Naomi Judd honoured in musical memorial service

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  • The country music community remembered the life and legacy of Naomi Judd on Sunday.
  • During the ceremony, Wynonna Judd, who with her late mother was half of the country duo The Judds, sang several of the mother-daughter duo's hits.
  • Ashley Judd also tearfully called Naomi an "icon and a legend who left country music better than she found it."


The country music community remembered the life and legacy of Naomi Judd on Sunday.

Friends, family and fellow artists gathered at Nashville's legendary Ryman Auditorium to pay tribute to the late singer, who died on Saturday, 30 April, after a long battle with mental illness. 

The public memorial was hosted by Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts and aired live on CMT in a special titled Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration.

Early in the ceremony, Wynonna Judd, who, with her late mother, was half of the country duo The Judds, sang River of Time. Later, she paired up with Brandi Carlile for a duet of The Rose, recreating the band's signature mother/daughter harmonies.

Among the other musicians paying tribute in song were Brad Paisley, Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde, Little Big Town, Jamey Johnson, Emmylou Harris and Allison Russell.

Country singer Martina McBride read a touching Maya Angelou passage to the crowd, while Bette Midler, Bono, Oprah Winfrey, Reba McEntire, Salma Hayek, Reese Witherspoon and Morgan Freeman all offered heartwarming video testimonials.

Ashley Judd also took the stage, tearfully telling the audience of her mother's harrowing background, and called her an "icon and a legend who left country music better than she found it."

"She was every woman," Ashley said. 

"Perhaps that's why everyone felt they knew her. She was a nurse. She was a single mom who sometimes relied on public assistance. She was traumatised by early childhood abuse, intimate partner violence and rape. She was fired by a boss for refusing to go away with him for a weekend. She was Mamaw to her grandchildren. And she was totally extraordinary."

The actor also, at one point, exchanged playful banter with her sister while sharing their favourite memories of their mother.

Naomi's husband, Larry Strickland, who helped organise the celebration, joined the daughters on stage and reminisced about Naomi's kindness, saying the late star "never met a stranger."

"Much to my displeasure, she would start a conversation with anybody who made eye contact with her."

Naomi's death was announced by her family in a statement on Instagram. The Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame the following day.

Ashley opened up about her mother's death in an interview with Diane Sawyer, revealing that Naomi died by suicide. 

READ MORE | Ashley Judd opens up about her mother Naomi's cause of death in emotional interview 

If you or someone you know needs help, The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) can be reached at 0800 21 22 23 or 0800 456 789 (24 hours, 7 days a week).



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