American singer and actress Naomi Judd (born Diana Ellen Judd on January 11, 1946; passed away on April 30, 2022). She and her daughter Wynonna started their popular country music combo The Judds in 1983 and went on to win five Grammys and nine CMAs. After Naomi was diagnosed with hepatitis in 1991.
The Judds stopped performing; Wynonna continued performing as a solo artist, and the two occasionally rejoined for tours as The Judds. Throughout her life, Naomi battled severe mental illness. On the evening of April 29, 2022, she shot herself in the head, the night before she and Wynonna would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Naomi Judd’s Early Life
On January 11, 1946, in Ashland, Kentucky, Judd was born to Pauline Ruth “Polly” and Charles Glen Judd. Her family ran a service station that her father founded. Naomi Judd’s first child, Christina Claire Ciminella (later Wynonna Judd), was born when she was 18 years old; her brother Brian died at the age of 17 from leukemia in 1965. Judd swiftly wed Michael Ciminella after being dumped by her fiancé and Wynonna’s biological father, Charles Jordan.
They named their first daughter Ciminella. As a single mother, Judd put herself through nursing school at California’s College of Marin while living in Lagunitas, California (close to where her daughter Ashley was born in 1968) and launched a successful music career with her daughter Wynonna. Ashley went on to have a successful acting career on both film and stage. She opted to honor the Biblical figure Naomi, whose story of traveling to a new land and finally being left without a spouse while raising two women struck a chord with her, and she changed her name from Diana when she reverted to her maiden name after her divorce.
Naomi Judd’s Personal Life
Wynonna, who was born in 1964, and Ashley were Judd’s two daughters (born 1968). Wynonna is a musician and was the other member of their band, The Judds when it was just the two of them. Ashley has been working as an actor for more than three decades at this point in her career. On May 6, 1989, Judd wed her second husband, musician Larry Strickland, who was a member of the Palmetto State Quartet.
Naomi Judd’s Career
After Naomi Judd’s 1991 hepatitis C diagnosis, the couple quickly split up. Their final show sold more tickets than any other musical event in the history of cable pay-per-view. By drawing on her own personal experiences, Naomi Judd established the Naomi Judd Education and Research Fund in 1991 and became a spokesperson for the American Liver Foundation.
In 1993, the American Academy of Achievement presented her with the Golden Plate Award for lifetime achievement. She kept acting, eventually playing Lily Waite in 1999’s A Holiday Romance. In 1999, Ashley served as the emcee for a Judds reunion concert held at Phoenix, Arizona’s America West Arena on New Year’s Eve.
In 2000, the Judds got back together for a “Power to Change” tour, when they played to almost 300,000 people across 30 stops. They were considered for the award for best vocal pair by the Academy of Country Music that year (2001). In 2003 and 2004, Judd served as a judge on Arsenio Hall’s updated edition of the talent competition Star Search. In 2005, she launched her Sunday morning discussion show on the Hallmark Channel, titled Naomi’s New Morning.
There were two seasons of the show. Naomi’s Guide to Aging Gratefully: Facts, Myths, and Good News for Boomers was one of the many self-help books she authored (2007). As of the 2008 television season, Judd was serving as a judge and mentor on the new reality competition series Can You Duet.
CMT broadcast the show. The Killing Game, a Lifetime television film in which she co-starred with Laura Prepon, premiered in 2011. 2014 saw her in the lead role of “Honey” in the holiday film An Evergreen Christmas. In 2017, she and her husband Larry Strickland competed in the inaugural season of the Fox Broadcasting reality culinary series My Kitchen Rules.
What kind of mental illness did Naomi Judd have?
Saturday marked the passing of singer/songwriter Naomi Judd. Even though the official cause of death was not released until Tuesday, her daughters Ashley and Wynonna remarked, “We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness.” In 2016, Naomi Judd opened out about her battle with depression in an interview with the Palm Beach Daily News.
Unlike many of her fans, singer/songwriter Naomi Judd does not save back issues of People magazine on her coffee table. Her go-to read comes from the prestigious psychiatry department at Massachusetts General Hospital: their newsletter. She attends lectures on brain research at Vanderbilt University when she wants a more hands-on learning experience.
Her curiosity goes beyond the classroom. She says in an interview from her home outside of Nashville, “My genes don’t fit.”
In 1983, Judd and her eldest daughter Wynonna formed The Judds and revitalized classic country music. Before breaking up in 1991, the duo had 14 Top 10 hits between them, including “Love is Alive,” “Why Not Me,” and “Girls Night Out.” Because of her hepatitis C, which she contracted three years ago and which left her too weary to tour, Naomi Judd never went on the road.
Judd’s fear was heightened by the prospect of his own mortality within a short period of time. After the virus was eliminated from her body, the symptoms lessened. She admitted, though, that depression was a more difficult issue to address. She claimed that during all those years on stage with her daughter, she never felt able to open up about her struggles with depression.
On the stage with the bright lights and hundreds of admirers every night, and singing with ‘Why’ on the bus, I guess I was so busy being utterly preoccupied with this amazing adventure that I forgot to eat. The irony is that, because of how well that fit me, I often found myself unable to speak honestly in interviews for fear of discouraging positive responses. Their preconceived notions of Mamma Judd were shaken by this. Judd explained, “I just kept pushing it down and repressed it.
Two and a half years ago, her sadness became severe enough that she sought advice from a friend about seeing a psychiatrist. She suggested that Dr. Jerrold Rosenbaum, Mass General’s psychiatric chief, see Judd. Actress Ashley Judd, her younger daughter, is in daily contact and is able to support her due to Judd’s experience with depression. Ashley Judd’s 2011 autobiography, All That is Bitter & Sweet, details her harrowing upbringing, internal battles, and eventual emergence as a political activist.
Judd has praised Ashley for her bravery in confronting her melancholy. So many things she does right now are beneficial to me. Although Ashley is skilled at self-care, I was never taught how to do it. By going public, Judd hopes to raise more awareness of the devastating illness. When I consider that 16 million people in the United States are dealing with depression at any given time, I find it hard not to let my emotions get the best of me. “I can’t take it,” she finally said.
Naomi Judd’s Death
At age 76, Judd committed suicide by shooting herself in the head on April 30, 2022, at her house in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee. She had been suffering from despair, anxiety, panic attacks, and thoughts of suicide for quite some time. Lithium, one of the prescriptions she was given, caused her to experience side effects like facial edema, baldness, and tremors, which further added to her mental anguish.
Her daughters tweeted the news of her passing: “We sisters lost someone very close to us today. The disease of mental illness took our lovely mother from us.” On Good Morning America with Diane Sawyer on May 12, 2022, Ashley Judd explained what happened to kill her mother. She shared the information in the hopes that it will aid individuals struggling with mental illness. She added that she and her relatives preferred hearing the news of the death firsthand from someone who was present rather than via a third party.
CMT broadcast a memorial service in his honor. From the Ryman Auditorium, as Naomi Judd had requested before her death, Robin Roberts hosted Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration. Celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Salma Hayek, and Morgan Freeman made cameos, and others like Wynonna, Brad Paisley, Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde, Emmylou Harris, and Allison Russell, Little Big Town, Brandi Carlile, Larry Strickland, and Jamey Johnson performed.
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