The Universal Meaning and “Farewell” Behind The Judds’ 1990 Hit “Love Can Build a Bridge”

Working on the Judds‘ sixth and final album together, Naomi Judd wanted to write the perfect farewell letter to fans, but the lyrics she ended up with held a deeper lifelong meaning.

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Co-written with Paul Overstreet, who wrote No. 1 hits for Randy Travis and later Blake Shelton, and John Barlow Jarvis, who toured as part of Rod Stewart‘s band in the 1970s, “Love Can Build a Bridge” became the title track of the Judds’ last album together.

“Naomi Judd handed me a set of lyrics she had written which was inspired by a conversation she had with Paul Overstreet,” said Jarvis. “I immediately heard a melody and wrote it in literally 15 minutes. What took the most time was finding the right feel for the final recording. I believe we recorded it two or three different times before they were happy.”

When released, “Love Can Build a Bridge” went to No. 5 on the Billboard country chart. Though the ballad wasn’t a huge commercial hit for the duo, it still picked up the Grammy for Song of the Year in 1992.

The Beginning of “Farewell”

“Love Can Build a Bridge” is a song of unity, and the importance of togetherness. It also served as a semi-goodbye letter from Naomi. When she wrote it, Naomi was chronically ill and forced to retire after being diagnosed with Hepatitis C, just as the Judds had crested country music. At the time, doctors told Naomi she only had three years to live.

I’d gladly walk across the desert
With no shoes upon my feet
To share with you the last bite
Of bread I had to eat
I would swim out to save you
In your sea of broken dreams
When all your hopes are sinkin’
Let me show you what love means

Love can build a bridge
Between your heart and mine
Love can build a bridge
Don’t you think it’s time?
Don’t you think it’s time?

Further into the lyrics, “Love Can Build a Bridge” reiterates the power of universal connectedness and that unity and hope are among the essentials in life.

I would whisper love so loudly
Every heart could understand
That love and only love
Can join the tribes of man
I would give my heart’s desire
So that you might see
The first step is to realize
That it all begins with you and me

Love can build a bridge
Between your heart and mine
Love can build a bridge
Don’t you think it’s time?
Don’t you think it’s time?

When we stand together
It’s our finest hour
We can do anything
Keep believin’ in the power

[RELATED: 5 Essential Wynonna Judd Collaborations]

“All of us are a family with a whole lot of faith,” said Naomi in a rare interview with her daughter Ashley in 2015. “I’ve always known that I’m a child of the highest God. That’s the bottom line. It’s kind of as if we didn’t have anything but the Lord. But that’s enough.”

Judd continued, “Perhaps, I said it best in my song, ‘Love Can Build A Bridge.’ What I was trying to do in the first verse is saying that not only food, shelter, and water are essential for human life, but hopes and dreams to me are absolutely just as essential.”

Britney Spears and Eric Clapton’s First No. 1

In 1992, a 10-year-old Britney Spears performed “Love Can Build a Bridge” on the singing competition show Star Search. Just three years later, Cher, Chrissie Hynde, and Neneh Cherry recorded a version of the Judds’ song, featuring Eric Clapton on guitar, which was released for the British charity Comic Relief.

The collaborative cover went to No. 1 in the UK and also marked the first No. 1 for Clapton in the UK.

A Final Farewell

Following the release of Love Can Build a Bridge, which also went to No. 5 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, the Judds went on their farewell tour in 1991 before splitting.

By the late 1990s, the duo reunited and began performing a number of one-off shows together and continued to perform throughout the 2000s and 2010s.

Prior to embarking on their Final Tour in 2022, Wynonna and Naomi reunited for what became their final performance together at the CMT Music Awards on April 11. Marking the first time the Judds’ performed together on a televised award show in more than 20 years, the duo performed “Love Can Build a Bridge” from the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville one last time before Naomi’s death on April 30 at age 76.

The day after Judd’s death, the duo was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame with the honor was accepted by Wynonna and Ashley Judd.

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