Wynonna Judd ‘Lost It’ While Rehearsing For Tour Without Dead Mother Naomi

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) – Fans of Naomi Judd, the late matriarch of Grammy-winning country duo The Judds, get a chance to say goodbye and rejoice in their hits on a final tour, accompanied by daughter Wynonna Judd and all. – star musical partners.

The Judd family continues to mourn her sudden death for a year that should have been a celebration. The tour was announced just weeks before Naomi, 76, took her life on April 30, the day before they were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“It’s just wonderful to go back to the past and relive some of these memories,” Wynonna, 58, said earlier this week as she sat on a tour bus after rehearsals.

“Yesterday I was rehearsing and there is a part in the show where they synchronize mom singing with me. And I turned around and I just lost it.”

Wynonna Judd and Naomi Judd
“I turned around and I just lost it,” Wynonna said of rehearsing without her late mother.
ABC

The 11-city tour kicked off Friday night in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and includes stops in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Fort Worth, Texas and Nashville before finishing in their home state in Lexington, Kentucky. Special guests include Brandi Carlile, Ashley McBryde, Little Big Town, Kelsea Ballerini, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill and tour opener Martina McBride.

Naomi’s husband Larry Strickland – and her two daughters, Wynonna and Ashley Judd – reflected on their mother’s legacy not only in music, but also as a caregiver and advocate. The red-haired duo scored more than a dozen number 1 hits, combining young Wynonna’s powerful vocals with Naomi’s family harmonies and stage charm. Their Appalachian hits with polished pop styles included “Why Not Me,” “Mama He’s Crazy,” “Rockin’ With the Rhythm of the Rain,” and “Love Can Build a Bridge.”

Ashley Judd, Naomi Judd and Wynonna Judd.
Ashley Judd does her part to protect the family’s privacy regarding Naomi’s death.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Naomi’s husband, who is nearly 33 years old, said he hopes fans will feel exalted to hear their hit songs in arenas again. But he knows he will have a hard time seeing his wife on the big screens or hearing her voice again.

“I’m just having trouble seeing pictures of her now. I don’t know how much I can handle,” Strickland said.

Strickland said his wife was excited to tour with her daughter again because she loved the bond with the fans. The storyline of the single mother supporting two daughters to become one of the greatest duos in country music history, along with Naomi’s flashy wardrobe and sparkling approachability, made fans identify with her.

“She loved being on stage and singing,” Strickland said. “She loved people. And she would spin and spin. She was the harmony singer. She was all about her hair and the little dresses she would have made. And so that was her world.”

Her family has endless stories of Naomi’s empathy and passion for helping, her love for animals, especially dogs, and her desire to learn. She was a nurse by profession before her music career, served on the board of the American Humane Association, and was a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Her daughter Ashley recalled walking around with $20 and $50 bills in her bra and handing them out to people, especially women.

Wynonna said she recently visited the same hospital outside of Nashville where her mother died. And she noticed that on one of the walls in the emergency room were pictures of volunteers helping patients.

“And there’s a picture of my mom in the cutest little wig and she’s got her name tag, ‘Naomi Judd,'” she said.

Naomi Judd
Naomi died in April at the age of 76.
Getty Images

Naomi struggled with depression for most of her life, which she openly shared in her book “River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged With Hope.” Her family said she was also being treated for bipolar disorder and PTSD.

“That’s the complexity of this matter, because even in her darkest hour, my mother would put on her wig and go to the emergency room to help other people in their emergencies,” Wynonna said in a cracking voice. “So I think it’s pretty devastating that she got to a point where she was done helping herself.”

Strickland also noted how mental illness affected his wife. Despite feeling incredibly excited for the tour, her mental state was deteriorating, he said. Strickland said she went to see a psychiatrist, but her depression was resistant to treatment and they tried different types of drugs to help her.

“The lows she would experience with her mental illness only seemed to get worse,” he said.

Wynonna Judd and Naomi Judd
The country star says she will continue to sing in honor of her mother.
Getty Images for CMT

Since The Judds debuted in the 1980s, the family has lived in the public eye, headlining awards and appearing on magazine covers, books and TV shows. But Naomi’s death has only intensified the investigation, to the point where the family is dispelling rumors of a dispute over the estate. Strickland, Ashley and Wynonna’s stepfather, was appointed executor of the estate.

Ashley said it was “natural, right and proper that Mom’s legacy should flow to Pop, her partner of 43, and then come to her daughters upon his eventual death.”

The actor was with her mother when she died and has advocated the family’s legal request not to release the police’s investigation files related to her mother’s death. After appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court. Ashley said privacy should be provided to any family facing suicide.

The Judds perform.
Wynonna continues to keep her mother’s legacy alive through music.
CBS via Getty Images

“We are an open family,” she says. “We are committed to raising awareness about the mental illness walk and reducing shame and stigma, directing people to resources and helping families build resilience and resilience to the devastation. And there is also a certain dignity and decency that is needed around the actual day of death.”

Wynonna said that since her mother’s death, people who have had similar experiences have reached out to her to request that resources and information about mental illness be provided to fans on the tour.

“This is very real to me. This isn’t just show business. This is an opportunity to help someone out there, not end their life,” she said. “We need to get rid of the stigma of the words mental illness because people won’t seek help.”

Larry Strickland and Naomi Judd
Naomi names husband Larry Strickland as executor of her will.
Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan

Wynonna’s relationship with her mother was fraught with drama at times, but it continues to this day, as she sits under a tree at her home in Tennessee, processing her grief. “I love my mother and she still drives me crazy. Your relationship with your mother never ends,” she said. “I’m still talking to her and it’s great and it’s hard.”

The family wants fans to remember Naomi as a beautiful, talented, smart and colorfully complex woman, who had highs and lows and was honest about her journey.

“I want them to see that there is life in adversity, in death,” Wynonna said.

The National Suicide and Crisis Helpline is available by calling or texting 988. There is also an online chat at 988lifeline.org.

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