Naomi Judd Celebrated At ‘River Of Time’ Memorial Service

Naomi Judd was celebrated with words and soaring music at a public memorial service Sunday that ended with her daughter Wynonna announcing that a tour planned for later this year would go on.

Wynonna Judd looks up after singing during a tribute to her mother, country music star Naomi Judd, Sunday, May 15, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

“Tonight is a celebration, and at the same time I can’t put into words how devastated I am,” Wynonna Judd said. “I miss her so much.

“After a lot of thought, I’m going to have to honor her and do this tour. I’m just going to have to,” she said to applause and cheers at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. “Tonight, as we close, the show must go on, as hard as it may be. And we will show up together and you will carry me.”

Judd died April 30 at age 76, one day before she and daughter Wynonna were scheduled to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The ceremony went on, though until Sunday it was unclear whether Wynonna Judd would continue plans for The Judds tour slated to begin in September.

In a statement provided to The Associated Press, the family said they lost her to “the disease of mental illness.”

Her daughter Ashley said on “Good Morning America” last week that her mother shot herself.

Brad Paisley and Emmylou Harris were among the performers who took the stage to honor Naomi Judd during “The River of Time” memorial service, which was broadcast live on CMT.

Wynonna Judd returned to the stage later to perform “The Rose” with Brandi Carlile. Wynonna Judd paused her performance at one point so that she could redo a section of the song better, her voice soaring as the crowd cheered.

The ceremony began with Judd’s daughter Ashley delivering a eulogy that traced her mother’s life from its humble beginnings in Kentucky to the heights of superstardom.

“We are here tonight remembering an icon and a legend who left country music better than she found it,” Ashley Judd said tearfully.

“She was every woman. Perhaps this is why everyone felt they knew her,” the actor said. “She was a nurse. She was a single mom who sometimes relied on public assistance. She was traumatized by early childhood sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, and rape, and she was fired by a boss when she refused to go away with him for a weekend.

“Tonight, we remember her in song,” the actor said, introducing her sister Wynonna who sang “River of Time.”

The lyrics — “I’m holding back a flood of tears, just thinking ’bout those happy years, like all the good times that are no more,” filled the Ryman Auditorium, which both Judd daughters noted was country music’s “Mother Church.”

Carly Pearce performed the Judds’ “Why Not Me,” noting “I’m a Kentucky girl myself,” and saying she had an image in her mind that “Naomi’s flipping her skirt in heaven tonight.”