Naomi Judd CMT Special: Ashley Begins Ceremony with Eulogy, Wynonna Performs 'River of Time'

The Country Music Hall of Fame inductee died on April 30

Naomi Judd’s star-studded tribute started with words from her daughter, Ashley Judd. On Sunday, the 54-year-old actress took the stage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee and memorialized her mother. “Welcome to the mother church of country music, this is where mom wanted her public celebration to take place and thank you for being in community and in fellowship with us,” Ashley told the packed house. “Because we can pretend to care, but we cannot pretend to show up. Thank you for showing up for our mom.” 

“And at this time when I am so forlorn, I say to my creator, I do not know who you are, and yet I do know who you are because you are the one who saved me. And in the dark night of the soul, I say to myself, I do not know who I am because I am the one you saved.” 

Ashley continued, “Our circumstances do not have the power to name our identity, because as my mother taught me, we are spiritual beings having a human experience. And God comes to us disguised as our life.” 

Ashley then went on to eulogize her mother, born, Diana Ellen Judd, who went on to “take her identity into her own hands” and changed her name to Naomi Judd. Ashley shared how her mother went from the child who knew everyone’s birthdays, to the teen mother who gave birth to her first child in the same hospital where her young mother gave birth to her, to the proud member of the iconic mother-daughter music duo, The Judds -- which featured her oldest daughter Wynonna.  

Naomi’s daughter shared how her mother overcame the childhood trauma of sexual assault, intimate partner violence and other life circumstances to become the woman and musician that she was.  

“The result is that we are here tonight remembering an icon and legend who left country music better than she found it,” Ashley said. “Since the 30th of April we have been remembering the complex and dynamic life of our mother and story. She was every woman. Perhaps, this is why everyone thought they knew her. She was a nurse. She was a single mom who sometimes relied on public assistance, she was traumatized by early childhood abuse, intimate partner violence and rape and she was fired by a boss when she refused to go away with him for a weekend.” 

“She was Mamaw to her grandchildren, Elisha and Grace and to my chosen family and she was totally extraordinary. The five-time GRAMMY Award winner, the multi-platinum artist, the Hall of Famer who was lauded by millions and tonight we remember her in song.” 

Kicking off the music-filled evening, was the “G.O.A.T, the Greatest of All Time,” to Ashley, her big sister, Wynonna Judd. The songstress opened the ceremony with a performance of her and her mother’s hit, “River of Time.”  

CMT’s Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration comes three weeks after the famed musician died at the age of 76. The ceremony was hosted by Robin Roberts and included performances by Brad Paisley, Little Big Town, Carly Pearce and more.