In the wake of her recent passing, country star Naomi Judd was remembered during an emotional celebration of her life by big names like Brandi Carlile, Bono, Oprah, Emmylou Harris, and her daughters, Wynonna and Ashley.
Naomi, who died on April 30, must have been smiling down at the event, which took place at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. The event, Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration, was broadcast on CMT.
Wynonna sang “River of Time” during the ceremony, early on, and then closed out the night with her local Christ Church choir singing the song “Love Will Build a Bridge.” She also sang with Carlile on a duet of “The Rose.”
Said Wynonna, “It’s so strange to be here, but natural at the same time. I’ve lived my life in public since I was 17, so it feels natural to be here with my family of choice.”
Others in attendance were Brad Paisley, Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde, Little Big Town, Jamey Johnson, Harris, and Allison Russell. Television show host Robin Roberts was there along with Bono, Oprah, Reba McEntire, Salma Hayek, Reese Witherspoon, and Morgan Freeman.
“We can pretend to care, but we can’t pretend to show up, so thank you for showing up for our mother,” said daughter Ashley Judd.
Later in the event, Wynonna and Ashley remembered their mother. “Let’s talk about what a sultry single mama she was,” said Wynonna. “Enough of this love stuff.”
“She was a little wacky but she loved us,” said Ashley.
Naomi’s husband and former Elvis backup singer, Larry Strickland, joined Naomi’s daughters on stage, saying, “Naomi never met a stranger. Much to my displeasure, she would start a conversation with anybody who made eye contact with her.”
Bono next took the stage to recite the lyrics from the Judds song “Guardian Angel,” which was co-written by Naomi.
In a filmed testimonial, Oprah talked about having the Judds as a guest on her show some 22 years ago. Oprah said Naomi would be fondly remembered “for every life she touched. I thank you Miss Naomi Judd for touching mine.”
Offered Hayek, “I remember Naomi as one of a kind, a force of nature to be reckoned with that managed to have, at the time, a disarming sweetness that was almost hypnotic. She was always so kind to me, and yet she always managed to intimidate me … I feel very, very privileged that she came into my life.”
At the celebration’s conclusion, Wynonna said, “It’s so devastatingly beautiful, what happened here tonight. Life is so strange.”
Featured image by Katie Kauss/Getty Images for CMT