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The Judds, Ray Charles joins the Country Music Hall of Fame

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Ray Charles and The Judds joined the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday in a ceremony filled with tears, music and laughter, just a day after Naomi Judd died unexpectedly.

The loss of Naomi Judd changed the normally festive ceremony, but the music continued to play as the genre’s singers and musicians mourned the country legend, while also celebrating the four inmates: The Judds, Ray Charles, Eddie Bayers and Pete Drake. Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill and many more performed their hit songs.

Naomi and Wynonna Judd were among the most popular duos of the 1980s, scoring 14 No. 1 hits over their nearly three-decade-long careers. On the eve of her incarceration, the family said in a statement to the Associated Press that Naomi Judd died at the age of 76 due to “the mental illness.”

The daughters Wynonna and Ashley Judd accepted the induction in tears, held each other and recited a Bible verse together.

“I’m sorry she could not keep going until today,” Ashley Judd said of her mother to the crowd as she cried. Wynonna Judd talked about the family reunion when they said goodbye to her, and she and Ashley Judd recited Psalm 23.

“Even though my heart is broken, I will continue to sing,” Wynonna Judd said.

Fans gathered outside the museum, attracted by a white flower bouquet outside the entrance and a small framed photo of Naomi Judd below. A single rose was laid on the ground.

Charles’ introduction showed his genre-defying country releases, which demonstrated the commercial appeal of country music. The Georgia-born singer and piano player grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry and in 1962 released “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music”, which became one of the best-selling country releases of his era.

Blind and orphaned at a young age, Charles is best known for R&B, gospel and soul, but his decision to record country music changed the way the world thought about the genre, expanding audiences in the civil rights era.

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Charles’ version of “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, spent five weeks at the top of the Billboard 100 hit list and is still one of his most popular songs. He died in 2004.

Brooks sang “Seven Spanish Angels,” one of Charles’ hits with Willie Nelson, while Bettye LaVette performed “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

Country Music Hall of Famer Ronnie Milsap said he met Charles when he was a young singer and that others tried to emulate Charles but no one could measure up.

“There was one of him and only one,” Milsap said. “He sang country music as it was to be sung.”

Charles is only the third black artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame along with Opry pioneer DeFord Bailey and Charley Pride.

“Mr. Charles always stood for what he loved,” said Valerie Ervin, president of the Ray Charles Foundation. “And country music was what he really loved.”

Hall of Fame also deployed two recording musicians who were fundamental to so many country songs and singers: Eddie Bayers and Pete Drake.

Bayers, a decades-old drummer in Nashville who worked on 300 platinum records, is a member of the Grand Ole Opry band. He regularly played on records for The Judds, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney. He is the first drummer to join the institution.

Drake, who died in 1988, was a pedal steel guitarist and a member of Nashville’s A-team of talented session musicians, playing hits such as “Stand By Your Man” by Tammy Wynette and “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones. He is the first pedal steel guitarist to become part of the Hall of Fame.

Drake is known for creating the talk box, a technology that allowed him to vocalize through his pedal steel guitar. It was later popularly adopted by artists such as Peter Frampton and many others.

His wife, Rose, said musicians like her husband deserved a place in music history.

“The musicians of the ’60s,’ 70s,’s, and ’80s created Nashville as Music City, and we can not let that get away,” said Rose Drake.




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