Although the tragic death of Naomi Judd cast a pall over the Country Music Hall of Fame ceremony, the show went on as scheduled in Nashville on Sunday, May 1. Naomi, who passed away at the age of 76 one day prior, was inducted as part of The Judds, alongside her daughter Wynonna Judd. Wynonna and her younger sister Ashley Judd appeared at the event, holding each other through tears as they paid tribute to their iconic mother.
“I’m sorry that she couldn’t hang on until today,” Ashley said to the crowd per the Associated Press. Wynonna explained she “didn’t prepare anything tonight because I knew mom would probably talk the most,” per Taste of Country. “I’m gonna make this fast, because my heart’s broken, and I feel so blessed. It’s a very strange dynamic, to be this broken and this blessed. … Though my heart’s broken, I will continue to sing, because that’s what we do,” she also said. The sisters then recited Psalm 23.
At the event, Wynonna confirmed her mom died at 2:20 p.m. CT Saturday. She revealed that she kissed Naomi “on the forehead and walked away,” while surrounded by family.
Performers paid tribute to the Judds in song, including current top 10 country singer Carly Pearce doing the duo’s 1986 smash “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)” and the Americana duo of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings covering 1989’s “Young Love (Strong Love),” another No. 1 hit for the Judds. Tommy Simms sang “Love Can Build a Bridge.”
Just hours after Naomi’s death was announced, the Country Music Hall of Fame’s CEO, Kyle Young, took to Twitter to reveal the show would continue, per the wishes of the Judd family. “We are shocked and saddened by the death of Naomi Judd, who enters the Country Music Hall of Fame tomorrow as a member of the @juddsofficial,” Young wrote. “Her family has asked that we continue with the Judds’ Hall of Fame induction Sunday. We will do so, with heavy hearts.”
“Naomi overcame incredible adversity on her way to a significant place in music history,” Young added in an Instagram featuring a gorgeous photo of Naomi. “Her triumphant life story overshadows today’s tragic news. Her family has asked that we continue with the Judds’ official Hall of Fame induction on Sunday. We will do so, with heavy hearts and weighted minds. Naomi and daughter Wynonna’s music will endure.”
UPDATE: Out of respect for the passing of Naomi Judd, the Country Music Hall of Fame Red Carpet Experience is canceled tomorrow.
— Country Music HOF (@countrymusichof) May 1, 2022
In a separate Twitter statement, the organization announced Wynonna was planning on attending the event, although the pre-ceremony “Red Carpet Experience,” scheduled for Sunday afternoon, had been canceled in light of Naomi’s death.
The induction honor comes after Naomi and Wynonna recently announced a tour to begin in the fall, the first one for The Judds in over a decade. And last month, they made their first major awards show performance in over two decades, playing at the CMT Music Awards.
In a statement announcing Naomi’s death on Saturday afternoon, Wynonna and Naomi’s other daughter Ashley Judd, said they “experienced a tragedy.” “We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” they added. “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.” As this time, the cause of death has yet to be reported.