WATCH: Wynonna Judd Performs Heart-Wrenching Rendition of ‘River of Time’ at Naomi Judd’s Celebration of Life

by Lauren Boisvert

Wynonna Judd performed “River of Time” at the opening of CMT’s celebration of her late mother’s life, and her voice is as strong and melodic as ever. She paid incredible tribute to her shared legacy with her mother Naomi Judd and honored her in the best way she could.

Ashley Judd made the opening remarks, thanking friends, family, and fans for attending the ceremony. She then introduced her sister Wynonna, who performed a heartbreaking rendition of “River of Time.” Wynonna sat down for the performance and was visibly upset at one point. But, she powered through, and her incredible voice carried through the Ryman Auditorium.

It was an emotional performance as the night opened; seeing Wynonna perform her No. 1 hits without her mother was devastating. But, she handled it all with grace and humor. Both she and Ashley were pillars of strength while still allowing themselves to be vulnerable on live television. It was a night of amazing performances honoring an amazing woman.

Wynonna Performs ‘River of Time,’ ‘The Rose,’ and ‘Love Can Build a Bridge’ to Honor Her Late Mother

Wynonna Judd performed three songs in honor of her mother Naomi; first, she sang “River of Time”; later, she sang “The Rose” alongside Brandi Carlile, a song Wynonna sang with Bette Midler; and “Love Can Build a Bridge” at the close of the ceremony.

“River of Time” was emotional and raw, as it was the very start of the ceremony. Emotions were high, there was no telling how the night would go. But, as the celebration of life continued, with more performances and anecdotes from Naomi’s friends, Wynonna seemed more comfortable performing. Things were still emotional, but at one point she stopped the performance of “The Rose” in order to get her rendition to sound more like Bette Midler’s.

At the end of the ceremony, Wynonna performed “Love Can Build a Bridge,” which she sang with her mother just last month at the CMT Awards. Watching her perform was electric, her voice was strong, and she did her mother proud. Wynonna announced that she would continue with the reunion tour she had planned with Naomi, and then launched into “Love Can Build a Bridge.” Surprisingly, the choir from her and Naomi’s church joined in, peppered strategically among the crowd.

Then, Wynonna got everyone to sing with her. It was a sound like I’ve never heard before, angelic, the sound of pure love and togetherness. Wynonna Judd did that, in honor of her mother. She was amazing; as the night went on, she became more and more at home, claiming that it felt right to be celebrating Naomi like this. Because, she said, that’s what they did. They sang. And so, Wynonna sang.