Naomi Judd, Singer of the Grammy-Winning The Judds, Dies at 76

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Singer Naomi Judd of Grammy-winning duo The Judds and mother of Wynonna and Ashley Judd has died, according to Associated Press. She was 76.

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” the daughters said in a statement. “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.”

No further details about cause of death have been disclosed.

It was just announced Friday that The Judds are to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame Sunday, May 1. After Judd’s passing, the organization issued another statement, saying the celebration of The Judds will go on.

“The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum joins family and fans in grieving the sudden loss of Naomi Judd,” the statement reads. “Following the wishes of the Judd family, the museum will move forward with the Medallion Ceremony on Sunday, May 1, with Wynonna planning on being in attendance. In addition to The Judds, Eddie Bayers, Ray Charles and Pete Drake will be formally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Public red carpet arrivals are cancelled.”

Born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Kentucky, Naomi raised her two daughters as a single parent while attending nursing school in California after the collapse of her marriage to Michael Ciminella. It wasn’t until she and her eldest daughter, Wynona, moved back to Tennessee that they started singing together.

After being discovered by Nashville record producer Brent Maher, they recorded their first album as The Judds in 1983. In their time as a musical duo, The Judds have scored 20 Top 10 hits – including 15 that charted No. 1 – and were undefeated winners of every major country music award show for eight consecutive years. Along the way, they won five Grammy Awards. Naomi won an additional Grammy for writing the country song of the year with the Judds’ hit “Love Can Build a Bridge.”

Among The Judds’ hits are “Love Can Build a Bridge,” “Mama He’s Crazy,” “Why Not Me,” “Turn It Loose,” “Girls Night Out,” “Rockin’ With the Rhythm of the Rain” and “Grandpa.”

In 1991, Judd was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. And after a successful seven-year run and selling more than 20 million albums as The Judds, the music ended for the duo with their Farewell Tour. That year, she created The Naomi Judd Education and Research Fund to raise awareness of Hepatitis C.

“I got this killer-diller disease and had to lose my career,” she told San Francisco Gate at the time. “It’s a metaphor for life itself. I’ve always known there was nothing special about me. I am just the average person’s representative.” She went on: “I have been a battered woman, and I visit women’s shelters. I have been on welfare, and I know that the best way to find a helping hand is for people to look at the end of their own stinking arms.”

Judd gave a shot at hosting a Sunday morning talk show on Hallmark in 2005 called “Naomi’s New Morning” that ran two seasons. She also authored several self-help books including, most recently, “Naomi’s Guide to Aging Gratefully: Facts, Myths, and Good News for Boomers.”

Naomi Judd is survived by daughters Wynona and Ashley, grandchildren Elijah and Grace, and her husband and fellow singer, Larry Strickland.

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