Being able to live your passion alongside your child must be one of life’s biggest blessings. For Naomi Judd, that dream came true as she and her daughter, Wynonna, had substantial commercial success in the 1980s as the country duo The Judds.
The legendary singer and songwriter became one of the most successful county artists of all time. But the 76-year-old has mostly stayed out of the spotlight in recent years.
So what happened to Naomi Judd? And what does she look like today? Here’s all you need to know about her!
Naomi Judd was born in Ashland, Kentucky on January 11, 1946. She was the daughter of a Kentucky gas station owner and a riverboat cook, and her childhood was very troublesome. Naomi met her boyfriend Charles Jordan in her teenage years, and she soon became pregnant.
Naomi Judd became a single mother at 18
However, it turned out that Charles wasn’t interested in becoming a father at all and decided to leave Naomi. Suddenly, the teenage mother-to-be was all alone – and at 18 years of age, she gave birth to her first daughter.
Wynonna Rider was born in 1964, only two weeks before Naomi’s high school graduation ceremony. For her, it was, of course, a thrill to have a beautiful daughter, but at the same time, she struggled to raise Wynonna. She was still a teenager and worked her way around California as a secretary, waitress, model, and a nurse while also receiving welfare.
Not long after Wynonna’s birth, Naomi Judd met Michael Ciminiella. The two got married, and in 1968, she gave birth to her daughter Ashley. However, Naomi and Michael’s relationship was troubled, and it only lasted for four years. Once again, Naomi Judd was a single-mother – and ended up raising her daughters on her own.
Naomi and her two daughters moved back to Kentucky, where they lived in a cottage near Morrill. Life was rather primitive, and the place lacked telephone and television.
With two young daughters eager to play, Ashley and Wynonna found their amusement when electricity wasn’t all around. At that point, Wynonna discovered the guitar – which Naomi had traded for her buck knife.
“We’re talking serious poverty”
She became obsessed with the guitar and also started singing. In the meantime, Naomi Judd struggled. She had problems paying her bills, and sometimes they didn’t even have heat or electricity. Soon, Naomi got sick of life in Kentucky. Instead, the family of three moved back to California and Marin County near San Francisco.
Judd enrolled in a nursing school and, at the same time, worked the night shift as a waitress. Even though the move to California meant new opportunities for the family, it was the most challenging time of her life.
In Behind Closed Doors: Talking with the Legends of Country Music, Naomi Judd revealed that she, Wynonna, and Ashley shared a one-bedroom apartment above a real-estate office — and they had no money at all.
“We’re talking serious poverty,” Naomi Judd explained. “There were times when I didn’t know how we were gonna eat, or how I was even gonna pay the small rent that I paid… It still amazes me how I did it.”
Naomi Judd received her nursing degree in California, and the family moved to Nashville. She became the head nurse in an ICU – and one day, a meeting would change her and her daughter’s lives forever.
Naomi Judd – relationship with daughter Wynonna Judd
While at the hospital, she learned that the father of one of her patients was in the record business. At that point, Wynonna had become a great singer – and together with her mother, the two were up-and-coming talents. They used to harmonize and sing at the back porch around a campfire.
However, as Naomi Judd tried giving her children a better future, Wynonna wasn’t the easiest to handle.
“Wynonna was a very difficult teenager,” Naomi told Teen Magazine. “She was so obsessed with music that she never helped out around the house. She’d even take grocery money to buy new guitar strings.”
The music became an essential part of Naomi and Wynonna’s relationship. Because of the tensions between the two, music became pretty much the only thing they agreed on.
“I could only afford the “used” record bin, and there was a 33-1/3 album of Hazel and Alice – Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard. They were all coal-mining songs. And as these women harmonized together, it came to me,” Naomi recalled. “Wynonna and I couldn’t talk to each other, but, low and behold, we could sing together. Their songs were not just a balm between the two of us, but they were teaching Wynonna the history of country music.”
The Judds – a legendary country duo
Back at the hospital, Naomi heard of the patient’s father, Brent Maher, working in the music industry. She knew that she and her daughter had something special – and Naomi took a leap of faith.
Through the help of Maher – a record producer – Naomi and Wynonna got themselves a live audition at the music label RCA in Nashville in 1983. Wynonna was only 18 years old at the time, and together with her mother, she auditioned in front of the studio head Joe Galante and producer Tony Brown.
“It felt very much like going to the principal’s office,” Wynonna Judd recalled. “I was used to singing; I wasn’t used to being in a boardroom full of men. Joe remembers me taking my guitar out of its case just like it was a gun in a holster.”
“I could sing in front of 10,000 people, as long as I had my guitar. I was like ‘Xena’ with a guitar. It was my protection, it was my weapon. It was my best friend, it was my purpose for anything and anybody.”
Galante was blown away – and not long after, Naomi and Wynonna were signed to record albums.
“Afterwards, Naomi, Wynonna, Woody, and I left to go to Old Charlie’s restaurant, while Dick and Joe stayed back at the office to wrap up the deal,” Maher recalled. “About 30 minutes later, Dick came to the restaurant and said, ‘Congratulations girls, you’re now on RCA Records!’ And Naomi & Wynonna just broke out in tears.”
Five Grammys and more than $20 million in record sales
Overnight, Naomi Judd went from a struggling single mother working as a nurse to becoming a promising country artist alongside her daughter, Wynonna.
Their label had great faith in the two, and it didn’t take long before country fans all across the US recognized their vast potential.
In 1984, Naomi and Wynonna released their first album, Wynonna & Naomi, as The Judds. It went straight to the top of the charts. Their first his, Had a Dream (For the Heart), was a huge success, and the duo became a vital part of country music history. Most importantly, the mother-daughter team became a huge inspiration for a whole new generation of female country fans, and it didn’t take long before they earned their first big awards.
Their second single, Mama He’s Crazy, went straight to the top of the charts and won Naomi Judd and her daughter their first Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal by a Duo or Group.
The 1980s became all about The Judds as they made their way into the country music history books. The duo won eight CMA awards, five Grammys in seven years. Further, they also sold records for more than $20 million.
As mentioned before, the personal relationship between Naomi Judd and her daughter Wynonna hadn’t been the best. But thanks to the music – and touring – it forced them to make amends.
“There was a real symbiotic relationship”
“It happened because of country music, because of the fans. There was never any great epiphany for us to say, ‘Okay, I get it, I understand your reality—you weren’t trying to destroy my life,’” Naomi Judd recalled in an interview with Ability Magazine. “It was just a gradual evolution, and when you share a dressing room, a stage, a hotel room, and you sleep six feet away from each other on the Silver Eagle Bus, you will either work it out, or you’ll kill each other.”
“A very interesting thing began to change when we’d be on stage. I would look out at the sea of smiling faces and sense that they were scrutinizing Wy and me, and that put us on our best behavior,” she added. “There was a real symbiotic relationship taking place at that time. Fans would come to us for advice.”
Naomi and Wynonna split their earnings 50-50. In the beginning, however, Naomi revealed that it was sometimes challenging to accept Wynonna as an equal partner because she was “this kid that I used to bathe and feed and diaper.”
“But we both agree that it’s a lot more fun doing it together,” Naomi told The New York Times. “I met one very successful male country singer who told me he rode around in his limousine alone, saying to himself, ‘There’s no one to share it with.’”
Even though Naomi and Wynonna were massive stars, their career came to a tragic end in 1991.
Naomi Judd – Hepatitis C, health issues
Naomi Judd had to retire at age 44 due to health reasons, after being diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Judd went through liver enzyme tests – and doctors told her that she had as few as three years to live. So the Judds embarked on a good-bye tour which ended in December 4, 1991, at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
“The days go by now like glasses of water,” Naomi Judd said at the time. “We’ve been doing this for eight years, and usually we’re two raggedy, beaten-down little girls when we come home and get off the tour bus, but now I can’t wait to get back out there. I’m relishing every minute of it when we’re on stage.”
Judd decided to change her entire lifestyle and began her first wave of interferon treatments. Four years later – after a long struggle with side effects – she was declared “cured” of hepatitis C.
“I am a medically documented miracle. In 1995 I was cured of the hep C,” Naomi Judd said.
Wynonna Judd started her solo career as The Judds ended their successful tenure as one of the greatest country music success stories in history.
And as for Wynonna’s solo career, it didn’t disappoint either. She released several solo albums and hits such as No One Else on Earth, She Is His Only Need, and I Saw the Light.
This is Naomi Judd today – net worth
In 1999, Naomi and Wynonna reunited on stage during a gala on New Year’s Eve, later released as a live album. A full reunion tour also followed in 2000.
After the Hepatitis C diagnosis, Naomi Judd dedicated her time to becoming a motivational speaker and becoming the national spokesperson for the American Liver Foundation. Further, she’s the author of several books, including the best-seller Naomi’s Breakthrough Guide: 20 Choices to Transform Your Life and several children’s books.
Naomi Judd is not only a mother but also a grandmother, as Wynonna Judd has given birth to Elijah (born in 1994) and Grace Pauline Kelley (1995). Today, she’s 76 years old – and she still looks terrific!
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Naomi Judd has a net worth of around $25 million.
Judd has also moved into the acting business, most recently starring in the film Ruby. Naomi plays the grandmother of a young woman who is about to have her world turned upside down.
“I get to play a shaman, so this is new territory for me, the superstition, the voodoo,” Naomi Judd said of the film. “I had to learn about it, and it was a blast.”
Naomi Judd was an excellent singer, and we are so happy to see that she’s still doing great today. And she looks fantastic!
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