The Judds, Naomi (left) and Wynonna, recently reunited after a long hiatus.
The Judds, Naomi (left) and Wynonna, recently reunited after a long hiatus. Kristin Barlowe
Wynonna and Naomi Judd are back together, singing as The Judds, the mother-daughter duo who became one of the most storied and successful acts in country music history. In the early 1990s, Naomi Judd had to quit performing after being diagnosed with hepatitis C. Wynonna, meanwhile, became one of the biggest solo performers in country music. But as Naomi's health improved over the years, they made a few joint appearances, including one at the 2009 Country Music Association Festival. Next month, they begin a national tour that goes from Green Bay to Phoenix and all points between, called "The Judds: The Last Encore." NPR's Scott Simon recently sat down with the Judds to talk about the first single they've put out in years, titled "I Will Stand By You."
When Naomi Judd was diagnosed with hepatitis C, it wasn't clear that she was going to live for very much longer, much less return to her career as a professional musician.
"The doctors all said that I was gonna die in three years, and that was in 1990. I told them I wasn't gonna kick the bucket," she says. "I'm feeling very healthy, and alive and radiant."
Once Naomi returned to good health, she got back in the studio with Wynonna to record "I Will Stand By You." She says the song aptly summarizes their relationship, and that it was a continuation of the music they had made together years ago.
"It's as if we picked up where we left off, Judd-music-wise," Wynonna Judd says. "We wanted something that was positive, wordwise, because words are the most powerful forces in the universe, and I wanted something rockin'. We wanted something to celebrate. And so, when we sing the first time this weekend at the Opry, it will be a real testimony to a lot of families. ... I have such an inspirational message for them of hope: Listen, man, if I can do it, keep showin' up, so can you, and I will stand by you."
Wynonna says she started playing music because it was the only thing for a young girl living in Kentucky to do at the time. She and her mother began singing together as the younger Judd was entering her adolescence.
"In the beginning, I started playing just out of the fact that we didn't have TV or telephone," Wynonna says. "We did have radio. I do remember listening to the Opry and NPR with my dad when I was small, but I just started playing out of boredom. You know, at that age, it's such a social age for a young girl, that all I had were my animals and my guitar. I think it was a natural progression of Mom hearing my voice and humming along. All of a sudden, before I know what's going on, she has attached herself vocally to me, and it's as if it we're one voice."
"Solitude is creativity's best friend, and solitude is refreshment for our souls," Naomi Judd says. "I don't think we spend enough time in reflection and introspection. We don't know who we are as individuals in this culture anymore."