Naomi Judd Credited God with Her Rise to the top of the Country Music World
By Movieguide® Contributor
Late musician and author Naomi Judd recalled how her faith carried her through the highs and lows of her life.
Judd’s story starts in the Kentucky hills, the place she brought her daughters Wynonna and Ashley, following a divorce. Judd was looking for a new start but also wanted to provide stability for her daughters. She began taking nursing school classes while renting a dirt cheap cabin, promising her daughters, “this is just until we find a place of our own.” Six months later, they were still there with little having changed.
With little hope for the future, Judd started to second guess why she had brought her daughters out there in the first place. That was when she heard a song on the radio that caused her to turn to God.
“Lord, even if I can’t lay eyes on you, I still know you’re real,” she prayed. “So I’m going to believe the same with this home we’re searching for. I will hold on to this image in my heart—a cozy little house in the hills—and have faith that you’ll lead us to it.”
The following evening, Judd was driving with her daughters when they saw an elderly woman slip and fall. Responding to the emergency, Judd brought the woman to the hospital with a badly twisted ankle. Along the way, Judd mentioned to the woman her search for a better home.
The next day, Judd received a letter in the mail from a friend of the elderly lady she had helped telling her she had a house for her to rent.
The house was exactly the “cozy house in the hills” that Judd was looking for and the woman showing it to her offered Judd to rent it from her for only $100 a month, saying, “I don’t need the money, just the right people to have it.” Of course, Judd accepted the deal.
This was just one of the times that God would show up in Judd’s life and make a way forward when it seemed impossible. Years later, God would show up again, this time, launching Judd to the top of the country music charts.
Over the years, Wynonna learned guitar and fell in love with country music. Eventually it became clear the Judd that music was Wynonna’s calling, and she moved out to Nashville with her on the condition that she would finish high school.
To make ends meet while waiting for her Tennessee nursing license to come in, Judd took a job as an assistant to a booking agent on Music Row.
One night that summer, Larry Strickland, a bass singer whose band Judd’s boss managed asked Judd out. She accepted and suggested they visit an old countryside property that she was interested in renting. Sunday after church, Judd found out that Strickland was with another woman. She was also informed later that day that the person she had been house-sitting for would be returning next week.
Judd felt defeated as she was facing the future with no partner, no real job, and no place to stay. That’s when she remembered a verse from Hebrews that she had heard in church earlier that morning: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Not knowing what else to do, she turned to God in prayer.
“God, I’m going to believe that all the dreams I have in my heart are as real as you are,” she prayed. “Our own home, with everything in int working. A car that didn’t clank, smoke, or break down. A job that would leave me enough to buy my daughters Christmas presents. And finally, the wildest dream of all, a career in country music.”
Afterward, things started to fall into place. She was able to rent the property that she had looked at with Strickland and she started fixing it up with her daughters. Strickland a Judd patched things up and started to become serious. And when Judd’s nursing license came in during the winter, she joined a nurse’s registry so she would have hours flexible enough to work on music as well.
Judd was able to sweet-talk a local TV producer into letting her and Wynonna perform on an early morning talk show, which they would go on to become regulars on. Then, one of Judd’s patients introduced her to their father, who was a music producer, after recognizing her from TV. Judd gave him a demo, which lead to a live audition with RCA Record, which lead to her and Wynonna getting signed to the label, which lead to seven years on top of the country music world.
In 1990, Judd’s career was abruptly ended when she was diagnosed with hepatitis C and was no longer able to perform due to exhaustion and debilitating headaches. She likely contracted the disease from an accidental needle jab during her nursing career. Hepatitis C can often lead to death, a thought that started to consume Judd.
After treatment for the disease failed, Judd was forced to give up making music and touring. She also started to buy christening gowns and baby blankets for her grandkids whom she feared she would never get to meet.
In the midst of her fears, she felt God telling her to trust in him.
“Lord, from now on I will focus not on my illness but on the restoration of my health,” she told God. “On both Wynonna and me coming out of this whole.”
Trusting that God would provide, Judd embarked on a farewell tour, without any fears about her disease.
While Judd passed away last year, she became an author and appeared on TV after finishing her music career. She also remained strong in her faith, sticking to the Lord even in the end. She died just after reciting Psalm 23 with her daughter Wynonna.
On April 30, country legend Naomi Judd died of “mental illness” at age 76, after years of battling depression.
However, in a recent report published in GetReligion, journalist Terry Mattingly highlighted the media’s blatant cold shoulder towards Judd’s life of faith and focus on her “dark nights.”
“Naomi Judd stressed that if people — journalists included — want to understand country music, and the relationship between the musicians and their fans, they need to remember that it’s normal, in a country music show, ‘to sing about Sunday morning, as well as Friday and Saturday nights,’” Mattingly wrote.
Mattingly notes that the outlets that covered Judd’s death—and her daughter’s appearance at their late mother’s Country Music Hall of Fame ceremony—had a particular focus.
“Most of the press coverage of Judd’s death skated around the faith details, while stressing — with good cause — the tragic elements of this drama,” Mattingly reported. “In other words, the stories placed the emphasis on Friday and Saturday night, without getting to Sunday morning at the Charismatic churches that The Judds call home.”
But in 1993, Mattingly wrote an unpublished column that discussed Judd’s testimony of faith, a Sunday morning to her life of hardships.
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