The Judds tour will go on, Wynonna announces at celebration of Naomi Judd
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The Judds tour will go on, Wynonna announces at celebration of Naomi Judd

Monday, May 16, 2022 – At the end of a night at the Ryman celebrating the life of the late Naomi Judd on Sunday, Wynonna said their planned farewell tour would go on.

""Tonight, as we close, I say the show must go on as hard as it may be, and you will carry me just as you did for 38 years," Wynonna told the crowd. "It's so devastatingly beautiful what happened here tonight. So, we will continue this spectacle. That's what she would want."

Naomi Judd, one-half of The Judds with Wynonna, passed away on April 30 of a self-inflicted gunshot. Naomi had mental health issues over the years, which she had talked about. Her death occurred one day before The Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

""It's so strange in a way to be here, but it seems so natural," Wynonna said after Brandi Carlile, who performed The Rose" with her, left the stage. "I lived my life publicly since I was 17 so it feels natural to be with my family of choice. Tonight is a celebration. And at the same time, I can't put into words how devastating. It's the first place I've been publicly."

"I miss her so much," she said through tears. "But I will continue to sing."

"So, I made a decision...after a lot of thought, I'm gonna have to honor her, I'm gonna do this tour. I'm gonna to have to because that's what you would want. And mama once told me 'Give them what they want. Not what you want,'" Wynonna said. "The show must go on as hard as it may be, and we will show up together, and you will carry me as you have for 38 years once again."

Ashley Judd, Naomi's other daughter, spoke at the outset of the celebration. "We are here tonight remembering an icon and a legend who left country music better than she found it."

"She was every woman," Ashley said. "Perhaps this why everyone felt they knew her. She was a nurse. She was a single mom who sometimes relied on public assistance. She was traumatized by early childhood abuse, intimate partner violence and rape, and 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."

Wynonna then sang "River of Time."

The evening featured performers and speeches. Little Big Time played "Grandma (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Old Days)" in an emotional reading from lead singers Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman. Fairchild said, "It's a great honor just being on the stage tonight."

Jamey Johnson, who was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry only the night before, sang "John Deere Tractor" from The Judds' debut 1984 EP.

Emmylou Harris and Allison Russell performed "The Sweetest Gift," a song recorded by The Judds for their 1987 album, "Heartland." The song contains the line "the sweetest gift, a mother's smile."

U2's Bono read part of The Judds' "Guardian Angel." Martina McBride read the poem "When Great Trees Fall" from Maya Angelou.

Brad Paisley, who opened for The Judds as a 13-year-old in West Virginia, offered an acoustic-driven version of "Young Love." "I wanted to cry," he said when told by the Wheeling Jamboree that he would open for The Judds. "I had a grandfather with cancer who wanted me to be a country music singer," he said, noting his grandfather had been given three months to live. "He got to see me open for the greatest act in country music."

"They were so nice from then and every single time I ran into them...It was a big deal to open for them then, but it's a bigger deal to do this today."

Ashley McBryde sang a touching rendition of the duo's hit "Love Is Alive" with Wynonna singing along from her seat. Fellow Kentuckian Carly Pearce offered up "Why Not Me," saying, "I have this maybe of maybe Naomi flipping her skirt in heaven tonight." The Gaither Vocal Band sang "How Beautiful Heaven Must Be" with three-part harmonies.

One of the highlights of the evening was the performance of "The Rose" by Brandi Carlile and Wynonna. Wynonna stopped the song near the end to restart part of it - ' "Just remember in the winter/ Far beneath the bitter snows/ Lies the seed that with the sun's love/ In the spring becomes the rose" - filled with more emotion.

Wynonna also turned in a stirring reading of "Love Can Build a Bride" with the Christ Church Choir, the church she attends.

Larry Strickland, Naomi's husband of 32 years, also spoke of his wife's warmth and friendliness to strangers. He read part of an email a stranger after Naomi's death. she gave him Strickland's card on a plane from Chicago to Nashville. ""being a bit of a country and western Philistine, I had no knowledge of who she was, her accomplishments or her achievements." But, he noted, "the next 90 minutes we spent in each other's company was not only entertaining, fascinating and enlightening, but also for me, at least, very enjoyable. It's a small comfort, I'm sure, but my life seems a lot richer after meeting your wife however briefly...Obviously, I didn't know Naomi at all, but I can tell you she spoke highly and warmly of you and the life you shared together. Rest assured she loved you and had no qualms of telling me, a stranger on a plane, that was so."

"Needless to say, it great great pleasure and comfort," he said on receiving the email.

Wynonna then joked around, "enough of this love fest," saying her mother could be "evil." She indicated they had differences - to be expected given the amount of time they spent together. She thanked the fans for being supportive for 38 years.

"She was a little whacky, but she was so nice," said Ashley.

The two continued joking before she asked Wynonna to sing again.

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