Naomi Judd, who teamed with her daughter Wynonna to form the chart-topping country music duo, passed away at the age of 76.
Wyonna and her sister, actress Ashley Judd, announced their mother’s passing in a statement that read, "Today we sisters 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 Judd sisters offered no additional information on their mother’s health issues.
A Single Mother’s Journey: Naomi Judd was born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Kentucky, on Jan. 11, 1946, the daughter of a gas station owner. She married Michael Ciminella while still in her teens, giving birth to daughters Christina (later Wynonna) when she was 18 and to Ashley four years later.
After divorcing Ciminella, she relocated with her daughters to California to study nursing. Money was tight during this period and Judd earned cash – and had her first exposure with show business – by appearing as a contestant on the “Hollywood Squares” game show. Years later, she expressed gratitude to the show for helping her bridge a financially difficult period.
Judd worked as a nurse during the 1970s and into the 1980s. She joined her daughter Wynonna in performing country music, eventually leaving the nursing field to pursue a music career.
Halcyon Years: The Judds were unique in country music – indeed, in any musical genre – as a mother-daughter duo. Signing with RCA Nashville in 1983, they scored a smash hit with their second single, “Mama He's Crazy,” which hit the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. The song’s popularity spurred an EP that was followed by the studio album “Why Not Me.”
The Judds were among the most successful acts in country music, winning five Grammy Awards, seven Academy of Country Music Awards and nine County Music Association Awards, as well as an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Following the release of the 1990 album “Love Can Build a Bridge,” Judd announced that she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and was stepping away from performing. Wynonna Judd went on to a successful solo career, dropping her surname to perform as Wynonna. The Judds would occasionally reunite, most notably as the halftime act for Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994.
In her later career, Judd acted in film and television productions, appeared as a judge on the competition show “Star Search” and hosted a talk show on the Hallmark Channel. Her health issues inspired her to launch the Naomi Judd Education and Research Fund, and for years she was the celebrity spokesperson for the American Liver Foundation.
Photo: Naomi and Wynonna Judd, via The Judds' Facebook page.