The Judds, Ray Charles inductee into Country Music Hall of Fame

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Judds and Ray Charles inducted the Country Music Hall of Fame in a ceremony filled with tears, music and laughter on Sunday, just a day after Naomi Judd unexpectedly passed away.

The loss of Naomi Judd changed the usually solemn ceremony, but the music played on as the genre’s singers and musicians mourned the country legend while celebrating four newcomers: The Judds, Ray Charles, Eddie Bayers and Pete Drake. Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill and many more performed their hits.

Naomi and Wynonna Judd were among the most popular duos of the 1980s, scoring 14 No. 1 hits during their nearly three-decade career. On the eve of her induction, the family said in a statement to The Associated Press that Naomi Judd died at the age of 76 from “the disease of mental illness.”

Daughters Wynonna and Ashley Judd tearfully accepted the dedication, holding each other tight and reciting a Bible verse together.

“I’m sorry she couldn’t make it through to this day,” Ashley Judd said of her mother while she cried. Wynonna Judd spoke about the family reunion as they said goodbye to her and she and Ashley Judd recited Psalm 23.

Wynonna Judd, left, and her mother, Naomi Judd, of The Judds, perform during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta January 30, 1994.
Wynonna Judd, left, and her mother, Naomi Judd, of The Judds, perform during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta January 30, 1994.
AP

“Even though my heart is broken, I will continue to sing,” said Wynonna Judd.

Fans gathered in front of the museum, attracted by a bouquet of white flowers in front of the entrance and a small framed photo of Naomi Judd underneath. A single rose was placed on the floor.

Charles’ introduction showcased his genre-defying country releases, which demonstrated the genre’s commercial appeal. The Georgia-born singer and pianist grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry and released Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music in 1962, which became one of the best-selling country releases of its time.

Ray Charles sings "america the beautiful," in the rain at Fenway Park in Boston, April 11, 2003.
Ray Charles sings “America The Beautiful” in the rain at Fenway Park in Boston April 11, 2003.
AP

Blinded and orphaned at a young age, Charles is best known for R&B, gospel and soul, but his decision to record country music changed the way the world thought about the genre and expanded audiences in the era of civil rights.

Charles’ version of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” topped the Billboard 100 chart for five weeks and remains one of his most popular songs. He died in 2004.

Brooks sang “Seven Spanish Angels,” one of Charles’ hits with Willie Nelson, while Bettye LaVette performed “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

Naomi Judd, left, and Wynonna Judd of The Judds perform at the "Girls' Night Out: The Country's Superstar Women," in Las Vegas, April 4, 2011.
Naomi Judd (left) and Wynonna Judd of The Judds perform at Girls’ Night Out: Superstar Women of Country April 4, 2011 in Las Vegas.
AP

Country Music Hall of Famer Ronnie Milsap said he met Charles when he was a young singer and that others tried to emulate Charles, but no one could match.

“There was one of him and only one,” Milsap said. “He sang country music the way it should be sung.”

The Hall of Fame also inducted two recording musicians who were fundamental to so many country songs and singers: Eddie Bayers and Pete Drake.

A photo of Naomi Judd lies with a rose in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame before the medallion ceremony on Sunday May 1, 2022.
A photo of Naomi Judd lies with a rose in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame before the medallion ceremony on Sunday May 1, 2022.
performance

Bayers, a decade-long Nashville drummer who has worked on 300 platinum records, is a member of the Grand Ole Opry Band. He has played regularly on records for The Judds, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney. He is the first drummer to join the institution.

Drake, who died in 1988, was a pedal steel guitarist and a member of Nashville’s A-Team of veteran session musicians who played hits like Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” . He is the first pedal steel guitarist to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

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