Wynonna Judd gave a heartfelt tribute to her late mother, Naomi Judd, during her acceptance speech for the Country Champion Award at the 2023 People’s Choice Country Awards.
“So I graduated high school in 1982 and [in] 1983 got a record deal with RCA records and I got on a silver eagle bus with my mama and did her hair every night for 10 years for free,” Wynonna said on Thursday, September 28. “I started there, 10 years later she would have to retire and I would go on to make country music ‘herstory.’”
Wynonna then recalled the challenging moment she lost her mom in April 2022 to suicide.
“I went to her house, and she died there, but we followed the ambulance anyway to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. And I walked into the room and I held her in my arms and I kissed her on the forehead, shut her eyes and said, ‘I love you mom,’” she recalled. “And I walked out of that room, went home, got up the next morning and showed up at the Country Music Hall of Fame to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. You know why? Because that’s how much we love music regardless of what has happened to me and who I show up and I show out.”
The singer recalled how she and fellow country star Tim McGraw have both opened for one another on their respective tours over the years.
“Back in 1990, Tim McGraw opened for me, four weeks ago I opened for Tim,” she reflected. “The highs are high and the lows are low, baby, but don’t ever let them tell you who you are.”
Before becoming a successful solo artist, Wynonna got her start in country music thanks to her mother as they formed the duo The Judds together in 1983. The mother-daughter pair recorded six studio albums from 1984 to 1990 and continued to perform together until Naomi’s death.
“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” Wynonna and sister Ashley Judd wrote in a joint statement at the time. “We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory.”
Four months after Naomi’s passing, the autopsy report revealed that the late singer died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. In September 2022, Wynonna opened up about how she was coping with the loss of her mother and how it brought her closer to her sister, with whom she has had ups and downs.
“We both kind of look at each other like, ‘I’ve got you,’ right? And we look at each other and we say, ‘Yeah.’ We’re so united right now, I think more so than we have been in a long time,” Wynonna explained of her bond with Ashley, 55, following the loss of their mom in a segment with CBS Sunday Mornings.
Wynonna was the first recipient bestowed the honor at the newest country music awards show. The accolade was given to Wynonna for her musical achievements in addition to her charitable work with the Wounded Warrior Project and Habitat for Humanity while also advocating for mental health awareness.
“Wynonna is one of the most recognized and lauded performers in country music,” Senior Vice President of NBCUniversal Entertainment Cassandra Tryon said in a press release earlier this month, noting that the singer is also hosting the NBC country music holiday special, Christmas at the Opry, in December. “Not only is she incredibly talented, her selflessness and passion for putting the needs of others in the spotlight is unmatched. We can’t think of a better person to honor as our inaugural ‘Country Champion’ and to celebrate the holidays with across these two major country music events.”
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