Grammy-winning singer Naomi Judd dead at 76

Naomi Judd, the Kentucky-born singer of the Grammy-winning duo the Judds and mother of Wynonna and Ashley Judd, has died. She was 76.

The daughters announced her death on Saturday in a statement provided to The Associated Press.

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” the statement said.

“We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in an unknown territory.”

Judd died near Nashville, said a statement issued on behalf of her husband and fellow singer, Larry Strickland. It said no further details about her death would be released and asked for privacy as the family grieves.

The Judds, comprising Naomi and Wynonna, were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday, and they had just announced an arena tour to begin in the fall, their first tour together in more than a decade. They also made a return to awards shows when they performed at the CMT Music Awards earlier this month.

“Honored to have to witness Love Can Build a Bridge just a few short weeks ago,” singer Maren Morris posted on Twitter on Saturday.

“This is heartbreaking news! Naomi Judd was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known,” singer Travis Tritt posted on Twitter, noting that he had worked with Judd several times on-screen and during performances.

14 No. 1 songs

The mother-daughter performers scored 14 No. 1 songs in a career that spanned nearly three decades. After rising to the top of country music, they called it quits in 1991 after doctors diagnosed Naomi Judd with hepatitis. Wynonna continued a solo career.

The Judds’ hits included Love Can Build a Bridge in 1990, Mama He’s Crazy in 1984, Why Not Me in 1984, Turn It Lose in 1988, Girls Night Out in 1985, Rockin’ With the Rhythm of the Rain in 1986 and Grandpa in 1986.

Judd, centre, is shown with daughters Ashley, left, and Wynonna in New York in October 2003. Judd and Wynonna, who performed as the Judds, scored 14 No. 1 songs in a career that spanned nearly three decades. (Anthony Savignano/Reuters)

Born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Ky., Naomi Judd was working as a nurse in Nashville when she and Wynonna started singing together professionally. Their unique harmonies, together with elements of acoustic music, bluegrass and blues, made them stand out in the genre at the time.

“We had a such a stamp of originality on what we were trying to do,” Naomi told The Associated Press after it was announced they would be joining the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The Judds released six studio albums and an EP between 1984 and 1991. They won nine Country Music Association Awards and seven from the Academy of Country Music. They earned a total of five Grammy Awards together on such hits as Why Not Me and Give A Little Love.

Judd, right, shown with daughter Wynonna in Nashville in 2011, won multiple Grammy Awards making music together. (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

The Judds sang about family, the belief in marriage and the virtue of fidelity. Because Naomi Judd looked so young, the two were mistaken for sisters early in their career.

They first got attention singing on Ralph Emery’s morning show in early 1980, where the host named them the “Soap Sisters” because Naomi said she used to make her own soap.

After the success of Mama He’s Crazy, they won the Horizon Award at the 1984 CMA Awards. Naomi started her speech by saying: “Slap the dog and spit in the fire!”

Daughter Ashley Judd is an actor known for her roles in such movies as Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy and Heat.

Strickland, who was a backup singer for Elvis Presley, was married to Naomi Judd for 32 years.

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