CMT’s Naomi Judd memorial service began at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium today (5/15) with Ashey Judd talking about her mother Naomi, and Wynonna then sang the Judd classic “River Of Time.” The just over an hour-long live broadcast memorial featured many performances from country stars like Carly Pearce, Little Big Town, and Brad Paisley.
Video messages were aired from Bono, Morgan Freeman, Reba, Salma Hayak, Reese Witherspoon, and Oprah, who said in her statement, “My heart is extended in comfort and grace to you Wynonna and Ashley and all her family and those that loved her as we gather today to honor her life that so profoundly blessed us all. Her body is gone, but her sweet spirit and legacy remain as a heart print for every life she touched.”
Highlights of the memorial performance included:
- Little Big Town’s Karen and Kimberly exchanged emotional lead vocals on the Judds’ Classic “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Ole Days).”
- Ashley McBryde sang “Love is Alive,” crying at one point and saying sorry to the audience, including Wynonna on the front row singing along to every word.
- Brad Paisley told the story of opening for the “always kind” Judds when he was just a 13-year-old starting out. He sang The Judds’ “Young Love.”
- Carly Pierce said before she performed “Why Not Me” that she had a feeling that “Naomi’s flipping her skirt in heaven tonight.”
Bette Midler said she wanted to be in Nashville for the memorial to “offer my love and support for my beautiful friend Wynnona, to Ashley, and all Naomi Judd’s family, friends, and fans.” Bette then recalled a highlight of her life when she stood on the stage with Wynonna in Nashville and sang her classic ‘The Rose.'” She then said to Wynonna, “When I hear this song, I always think of you.”
Then, Wynonna was joined by Brandi Carlile and sang “The Rose” at one point stopping during the song when she got too emotional and said, “Let’s do that part again; that’s not as good as YouTube.”
Then after saying that she would somehow complete the final Judds tour this fall, she offered, “I can’t put into words how devastated I am,” and she sang “Love Can Build A Bridge” to close out the show. As the camera panned the audience, you could see Kimberly and Karen of Little Big Town wiping away tears and Kelsea Ballerini, who stood in the crowd along with her husband, Morgan Evans.
Naomi died of suicide on April 30, 2022. She was 76.