Naomi Judd Honored at Memorial Service 2 Weeks After Her Death

CMT televised the public memorial service for Naomi Judd, whose death was announced April 30, in a special celebrating her "timeless voice, unforgettable spirit and immense impact" on music.

By Elyse Dupre, Ashley Joy Parker May 16, 2022 3:43 AMTags
Watch: Naomi Judd Dead at 76: Country Stars Pay Tribute

The country music community honored the life and legacy of Naomi Judd with music.

Friends, family and fellow artists gathered at Nashville's legendary Ryman Auditorium on May 15 to pay tribute to the late singer at a public memorial. The service—hosted by Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts—aired live on CMT in a special titled Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration.

Early in the ceremony, Wynonna Judd, who along with her late mother was half of the country duo The Judds, sang "River of Time." Later, she paired up with Brandi Carlile for a duet of "The Rose," recreating the band's signature mother/daughter harmonies.

Among the other musicians paying tribute in song to Naomi were Brad Paisley, Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde, Little Big Town, Jamey Johnson, Emmylou Harris and Allison Russell.

In an especially touching moment, country singer Martina McBride read a Maya Angelou passage to the crowd, while Bette Midler, Bono, Oprah Winfrey, Reba McEntire, Salma Hayek, Reese Witherspoon and Morgan Freeman all offered heartwarming testimonials.

Celebrity Deaths: 2022's Fallen Stars

Towards the end of the telecast, actress Ashley Judd joined Wynonna on stage and the sisters exchanged a playful banter, sharing their favorite memories of their mother and what Wynonna described as their "dysfunctional family."

Mark Humphrey/AP/Shutterstock

"Let's talk about what a sultry single mama she was," she joked to Wynonna at one point. "Enough of this love stuff. "She could be evil" 

She continued, "She put us in the back of a U-Haul. Why did we get pulled over? Are we telling that story or are we not telling that story?"

While Wynonna, 57, didn't finish the silly anecdote, her little sister admitted, "She was a little wacky but she loved us."

Naomi's husband, Larry Strickland, who helped organize the celebration, joined the daughters on stage and reminisced about Naomi's kindness, saying the late star "never met a stranger."

"Much to my displeasure, she would start a conversation with anybody who made eye contact with her," he said, adding that this would often lead to 30-minute conversations with fans "about their passions and their dog."

Wynonna, joined by her local Christ Church choir, then closed out the event by singing The Judds' hit, "Love Will Build a Bridge."

Mark Humphrey/AP/Shutterstock

Naomi's death at the age of 76 was announced on April 30. In a statement posted to Instagram, Ashley shared she and Wynonna "lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness."

During an interview with Diane Sawyer that aired on Good Morning America May 12, Ashley, 54, disclosed how Naomi took her own life at home in Tennessee.

"Mother used a firearm," Ashley said. "So that's the information we're very uncomfortable sharing but understand that we're in a position that if we don't share it someone else is going to."

Naomi died one day before The Judds' induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The musical duo had also announced in April that they'd planned to embark on their final tour in September.

Evan Agostini/Getty Images For YouthAIDS

"When we're talking about mental illness, it's very important to be clear and make the distinction between our loved one and the disease," Ashley told Diane. "It's very real…it lies, it's savage, and you know, my mother, our mother, couldn't hang on until she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by her peers. I mean, that is the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her because the barrier between—the regard in which they held her couldn't penetrate her heart and the lie the disease told her was so convincing."

The Double Jeopardy star urged anyone struggling with their mental health to reach out for help. "I want to be very careful when we talk about this today that for anyone who is having those ideas or those impulses to talk to someone, to share, to be open, to be vulnerable," she said. "There is a National Suicide Hotline."

If you or someone you know needs help, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit for additional resources.