on stage, where I made my last bucks before quietly disappearing into the darkness,” Judd wrote in the book, the first of nine she published, many about spirituality and self-fulfillment.

She and Wynonna reunite on a regular basis as Judds, including during a break in Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994. They last performed together on April 11 at the CMT Music Awards, which aired live on CBS. They planned what they billed as a month-long farewell tour that began in September.

Diana Ellen Judd was born on January 11, 1946 in Ashland, Ky. Her father ran a gas station and her mother was a waitress.

Judd, who later took the name Naomi from a biblical favorite, grew up in a family marked by trauma, including murder and suicide. She later revealed that she was sexually abused by a great-uncle and later by schoolmates.

“I’ve been alone since I was 17,” Judd told the Palm Beach Post in 2006. “When I was pregnant with Wynonna when I was 17 in my senior year of high school, no one knew I was pregnant, my little brother was dying [from Hodgkin’s disease], my parents were getting divorced. The guy who made me pregnant left town when he found out I was pregnant. “

She had her first child, Christina (who later changed her name to Wynonna), the week she graduated from high school as an 18-year-old. At the time, she was married to her first husband, Michael Ciminella, who was the father of her second daughter, Ashley, who was born in 1968 after the family moved to California.

The couple divorced in the early 1970s, and Mrs. Judd lived off welfare and working in shops and restaurants before starting to study nursing. She moved back to Kentucky in the mid-1970s as a single mother and encouraged her daughters in their artistic interests.

“I started singing,” Wynonna Judd told Ashland, Ky., Daily Independent in 2015, “and Mom would do chores, and she would start singing in lower harmony. We sat around the dinner table and sang just to pass the time.”

After receiving a nursing degree from Eastern Kentucky University in 1979, Judd moved to Nashville, where she worked as a nurse and sought to help establish Wynonna Judd as a singer. Instead, they became successful as a duo, performing their own songs and those of other Nashville songwriters.

For seven years, the Jews’ country music was royalty, sold out arenas and topped the charts. After Naomi Judd’s first retirement in 1991, she had several television and film acting roles. She recovered from hepatitis and began touring again with her daughter from time to time, but afterwards, Naomi Judd said, she would retire to her country house and fall into deep depression.

“I literally could not leave the house for several weeks,” she told People magazine in 2016. “I was completely immobilized, and every single second was like a day.”

She said she had suicidal thoughts, which she sought to overcome through therapy and treatment in psychiatric hospitals. She portrayed her struggle in several books, including a candid memoir from 2016, “River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged With Hope.”

“I’m still desperately trying to help myself,” she told People, “… but I’m vulnerable.”

In addition to her daughters, survivors include her husband since 1989, Larry Strickland, and two grandchildren.

In the last concert of Judds’ first farewell tour in 1991, they sang “River of Time”, a song written by Naomi Judd about her younger brother’s death: “My future is not what it used to be, only today is everything I have been promised. Flow on, the river of time, wash away the pain and heal my mind. “

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