Her daughter, actress Ashley Judd, was greeted on stage at the start of the tribute with a standing ovation.
“Thank you for being in the community and fellowship with us,” said Judd the Younger. “Because we can pretend to care, but we can’t pretend to show up. So we thank you for coming to our mother.”
She explained that her mother wanted the public memorial to be erected in Riemann, the former home of the Grand Ole Opry, which she referred to as the “Mother Church.”
Judd also gave an obituary about her mother before introducing her older sister, Winona, who emotionally performed a song her mother wrote, “River of Time.”
“I’m holding back a torrent of tears / I’m just thinking of those happy years,” Wynonna Judd sang. “Like all the good times are gone. My love is gone, gone, gone forever.”
The event was hosted by Robin Roberts, a friend of the Judd family and host of Good Morning America.
“She loved with all her heart and I know she will be touched by the flow of love in all of our hearts tonight, especially the love towards her daughters,” Roberts said of Judd.
Winona and Naomi Judd formed the Grammy-winning duo The Judds and current artists have performed many of their songs, including Little Big Town, Jamey Johnson and EmmyLou Harris with Allison Russell and Brad Paisley.
Gaither Vocal members also performed a gospel song as a tribute to Judd’s love of soul music.
Rock star Bono appeared in a video where he recited the lyrics to Judd’s song “Guardian Angel”. Other stars also provided video notes, including Oprah Winfrey, Salma Hayek, Reese Witherspoon, Morgan Freeman and Bette Midler.
Judd’s husband, Larry Strickland, spoke to those assembled explaining that his wife had never met a stranger and enjoyed talking to everyone she came across.
He read an email he received from a man who met his wife on a plane and shared how Judd expressed her love for her husband and their life together.
Needless to say, he brought me great pleasure and great comfort, Strickland said emotionally.
Wynonna Judd made the audience laugh by teasing her sometimes turbulent relationship with her mother.
“We’re showing the world what a dysfunctional family does,” she said, looking at her sister and Strickland. “You appear to each other.”
She returned to the stage to pose for “The Rose” with Brandi Carlisle.
Judd announced that to honor her mother, she planned to continue the tour that they were supposed to do together. She then ended the show with a rousing performance of “Love Can Build a Bridge”.
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