The Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville on Sunday evening, one day after Naomi Judd’s death, in an emotional medallion ceremony. Due to the family’s wishes, the Hall stated Saturday that the induction would take place despite the tragedy.
The loss of Naomi Judd changed the normally celebratory celebration, but the music continued as singers and artists from the genre mourned Naomi Judd while honoring the four inductees: The Judds, Ray Charles, Eddie Bayers, and Pete Drake. Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, and a slew of other artists took the stage to perform their hit tunes.
During their nearly three-decade career, Naomi and Wynonna Judd were one of the most popular duos of the 1980s, garnering 14 No. 1 hits. Naomi Judd died at the age of 76 due to “the disease of mental illness,” her family stated in a statement to The Associated Press on the eve of her induction.
Wynonna and Ashley Judd accepted the induction with tears in their eyes, holding hands and reading a Bible passage together.
“I’m sorry that she couldn’t hang on until today,” Ashley Judd, who was crying, said of her mother to the crowd. As they said their goodbyes to Naomi Judd, Wynonna and Ashley Judd recited Psalm 23 and chatted about the family reunion.
“I will continue to sing even though my heart is broken,” Wynonna Judd stated.
Fans came to the museum’s door, enticed by a white floral bouquet and a little framed portrait of Naomi Judd below. On the ground, a solitary rose was placed.
Charles’ induction highlighted his genre-defying country albums, demonstrating the genre’s commercial viability. The Georgia-born singer and pianist grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry and produced “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” in 1962, which became one of his era’s best-selling country albums.
The pianist, who was blinded and orphaned as a child, is most known for R&B, gospel, and soul, but his decision to record country music revolutionized the way the world looked at the genre during the Civil Rights movement, increasing audiences.
Charles’ version of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” topped the Billboard 100 chart for five weeks and is still one of his most popular songs. In 2004, he passed away.
Brooks sang “Seven Spanish Angels,” a collaboration between Charles and Willie Nelson, while Bettye LaVette played “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”
Ronnie Milsap, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, said he met Charles when he was a young performer and that others tried to copy him but failed.
“There was one of him and only one,” said Milsap. “He sang country music like it should be sung.”
Bayers is a member of the Grand Ole Opry band and has been a drummer in Nashville for decades, having worked on 300 platinum records. He played on albums by The Judds, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Kenny Chesney on a regular basis. He is the institution’s very first drummer.
Drake, a pedal steel guitarist who died in 1988, was a member of Nashville’s A-team of excellent session musicians who played on successes by Tammy Wynette and George Jones, including “Stand By Your Man” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” He is the first player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame for playing pedal steel guitar.