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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

(Soundbite of song, "I Will Stand By You")

THE JUDDS (Music Duo): (Singing) I'll never back down from a good, fair fight. I will find my way through the darkest night. I'll never be wrong for doing what's right. I will stand by you.

SIMON: And that's Naomi Judd and Wynona, back together, singing as The Judds, the mother-daughter duo that became one of the most storied and successful acts in musical history. They have a new single out - their first in years: "I Will Stand by You."��

(Soundbite of song, "I Will Stand by You")

THE JUDDS: (Singing) And I can't carry the world on my shoulders. This I know is true.

SIMON: Naomi Judd had to quit performing after being diagnosed with hepatitis C in the early 1990's. Wynona, 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 the 2009 Country Music Association Festival. And next month they begin a national tour that goes from Green Bay to Phoenix and all points between - The Judds: The Last Encore.

Naomi Judd and Wynona Judd join us now from Nashville.

Thanks so much for being with us.

Ms. W. JUDD (Singer): Wow.

Ms. N. JUDD (Singer): I'm a fan, I'm your biggest fan, Scott.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Well, I'm a pretty big fan of yours. OK? I must say. It's so good to hear you singing again.

Ms. N. JUDD: Thank you. You know, the doctors all said that I was going to die in three years, and that was in 1990. And it was a sticky wicket, because I'm an RN myself. I used to work in ICU.

SIMON: Yeah, that's probably how you got it.

Ms. N. JUDD: Yeah. I told them I wasn't going to kick the bucket, because I'm going to live long enough to see the day that Wynona and her movie actress sister Ashley - I want to see the day that they quit blaming me for all their problems.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. N. JUDD: I'm feeling very healthy and alive and radiant, Scott.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Well, so does this song, "I Will Stand by You," summarize your relationship now?

Ms. W. JUDD: Absolutely. This is Wynona. When I can talk I jump in.

I was asked why we picked this song. And I said because, you know, all the other ones sucked. And I was being pretty catty, because the bottom line here in Nashville sometimes where we fall under the cookie-cutter method, we call it, where you have success with a song and you try to - it'd be like trying to do, you know, "Grandma." We sung "Grandpa." We won the Grammy. Now we're going to do "Grandma" and go through the family and try to, you know, continue the success.

For us, it was a departure because we wanted to pick up - it's as if we pick up where we left off, Judd music-wise. We wanted something that was, of course, positive word-wise, because words are the most powerful forces in the universe.

And I wanted something rocking. Life is getting crazier. The news, hello, 6:00, depressing. We wanted something to celebrate. And so when we sing it, I guess the first time this weekend at the Opry it will be a real testimony to a lot of families, a lot of generations, especially the new Juddheads that are about to be born who come with their parents and don't know who The Judds are.

I just have such an inspirational message for them of hope, that, listen, man, if I can do it, if I can keep showing up, so can you. And I will stand by you. I can't carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, but I can show up and be here with my mom. So it's quite a living testimony.

SIMON: God, this is beautiful. I love hearing you two.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: This is great.

Ms. N. JUDD: Well, it's true. We can't clean up the BP oil spill, which I can't even watch on the news, it upset me so much. But, you know, I'll show up for Wynona. I'll show up for you too, Scott.

SIMON: Well, thank you.

Now, I remember reading, in I think "Love Can Build A Bridge," that the two of you began singing because you had a kind of harmony there when you were singing that maybe you didn't have in the mother-daughter relationship at that point in your life - is that fair to say?

Ms. W. JUDD: Well, we could go there. That was kind of later on, honestly, Scott. I think in the beginning - and I've talked about this so much that the story's changed through the years of sort of the perspective of where I was at age 10 and then 12.

You know, I started playing just out of the fact that we didn't have TV or telephone. And we did have radio. I do remember listening to the Opry and NPR with my dad when I was small in the car kind of thing. But we didn't have TV or telephone. And my mom had a guitar. And I started singing and playing just out of boredom.

You know, at that age, it's such a social age for a young girl that all I had were animals and my guitar. And I think it was just a natural progression of mom hearing my voice and humming along. It probably started there. And then all of a sudden before I know what's going on, she had attached herself vocally to me and it's as if it's one voice.

So it was really a natural, authentic evolution that happened just out of sitting around and connecting, which I think is beautiful. It wasn't like we sat around and said, hey, let's throw darts and figure out which way we go here career-wise. It just happened out of something to do, sitting on a mountaintop in Kentucky. Mom was in nursing school. You know, we were young and there wasn't a whole lot to do.

Ms. N. JUDD: But honey, really it was about giving ourself a chance to be creative. So if I put them on a mountaintop back home in Appalachia...

Ms. W. JUDD: And we couldn't run away and, you know, end up in rehab and pregnant, so there was that.

Ms. N. JUDD: Well, you all - you were 12, sis was eight, and I gave her a book - "Chronicles of Narnia." So now her imagination also blossomed. She became this actress and everything. But my point is that solitude is creativity's best friend and solitude is refreshment for our souls, and 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.

And you know, the kids, Scott, used to threaten to report me to Department of Child Protection, but...

Ms. W. JUDD: Human Services.

Ms. N. JUDD: ...no TV, no telephone.

Ms. W. JUDD: Well, instead, I decided to be a rock star and Ashley developed a fantasy world having lived with two Judd women highly, highly activated in music. And Ashley found her way. So I guess the point would be that there's - I think everybody sees themselves in us, whether you're an artist or an actress or a teacher. There's a...

Ms. N. JUDD: Or...

Ms. W. JUDD: ...Judd for every generation.

SIMON: May I ask, do you two sing together when there's not an open mic or a recording device around?

Ms. N. JUDD: You mean like while we're doing the dishes?

Ms. W. JUDD: While we're taking out the trash?

Ms. N. JUDD: Yeah, do we sing like Broadway people to each other? (Singing) Hello, mother. How's my daughter?

SIMON: Yeah, yeah, that.

Ms. W. JUDD: Like going to a grocery store? Yeah.

Ms. N. JUDD: (Singing) Would you like some dessert?

Ms. W. JUDD: (Singing) Would you like a little gravy with your mashed potatoes?

SIMON: Exactly. I sing to my daughter all the time.

Ms. W. JUDD: It connects you, it connects you. It's like, you know, they say sing to babies 'cause it doesn't matter if you sing good, just sing, you know, sing to them and look in their eyes. I think something remarkable happens when we do sing together. And I feel that - and you mentioned last year is what got the tour started, is we sang in front of 50,000 people.

And looking into her eyes and sort of, it's like plugging into this different, you know, energy source that's just so much bigger than the two of us - I really love that. I really love the life. You know, the tour is not just for the cash. I mean, that gives you choices, so what? For me, it's about the experience of looking out at the fans...

Ms. N. JUDD: You're getting paid? Wow. I (unintelligible)...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. W. JUDD: Well, you probably spent all your money already on rhinestones.

SIMON: Oh!

Ms. N. JUDD: Actually, correction. Note to self: I've been rhinestone-free for 15 years now.

Ms. W. JUDD: Yeah, but you weren't at Fanfare.

Ms. N. JUDD: I don't wear rhinestones anymore.

Ms. W. JUDD: Oh, OK. Excuse me. What were they? They were...

Ms. N. JUDD: See, Scott, we're fighting.

Ms. W. JUDD: ...sequins, sequins.

SIMON: I can tell, yeah. It's like you two better start singing soon. It's the only way there will be any peace.

I understand, as your tour gets into December, that you'll be singing some holiday songs, and I wanted to make a request.

Ms. N. JUDD: OK.

SIMON: I don't know if it's on the playlist. Wynonna?

Ms. W. JUDD: Yeah?

SIMON: You're recording, I guess it's Jess Winchester's old tune, "Let's Make a Baby King," is one of my favorites.

Ms. W. JUDD: Yeah, I love that song. I love that.

Ms. N. JUDD: Me too.

(Soundbite of song, "Let's Make a Baby King")

Ms. W. JUDD: (Singing) John says let's get ready, to herald angels sing. 'Cause this old world just needs to know, the good news that I bring. Let's make a baby king...

(Speaking) That is my favorite. I think there's not many year I haven't done that one. And it's not even a Christmas song. It's just so cool...

SIMON: I guess it isn't, actually, is it, come to think of it.

Ms. N. JUDD: No. I'm going to beg to differ, 'cause it says once upon a Christmas morning...

Ms. W. JUDD: But what I'm saying is, you can listen to it any time. It's not like a fa-la-la-la-la moment in the mall. It's a very...

Ms. N. JUDD: Yeah, it says we need...

Ms. W. JUDD: ...it's got horns and...

Ms. N. JUDD: ...we need a revolution.

(Soundbite of song, "Let's Make a Baby King")

Ms. W. JUDD: (Singing) Now, we could use a revolution. The world's turned upside down...

SIMON: Now, the one thing that makes me a little uncomfortable about this tour, I got to tell you, I don't like that title, The Last Encore. I mean, is this really the definitive last?

Ms. W. JUDD: It has to be. There has to be a beginning and an end for me, for her. And there's just so much going on about our lives separately that we had to say, OK, this is when we're going to start and this is when we're going to end, and let it be.

Ms. N. JUDD: Yeah, but that's not to say that we won't do a one-of, you know, a real special thing. Like after I retired, we did to Super Bowl halftime.

Ms. W. JUDD: Like if the NFL calls us and says they want us to come, you know...

Ms. N. JUDD: Or if Scott needs...

Ms. W. JUDD: ...be a cheerleader.

Ms. N. JUDD: ...you know, his birthday party, we'll come to your house.

SIMON: Well, boy, you can count on that. March 16th, I'll pencil it in...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: ...right now.

Ms. W. JUDD: Let's just put it this way. You know, we're the American dream. We know what our limits are. We have such a strength in our music and we show up and marvelous things happen.

SIMON: That's Wynonna and Naomi Judd. Their new single, "I'll Stand by You," and they hit the road next month and their tour runs through December 19th. Thanks so much.

Ms. W. JUDD: You're a blessing, Scott. Thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Hardly, but thank you so much.

Ms. W. JUDD: Well, NPR rules. As far as I'm concerned, it is the big deal. I'm sorry about all the rest of you if you get mad, but to me NPR is like it's like way up here in my book of hipness.

SIMON: So that's Wynonna. And Naomi, thank you so much.

Ms. N. JUDD: I appreciate you.

(Soundbite of song, "Girl's Night Out")

THE JUDDS: (Singing) Friday finally came around, this girl's ready to paint the town. Tonight ain't nothing gonna slow me down. I did my time working all week, tonight's all mine, tomorrow I'll sleep. I wanna hear a band with a country sound. Well, I've been cooped up all week long. I've been working my fingers to the bone. And it's girl's night out...

SIMON: And last night in Nashville, Wynonna and Naomi helped paint the Grand Old Opry pink. The Judds flipped the light switch to turn the Opry's famous barn backdrop pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. They joined other musicians, celebrities and breast cancer survivors on stage to raise money for Women Rock for the Cure and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Wynonna said of the healing power of music: I watched mom almost die three times and here we are back together, so we're a testimony. Living proof, as it were, added her mother.

(Soundbite of song)

THE JUDDS: You can give me a little rock and roll, or even a waltz with the lights down low, I'll still be dancing when they close the door. Well, I've been cooped up all week long, I've been working my fingers to the bone. Girl's night out. Honey, their ain't no doubt, I'm going to dance every dance 'til the boys go home...

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