Naomi Judd, country singer and one half of the hit country duo the Judds, died at the age of 76.
UPDATE 5/12: In an interview with Diane Sawyer, Naomi Judd’s daughter Ashley Judd revealed Naomi’s cause of death. It has been confirmed that Naomi Judd died of a self inflicted gunshot wound. Our thoughts are with her family during this difficult time. Please read this article for tips on how to seek help if you are struggling.
UPDATE 5/2: Numerous sources close to Naomi have stated to People magazine, that Naomi Judd died by suicide. While her daughter’s statement seemed to suggest this, it was not explicitly confirmed within Ashley’s remarks. It should be noted that Naomi’s representatives still have not commented on the cause of death. The original story follows below.
Judd’s second daughter Ashley confirmed the news in a tweet Saturday afternoon.
“Today, we sisters experienced a tragedy,” the statement said. “We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness.” Judd was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 1991 and later revealed she also suffered from bipolar disorder and depression and attempted suicide. She founded the Naomi Judd Education & Research Fund in 1991 to support liver disease research.
A member of Judds’ press team also confirmed the death of Naomi, telling Altwire, “Entertainment icon Naomi Judd passed away April 30, 2022, outside of Nashville. Her husband, Larry Strickland, of 32 years, will not be making any further statements. Naomi Judd’s family requested privacy during this heartbreaking time. No additional information will be released at this time.”
Judd was one-half of The Judds, a country music duo that included her daughter Wynonna. The Judds released six studio albums between 1983 and 1991, and over 20 hit singles, winning five Grammy Awards. Naomi retired from the group in 1991 due to her hepatitis diagnosis.
After Naomi Judd retired from the duo, Wynonna Judd went on to have a successful solo career. She has released eight studio albums and has also had over 20 hit singles. Wynonna is also regarded as one of the most widely recognized and awarded female country singers.
Naomi Judd first went public with her mental health struggles only six years ago, when she revealed to People Magazine how bad things got after The Judd’s 2012 tour.
“Nobody can understand it unless you’ve been there,” she told People. “Think of your very worst day of your whole life – someone passed away, you lost your job, you found out you were being betrayed, that your child had a rare disease – you can take all of those at once and put them together, and that’s what depression feels like.”
After the tour, Naomi said her mental illness deteriorated to the point where long-suppressed trauma, including alleged sexual abuse by a great uncle. She recalled not being able to leave the house for weeks. Naomi was prescribed a host of anti-depressants, including lithium, the latter of which can have serious side effects.
“I still have to take a whole lot of pills,” she told People. “My face is swollen. I don’t have any hair. My right hand shakes real bad from lithium. I look horrible. But I can’t be anything else after what I’ve gone through.”
Fans poured their grief and support into daughter Ashley Judd’s tweet announcing her mother’s death.
Additionally, various tributes have poured in from Naomi’s closest friends and colleagues:
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend and fellow Kentuckian, Naomi Judd. Naomi was always so special to be with. She accomplished so much and she will be missed and loved forever. My prayers go out to Naomi and her family.” – Crystal Gayle
“We just heard the devastating news that Naomi Judd has gone home. The Judds are being inducted into The Country Music Hall of Fame tomorrow. This is so very sad. We have been friends for decades and have worked hundreds of shows together. Our prayers for WY and Ashley and for all that loved her… which includes the four of us!” – The Oak Ridge Boys
“Such a sad day in country music with the loss of Naomi Judd. Her family is in my prayers.” – Johnny Lee
“Sunday was slated to be a day of celebration with the medallion ceremony for the Judds being officially welcomed into the Country Music Hall of Fame…But sadly, the Country Music Community and millions of fans around the world are mourning the loss of Naomi Judd, the matriarch of the country music duo the Judds. Our condolences go out to Wynonna, Ashley & Naomi’s husband of 32 years, Larry Strickland.” – Dallas Wayne, Singer/Songwriter, and SiriusXM ‘Willie’s Roadhouse’ Host
“I have so many memories with Naomi Judd – from our early years on stage around the country, awards shows to recent neighborly encounters at church or around our town of Franklin. I am speechless and so sad! My prayers go out to Wynonna, Ashley, and the rest of her family. God bless you and comfort you all.” – Lee Greenwood
“So heartbroken to hear of the passing of the one and only Naomi Judd. A true living legend of country music sadly will be missed. Rest In Peace Naomi Judd. Prayers for the family.” – Shane Owens
“The first time I ever met Naomi, I was 14 years old and we were performing on the Ralph Emery Show. Ralph lovingly called them the “Soap Sisters” since Naomi made her own lye soap. She was so sweet and kind and remained so every time I was ever with her through the years. She wrote me the most precious note recently about my commercial and how much she loved my music. I will cherish it forever. I’m so deeply saddened by this loss. We were so looking forward to The Judds’ induction into the CMA Hall of Fame. The music business will never be the same. Please join us in prayer for her family’s comfort during this time.” – Kelly Lang
“It’s a sad day to hear about Naomi Judd, her creative and clever creation of The Judds image made a huge impact in country music. She will be missed greatly.“ – Janie Fricke
“So sorry to hear of the loss of a great lady in country music. Naomi was not only an amazing singer/songwriter but an author, actress, and philanthropist. She will be greatly missed. Country music is better off because she was part of it… Godspeed Naomi! – Heath Wright / Ricochet
“Another great musical voice – Naomi Judd – has gone silent and left for home. I will never forget introducing her along with Wynonna on their very first network tv show appearance. I knew after introducing them that they were destined for greatness. My prayers are with her family, friends, and fans at this very sad time.” – TG Sheppard
“Half of one country music’s all-time favorite duos has left us. Prayers to Wy and family.” – Joey Canyon
“The Judds were the superstars of their time, and I knew them from the beginning when I played piano for Naomi and Wynonna on the “Ralph Emery Morning Show.” Back then Ralph called them The Soap Sisters because Naomi made homemade lye soap and brought it to the show as gifts for us all. I knew from the beginning they were destined for greatness. I am in shock to hear of Naomi’s passing on the eve of their induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame–the moment when their greatness would forever be acknowledged in the history books. To me, The Judds were always a closing act. I’m just so sorry that Naomi made the decision to bring the curtain down early. My prayers go out to her family, friends, and fans.” – Tim Atwood
“Naomi Judd was a dear friend and awesome talent. She was always so sweet and kind to me. I knew her well and did dozens of shows with The Judds. They have touched millions with their music. Sheila and my hearts are broken. Please pray for the Judd Family, fans, and friends. Rest in peace, sweet sister. I love you!” – T. Graham Brown
“Sad to hear the passing of Naomi Judd. Have a huge amount of respect for her work in country music and sending my condolences to her family and friends.” – Ian Flanigan
“I am at a loss for words hearing about the passing of Naomi Judd…. She was a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice. ‘Grandpa’ is and always will be my favorite song by the Judds. Everyone, please keep her family and close friends in your prayers during this time.” – Makenzie Phipps
“Naomi was a lovely person and this is a tragic loss. Our profound sympathy goes to Wynona and Ashley.” – Lacy J. Dalton
“I am saddened to hear of the loss of fellow Kentuckian and legend Naomi Judd. Their music traces back to my childhood when mom would sing their songs to us. Their sound was iconic and I remember so many of their hits. Naomi will forever be remembered. Prayers to Wy and Ashley + family.” – JD Shelburne
The Judd daughter’s statement did not explicitly mention suicide, only offering that the death was due to mental illness. Judd is survived by her daughters Wynonna and Ashley.
Born January 11, 1946, in Ashland, Kentucky, Judd was a single mom when she and eldest daughter Wynonna formed the country duo the Judds. Their hits include “Mama He’s Crazy” (1984), “Why Not Me” (1984), and “Let Me Tell You About Love” (1989).
Naomi and Wynonna had just reunited for the first time in years to sing at the 2022 CMT Music Awards, where they performed their hit, “Love Can Build a Bridge.” A tour was also scheduled to kick off later this year.
Naomi Judd will be remembered as a country music legend and for her openness about her mental health struggles. Her openness about her battle with depression helped break the stigma around mental illness and inspired others to seek help.
You are not alone. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, accessible, and confidential support for people in distress and prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. You can call the lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to speak with a trained counselor.