Naomi Judd was remembered with love and admiration in CMT and Sandbox Live’s “Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration,” a public memorial at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, on Sunday, with her daughters Ashley and Wynonna, along with “Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts hosting the tear-filled event.
“Thank you for being in community and fellowship with us,” Ashley said taking the stage and receiving a standing ovation. “Because we can pretend to care, but we cannot pretend to show up. So, thank you for showing up for our mom.”
The Ryman venue was chosen for the site of the public memorial at her mother’s request, Ashley said, because it was the original location of the Grand Ole Opry, which Naomi called her “mother church.”
Naomi’s eldest daughter and her Judds partner, Wynonna, sang an emotional tribute to her mother, performing the hit song Naomi wrote, “River of Time.” You could easily sense the lyrics tugging on Wynonna’s heartstrings as she sang, “I’m holding back a flood of tears/Just thinking ’bout those happy years. Like all the good times that are no more. My love is gone, gone, gone forever more.”
Roberts said of Naomi, “She loved with her whole heart and I know she would be so touched by the outpouring of love in all of our hearts tonight, especially the love towards her daughters.”
In tribute to Judd’s love of spiritual music, The Gaither Vocal Band performed a gospel song, with additional performances by Brad Paisley, Brandi Carlile, Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde, Emmylou Harris & Allison Russell and Little Big Town.
Oprah Winfrey, Salma Hayek, Reese Witherspoon, Morgan Freeman and Bette Midler all paid their respect via pre-recorded messages. Bono also appeared on tape, reciting lyrics to the Judds’ song, “Guardian Angel.”
Wynonna returned to the stage and joked about the frequently turbulent relationship with her mother, but one that was always based in love. Brandi Carlile joined her and together they sang “The Rose.” Wynonna told the audience that she would continue the tour that she and Naomi had planned. She ended the evening with The Judds’ song that always brought their fans to tears: “Love Can Build a Bridge.”