Dolly Parton, Vince Gill + More Honor Naomi Judd at Private Memorial Service
Friends, family and fellow country singers gathered together to honor Naomi Judd's life at a private service on Saturday (May 7) in Nashville. Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs and more joined Wynonna Judd and Ashley Judd in remembering their mother during an invitation-only service at the CMA Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Music City.
Naomi Judd died on Saturday, April 30, one day before she and Wynonna Judd were formally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on May 1. Her daughters attributed her death to mental illness in a statement. According to Country Insider, "a few hundred" guests were in attendance at Judd's memorial, which featured a string of all-star performances and showcased what a wide variety of people Judd drew together in her social and professional lives.
Parton opened the memorial service by saying, “We are family. And when it’s family, you forgive them, for they know not what they do. When it’s family, you accept them because you have no choice but to. 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.”
Judd had planned her own service in advance, and the music slanted heavily toward gospel standards. Dan Scott, who had served as a pastor at Christ Church Nashville where Naomi Judd attended church, sang “Ain’t No Grave,” and Ricky Skaggs performed “Talk About Suffering.”
Naomi's husband, Larry Strickland, joined the Imperials to sing bass as they performed “Sweet, Sweet Spirit,” while 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."
Vince Gill sang the Stanley Brothers’ “Drifting Too Far From the Shore,” which he said Skaggs had taught him when they played together in an early band. Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and gospel singer Guy Penrod also performed during the service, which Brandi Carlile closed by singing "Love Can Build a Bridge."
The guests ranged far outside of country music. U2 singer Bono recited a poem by video, and other guests included Dr. Francis S. Collins, who heads up the Human Genome Project and previously served as the director of the National Institutes of Health, as well as paleoanthropologist Dr. Tim D. White.
Naomi's brother, Mark Judd, delivered her eulogy before Wynonna and Ashley took the stage, with Ashley revealing that her mother had planned her own service in advance.
“This is very much the service she wanted,” she said. “She had it all written down, and so she took the guesswork out of it for us, which we thank her for.”
Wynonna Judd expressed sadness and anger during her remarks, as well as resolve, revealing that she intends to honor the dates the Judds had announced for their upcoming Final Tour.
“I’m just so mad she didn’t hang on so we could dance together one more time,” she told the attendees, adding, “You know me. I will keep singing. It’s going to be lonely, but I will sing.”
That tour was slated to launch on Sept. 30, but it's unclear how those dates will go forward.
Naomi and Wynonna Judd gave what would prove their final public performance as the Judds on April 11, 2022, performing a powerful, soaring version of "Love Can Build a Bridge" at the 2022 CMT Music Awards.