Emotions ran high during the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Medallion Ceremony to honor its class of 2021 on Sunday (May 1). The ceremony came one day after Naomi Judd unexpectedly passed away. She was 76.
The Judds were inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, along with Pete Drake, Eddie Bayers and Ray Charles. Wynonna Judd, half of the award-winning mother-daughter duo, tearfully pledged that she “will continue to sing,” despite her broken heart. “It’s a very strange dynamic to be this broken and this blessed,” she said. Her sister, Ashley Judd, added during the Medallion Ceremony that she’s “sorry (Naomi) couldn’t hang on until today.” The Judd sisters recited Psalm 23 in honor of their mother.
The sisters announced on Saturday afternoon (April 30) that they “experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness. 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.” The announcement followed with an outpouring of heartfelt tributes to Naomi, including by Loretta Lynn, Carrie Underwood, the Oak Ridge Boys, Reba McEntire and other country music icons.
“We are shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Naomi Judd, who enters the Country Music Hall of Fame tomorrow as a member of mother-daughter duo The Judds,” Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said in an emailed statement ahead of the induction. “Naomi overcame incredible adversity on her way to a significant place in music history. 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.”
Country Music Hall of Fame member Ricky Skaggs honored the Judds during the ceremony, along with performances by Carly Pearce, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and Tommy Sims. Drake was honored by Elizabeth Cook, Wendy Moten and Charlie McCoy; Bayers was honored by Vince Gill and Trisha Yearwood; Charles was honored by The War and Treaty, Garth Brooks, Bettye LaVette and Ronnie Milsap. Brandi Carlile was also set to perform that evening, though she had to drop out after testing positive for COVID-19. Instead, she shared a tribute:
“We want (Wynonna and Ashley) to know that they’re so loved and that they’ve given a language to not just mothers and daughters everywhere but that every family can learn something about love from (The Judds),” Carlile wrote. “Let’s send them every bit of love and gratitude that they deserve.”