Wynonna Judd recalls last performance with mom Naomi Judd: 'She was very fragile'

Wynonna Judd reminisced on final stage performance with her late mother, Naomi Judd, who died in April after battling mental health issues for decades.

Wynonna Judd recalls last performance with mom Naomi Judd: 'She was very fragile'

The Judds became a country music staple in the '90s with heartfelt ballads about life, love and loss.

Wynonna Judd remembered that the last time she sang on stage with her mother, Naomi Judd, was unlike any performance they had before. The women sang their hit 1990 single, "Love Can Build a Bridge" at the CMT Awards on April 11.

Naomi died by suicide on April 30 at her home in Tennessee. She was 76.

Wynonna, 58, recalled her mother's demeanor on stage that night. 

"She was very fragile," she said on the "Making Space with Hoda Kotb" podcast.

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"I think it’s because she hadn’t sung in a long time. And I think when our parents get older, their world gets smaller. And she was late [that night], and she is never late. I think she was nervous. And I think it was so much of an expectation to do it for CMT Awards, and I just think it was, like, imagine being that nervous and having to go out."

Her first instinct, though, wasn't to comfort her mom. She was too focused on Naomi's massive dark red wig.

"The first thought in my head was, ‘No, I don’t want to hug her or comfort her. I want to pull her wig off,’" she recalled. "Because that was the dynamics of our relationship. It was tough and tender."

Naomi had long battled with mental health issues, and shared some of her struggles in her memoir, "River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged With Hope." Her family also revealed she was battling PTSD and bipolar disorder.

Both of the Judd women were "alpha and determined" with each other, and tenderness was not something they shared easily. 

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"It was sometimes hard for me to be tender with mom, because I’m the lead singer, and I’m on my own version of life, on my own journey," Judd continued. "And I think it occurred to me, though. All of a sudden, she looked at me and blinked, and I knew then that something wasn’t right in terms of her being off a little bit, like, nervous. I softened, which I think is God’s grace. I just kind of reached out and touched her hand, like, 'I’m here. I got you. It’s OK.'" 

She added, "I’m glad I did that, because that was the last time we performed together. I’m glad I didn’t stay stuck in my perfectionism is my point, I guess."

The mother-daughter duo were about to embark on a reunion tour to reminisce with fans on their favorite ‘80s and ’90s songs from The Judds, one of the most successful music acts from the genre with five Grammy Awards, nine CMA awards and 14 No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts.

One day after Naomi took her own life, The Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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Naomi's husband of 33 years, Larry Strickland, was granted "full authority" of her estate following her death.

In 1990, Naomi announced her retirement from performing due to chronic hepatitis. Wynonna continued her solo career, and they occasionally reunited for special performances.

They were supposed to embark on a reunion tour for The Judds, which was announced at the awards show. 

Wynonna still continued on with "The Final Tour" and added in a few famous faces, including Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Brandi Carlile, Kelsea Ballerini and Trisha Yearwood. She has conversations with her mother as though she's still standing beside her. 

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"I talk to her a lot about [how] I don’t understand, I don’t understand, I don’t understand," she said. "I kept saying, 'Why, why, why did you do this? Why did you do this? Why did you do this?' I talk a lot to her ... I’m still struggling big time with, 'Why did you do this?'"

Naomi's death is still just as much of a difficult topic for Wynonna as it is for her fans. 

"I want to help other people not do what my mother [did]," she added. "I talk to her a lot about, 'What am I supposed to do now? We were supposed to do a record together. We were supposed to do this tour together. We’re supposed to, we’re supposed to...' Life is a mystery, you know?"

She insisted that Naomi's death not be overshadowed by her life.

"My mother was very kind," the "No One Else on Earth" singer said. "Always made people feel — whether it was a limo driver or the maid in the hallway — she always spoke to everyone. She will be remembered for that, the kindness. And the ones that didn’t know her, I would say give her a break, because they’re going to judge her based on what they know about the suicide."

She added, "I would like for her to be remembered for being a great songwriter. She is still my queen."

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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