When Diana Judd decided to start a singing career with her daughter Christina, she changed her name to Naomi in honor of a biblical character who overcomes great tragedy. Christina adopted the name Wynonna after hearing the song "Route 66
," which mentions the town of Winona, Arizona.
After a stint in LA, Naomi moved the family back to Kentucky in the mid-'70s after her divorce. With no phone or electricity in their mountaintop home, they were forced to entertain themselves. For Naomi and Wynonna, that meant harmonizing country and gospel songs together.
In 1980, a year after moving to Nashville to pursue their music career, the mother-daughter duo got their start singing as The Soap Sisters on The Ralph Emery Show, a country-music TV program that aired on weekday mornings.
After her divorce, Naomi got a job as a nurse to support her family. Ironically, working in the medical industry helped create and destroy The Judds' music career. After one of her patients passed The Judds' demo along to her producer father, the duo landed a record deal. But a contaminated needle stick came back to haunt Naomi years later when she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and forced to retire from the music business.
Most of The Judds' hits were written by other songwriters, but Naomi did write one of their 14 chart-toppers: "Change Of Heart
." She also co-wrote their hits "Guardian Angels" and "Love Can Build a Bridge
Naomi's youngest daughter is the actress Ashley Judd, who made her film debut in the 1992 movie Kuffs. That same year, Wynonna launched her career as a solo artist with her self-titled debut album.
Their lives inspired the 1995 TV movie Naomi & Wynonna: Love Can Build A Bridge, starring Kathleen York as Naomi and Viveka Davis as Wynonna.
In 1989, Naomi married her longtime boyfriend, Larry Strickland, a musician who sang with JD Sumner's Stamps Quartet and backed Elvis Presley.
Naomi Judd died by suicide at 76 on April 30, 2022, just one day before The Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Wynonna and Ashley attended the ceremony. "It's a very strange dynamic to be this broken and this blessed," Wynonna said.
Judd had long battled depression, telling People magazine in 2016, "Think of your very worst day of your whole life... that's what depression feels like."