Friends and family from country music and beyond gathered this past Saturday to celebrate Naomi Judd in a private memorial service. Vince Gill, Dolly Parton, Ricky Skaggs, and many others joined Wynonna and Ashley Judd for the invitation-only remembrance in honor of their late mother. The Judd family gathered at the CMA Theater in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville where Naomi and Wynonna recently earned induction.
Naomi Judd died on Saturday, April 30, after battling mental illness for many years, her family said. According to reports, hundreds of private guests attended Judd’s memorial from both her social and professional life. The event also featured numerous performances and words of bereavement, Taste of Country said.
Parton opened the memorial service by speaking of acceptance and family.
“We are family. And when it’s family, you forgive them, for they know not what they do,” she said. “When it’s family, you accept them because you have no choice but to accept them. When it’s family, they’re a mirror of the worst and best in you. You’re always trying to do your best, and they always put you to the test, and you pray for God to do the rest.”
The eldest Judd had actually planned her service long in advance of her own death, so much of the afternoon centered around gospel music and recitation. Dan Scott, Judd’s pastor at Christ Church Nashville, sang “Ain’t No Grave;” fellow Country Music Hall of Famer Ricky Skaggs performed “Talk About Suffering.”
Classic country group the Oak Ridge Boys sang “Farther Along” and “Amazing Grace.” The Isaacs performed “Mama’s Teaching Angels How to Sing,” “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” and “It Is Well With My Soul.”
Naomi Judd’s daughter and performing partner, Wynonna, promised to keep touring at the memorial service despite her mother’s untimely death
Naomi’s husband, Larry Strickland, sang bass on a version of “Sweet, Sweet Spirit” with the Imperials. He also paid tribute to her via social media in the days leading up to the ceremony.
Vince Gill, Bob Weir, Guy Penrod, and Brandi Carlile also performed various songs, as well. Irish superstar singer and U2 frontman Bono recited a poem via a video feed that played for Judd’s friends in attendance.
Naomi’s brother, Mark Judd, delivered his sister’s eulogy before his nieces Wynonna and Ashley took the stage. Ashley then revealed that her mother actually planned her own service in advance, which helped the grieving family streamline the process.
“This is very much the service she wanted,” Ashley said. “She had it all written down, and so she took the guesswork out of it for us, which we thank her for.”
Daughter Wynonna, who also sang with her mother as one half of The Judds music group, said she felt both sadness and anger. She also promised the world that she would honor the tour dates that The Judds announced for their Final Tour.
“I’m just so mad she didn’t hang on so we could dance together one more time,” she told the attendees. “You know me. I will keep singing. It’s going to be lonely, but I will sing.”