aspen_banner.jpg
Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Country music star Naomi Judd dies at 76

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Country music star Naomi Judd, mother of singer Wynonna Judd and actress Ashley Judd, has died. She was 76. Announcing her death, Judd's daughters wrote on Twitter, today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness. We are shattered. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: The mother and daughter duo of Naomi and Wynonna Judd dazzled the music world with their red hair, glamour and harmonies.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAMA HE'S CRAZY")

THE JUDDS: (Singing) Mama, he's crazy, crazy over me. And in my life is where he says he always wants to be.

BLAIR: In so many ways, Naomi Judd's story is uniquely American. Born in Ashland, Ky., her dad owned a gas station. Her mom was a cook on a Mississippi Riverboat. In high school, she got pregnant with Wynonna, got married and four years later had Ashley. The marriage didn't last. As a single mom, she put herself through nursing school and eventually moved with her daughters to Nashville. It was a patient who helped her and Wynonna get an audition with RCA. Soon, their harmonies were winning Grammys, scads of country awards and reaching the top of the charts.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE IS ALIVE")

THE JUDDS: (Singing) Love is alive and at our breakfast table every day of the week. Love is alive, and it grows every day and night, even in our sleep.

BLAIR: Naomi and her daughter Wynonna shared a special connection, as Naomi Judd told NPR in 2004.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

NAOMI JUDD: We're like monkeys. We're always grooming each other, always touching. We have a very, very deep psychological connection so that we finish each other's sentences. We don't even have to speak sometimes. We just nod in affirmation of knowing what the other is thinking.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE CAN BUILD A BRIDGE")

THE JUDDS: (Singing) Love can build a bridge between your heart and mind.

BLAIR: In 1990, Naomi Judd was diagnosed with hepatitis C. She said doctors told her she had three years to live. The Judds went on a farewell tour. Naomi became a spokesperson for the American Liver Foundation. She wrote books, including one called "River Of Time: My Descent Into Depression And How I Emerged With Hope." She told NPR she felt that fans looked at her and her daughters Wynonna and Ashley as exemplifying enlightened imperfection.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

JUDD: We know how flawed and how vulnerable and sometimes wounded we are, but we acknowledge that, and we just feel like we're all in this thing together.

BLAIR: The Judds, Wynonna and Naomi, are scheduled to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame later today. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKIN' WITH THE RHYTHM OF THE RAIN")

THE JUDDS: (Singing) So let the breeze keep blowing. Rocking with the rhythm of the rain that's a'falling. Night birds a'singing, the crickets a'calling. Oh, my heart will never be the same. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.