Naomi Judd’s Death Came as the Country Duo Was Preparing for a Resurgence
Naomi Judd's death at age 76 left the country music world shocked and saddened after the news broke on Saturday (Apr. 30.) The tragedy was particularly earth-shaking because it came as such a surprise. The country legend didn't seem to be slowing down one bit; in fact, from an outsider's perspective, she seemed to be gearing up for a busier year than ever.
Just one day after Judd's death, she and her daughter Wynonna were scheduled to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame for their lengthy and prolific career as the duo The Judds. Despite Naomi's death, that ceremony will proceed. Hall of Fame CEO Kyle Young said in a statement that "[h]er family has asked that we continue with The Judds' official Hall of Fame induction on Sunday. We will do so, with heavy hearts and weighted minds."
The Judds' place in the genre's history is integral -- they notched 16 Gold and Platinum albums, 14 No. 1 Billboard Hot Country Songs hits, nine CMA Awards trophies and seven wins at the ACM Awards -- but in 2022, they made it very clear that they were more than a legacy act.
On the contrary, they were looking forward to a new musical chapter, which they began at the 2022 CMT Music Awards in April. The Judds gave one of the most anticipated performances of the night, delivering a rendition of their hit song "Love Can Build a Bridge" from an outdoor stage in downtown Nashville, including some of the cities' most recognizable landmarks -- such as the Country Music Hall of Fame -- in the background.
That evening marked the Judds' last-ever televised performance, but it was intended to be their comeback show. The very same day their performance aired, they announced a final tour, which would have taken them to 10 cities across the U.S. between September and October 2022, wrapping with a triumphant hometown show at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.
With those plans already announced before Naomi's death, it's tempting to speculate about what else the Judds might have had in store: Perhaps they were planning to revisit some of their older studio recordings, or even put out new music altogether.
Next year marks the 40th anniversary of their signing to RCA Nashville and Curb Records, and the release of their very first single, "Had a Dream (For the Heart.)" Given what fans already know about what the Judds were planning this year, it seems likely that the duo would have had an exciting couple of years together, even perhaps fully returning to the country mainstream.
As fans mourn Naomi's death, the impact of the Judds on country music is undeniable. Reba McEntire and Loretta Lynn were two of the acts who quickly took to social media to offer their condolences and memories of the singer. Newer artists also felt the impact of the monumental loss: Carly Pearce, Cole Swindell, Luke Bryan and Carrie Underwood were just a few of the artists who tributed Naomi after her death.
Hopefully, it will be of some comfort to Judds fans and family members that much of the celebrations surrounding the band happened while Naomi was living. While she won't make it to the official induction ceremony, she was alive when the duo was named as Country Music Hall of Fame inductees. She was able to bask in her fans' love for her at the 2022 CMT Music Awards and hear first-hand how she impacted the lives of younger artists like Kacey Musgraves, who introduced the Judds' performance at the show.
After tickets went on sale for the Judds' fall tour, three dates -- in Durant, Okla., Ft. Worth, Texas and Nashville -- quickly sold out. On the red carpet of the 2022 CMT Music Awards, in an interview with Stage Right Secrets, Wynonna and Naomi Judd fielded a question about what fans could expect from their upcoming tour.
"I have no idea," Wynonna said bluntly. "I don't know."
"I do," Naomi chimed in with a smile.
She didn't elaborate much -- Naomi added that she'd made her tour outfit herself, and Wynonna cracked a joke -- but in light of her death, the exchange has new, haunting undertones. Despite all the success that the Judds enjoyed together in their lengthy, complicated career, it's impossible not to wonder what they might have done next, with just a little more time.