The mother-and-daughter team of Naomi and Wynonna Judd became a singing sensation, gracing the country music industry with one hit song after another. While signed with RCA Nashville, the Judds recorded and released six studio albums between 1983 to 1991. Many of the songs these ladies produced became big hits on the charts, as well as award winners with the Grammies and the Country Music Association. There are at least ten songs that come to mind that have gone down in history as some of the Judds’ finest.
Born as Diana Judd on January 11, 1946, in Ashland, Kentucky, Naomi grew up in a Christian household that made it easy for her to learn the piano and perform at the family’s local church. By the time she was eighteen years old, she married Michael Ciminella and the two had a daughter, Christina. However, she was later renamed Wynonna as she was technically born out of wedlock, the result of a romantic relationship Naomi had with a former boyfriend, Charles Jordan.
When Naomi Judd realized her marriage with Michael Ciminella wasn’t going to work out, she brought her daughter with her to Los Angeles, California. After spending eleven years there living on welfare, the Judds moved to Tennessee in 1979. This marked the end of Diana Judd and the beginning of Naomi Judd. This also marked the beginning of a mother and daughter playing music together. Over time, Naomi sought to find a record deal for herself and her daughter all over Nashville, hoping a label would recognize their talent and sign them up. She was able to do this in 1983 with RCA Records.
Beginning of an Era
As soon as Naomi and Wynonna Judd were signed up as The Judds with RCA Records in 1983, the fortunes of this mother-daughter team quickly shifted in their favor. Wynonna & Naomi was their debut, an EP that featured six songs on it. “Had a Dream (For the Heart)” was an Elvis Presley original that became the duo’s first hit single on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. This was followed by “Mama He’s Crazy,” which became one of the duo’s signature hits as it catapulted their career into the ranks of superstardom. It was enough to earn them a win at the 1985 Grammy Awards and it was enough encouragement to keep the ball rolling for these two incredible ladies as recording artists. In 1984, Why Not Me was their first studio album and it was regarded as a wonderful mix of classic and contemporary country.
Naomi was seen as a country classic gal while Wynonna represented the modern-day country woman. Sometimes, it appeared as if the roles were reversed, which made these two women even more fascinating to listen to and watch. The Judds were the dream team of the music industry, regardless of genre, and were a huge source of inspiration, especially among fans who identified with the female gender. Why Not Me went on to release a few more hits for The Judds, as well as become certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. It also earned The Judds their second Grammy Award.
In 1985, Rockin’ with the Rhythm became The Judds’ second studio album. Just like its predecessor, it became certified platinum, thanks to the series of hits that came from it. It also earned Naomi and Wynonna their third Grammy Award in the same category as their first two. This was followed by 1987’s Heartland, which was the Judds’ way of paying homage to the great Elvis Presley. This was a recording that featured The Jordanaires as backup vocalists to the duo’s musical material. After this, the Judds released their first Greatest Hits album. When it was released in 1988, there were two new songs featured on it. Written by Naomi Judd, “Change of Heart” became yet another Grammy Award winner for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. At the time, The Judds practically became a household name.
If you called yourself a country music fan during the second half of the 1980s but admitted you never heard of the Judds then your credibility as such would have been questioned. When 1989’s River of Time was released as The Judds’ fifth studio album, it appeared as if the end was nigh for Naomi and her daughter, Wynonna. Although it did produce some hit singles, it didn’t perform quite as well in sales as it did with its predecessors. Instead of becoming certified platinum by the RIAA, River of Time became gold.
The 1990 album, Love Can Build a Bridge, demonstrated The Judds were not finished producing another platinum-certified album just yet. This also came at a time when the personality differences between Naomi and Wynonna were becoming increasingly evident. Naomi behaved more like the wild country girl while Wynonna was considerably more laid back. As a performer, Wynonna’s confidence grew and she began to take on a more defined personality that had her stand up to her mother more often. It was already speculated at this time, as tensions grew between Naomi and Wynonna, that Love Can Build a Bridge would be their final studio album as The Judds. It was promoted with a farewell tour that included the 1991 release of Greatest Hits Volume Two.
End of an Era
In 1991, Naomi Judd learned she had Hepatitis C. Upon hearing the news, the mother and daughter team, Judds, brought their career as a country duo to a stop. This was already in the works as Love Can Build a Bridge was supposed to be the duo’s final studio album together. Going into 1992, Wynonna, Judd continued with a solo career, still signed with RCA. Occasionally, her mother did perform with her as a guest vocalist. As a solo artist, Wynonna’s success through the 1990s was parallel to what she experienced with her mother during the 1980s. From time to time, Naomi would participate in some of her daughter’s musical material but as a guest artist. In live performances, the two did reunite as The Judds but this came to an end on April 30, 2022.
On the day before The Judds were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Naomi Judd took her own life but not without leaving specific instructions for both daughters, Wynonna and Ashley Judd, to move on without her with their heads held up high, shining like the bright stars they are. Taking Naomi’s place in what is now Judds’ The Final Tour, is a series of guest vocalists, namely Brandi Carlile, Faith Hill, Ashley McBryde, and Trisha Yearwood. This was a reunion tour that was originally scheduled with Naomi and Wynonna Judd as The Judds in what could have been a comeback for the duo with either another studio album or a live album. When Naomi Judd’s suicide took place, it was five months before this tour was supposed to start. Instead of canceling, Wynonna turned this tragedy into an opportunity that deserves to be crowned as a wonderful tribute to a pair of incredibly talented women whose brilliance shines even brighter on the inside than they ever did on the outside.
Top 10 Songs By The Judds
#10 – Love Is Alive
“Love Is Alive” was a number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart after it was released as a single in 1985. This incredible ballad featured Wynonna expressing love as a man that belongs to her. This was a lyrical statement that became a fan favorite, as well as favored by music critics. When it came to declarations of love, The Judds seemed to master this category as if it was their own.
#9 – Rockin’ with the Rhythm of the Rain
“Rockin’ with the Rhythm of the Rain” became one of many number-one hit singles for The Judds after it was released as a single in 1986. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart, it came from the mother-daughter duo’s second studio album, Rockin’ with the Rhythm. Designed as a rain theme song, the inspiration behind the tune came to songwriter Brent Maher after visiting The Judds in their home in Tennessee. An observation he made was how often the women rocked on the front porch swing while the rain tapped away on the tin awning. This laid-back tune was already a country classic the moment it was played on the airwaves. It remains a favorite still.
#8 – Young Love (Strong Love)
Released in 1989, “Young Love (Strong Love)” was a song that chronicled the development of a young couple who fell in love and chose to make a life together. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it became a number-one hit. It did the same on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart. This was one of two singles from The Judds’ River of Time that topped the music charts as a standout favorite. Since its release as a single, “Young Love” has become a favorite song of choice for celebrations such as weddings and anniversaries.
#7 – Girls’ Night Out
On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart, “Girls’ Night Out” became a number-one hit after it was released as a single in 1985. This was a song meant for women to enjoy the night out without the need for a man around. This anthemic country song became a major fan favorite that still holds its ground as a classic. Although this was a song with women having fun in mind, it was actually written by men. Jeffrey Bullock and Brent Maher wrote this song just before they were to meet with their wives for dinner.
#6 – Change of Heart
From the 1988 Greatest Hits album, The Judds performed “Change of Heart.” Written by Naomi, it became the fourth Grammy Award in the category of Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. This unstoppable mother-daughter team. As a breakup song, this heartfelt ballad came from Naomi Judd as she was on the mend after breaking up with Larry Strickland. The former backup singer for Elvis Presley was her form of therapeutic release as she wrote out the lyrics as if they came from a man full of remorse.
#5 – Why Not Me
“Why Not Me” became The Judds’ second Grammy Award winner for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Released in 1984, it became a number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as a number-three hit on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart. The songwriting team of Brend Maher, Harlan Howard, and Sonny Throckmorton earned the Song of the Year Award from the Academy of Country Music as “Why Not Me” became more than just another great country song. Anxiously sung as a “wake up” tune, The Judds addressed a potential love interest to stop looking for love in all the wrong places and give the lead singer, Wynonna Judd, a try.
#4 – Have Mercy
Released in 1985, “Have Mercy” peaked on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart at number one. In 1987, it won two Grammy Awards, namely for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and for Best Country Song. In Canada, “Have Mercy” peaked as high as number two. This was a song that had Wynonna Judd reeling after catching her love interest with another woman. This bluesy country had her plead with her man to take the romantic relationship she has with her more seriously. For The Judds, this was an awesome song for them to perform. For the fans, it was an awesome song to hear.
#3 – Love Can Build a Bridge
“Love Can Build a Bridge” earned The Judds their final Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal after it was released as a single in 1990. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it became a number five hit while on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart it peaked at number six. This was the same song that inspired a collection of recording artists to cover it as a charity single for the Children for Rwanda campaign in 1994. It became a number fifty-seven hit on the UK Singles Chart at that time. Additional covers of “Love Can Build a Bridge,” either as charity singles or simply as a favorite song to cover have been covered by notable artists such as Cher, Neneh Cherry, and Eric Clapton. “Love Can Build a Bridge” was one of the final songs Naomi and Wynonna Judd performed together as a duo.
Not long after this, Naomi’s career was rocked by a medical diagnosis while Wynonna moved on as a solo artist. The beauty behind this song was agreeing to stand together, no matter how harsh life becomes. Even as both women went their separate ways as individuals, the two never put an end to a bond that was often tested due to their vastly different personalities. Maybe it was because it was a relationship between mother and daughter, but history has demonstrated that’s not always enough. The beauty behind “Love Can Build a Bridge” is the truth that comes with the reality that love is the key to building a solid bridge that brings people together.
#2 – Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)
As popular as The Judds were as contemporary country artists, Naomi and Wynonna were also noted for bringing home some country classics with nostalgic appeal. “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)” was one such single that brought forth memoirs of yesteryear in a touching song that joined the ranks of the Top 100 Western Songs of all time, as voted by the Western Writers of America. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number-one hit. It also peaked at number one on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart. Released in 1986, this was a gem of a song that would appear on the music charts again in 2022.
On the US Billboard Digital Song Sales chart, it peaked at number ten while on the Canada Digital Songs Sales chart, it peaked at number thirty-one. This demonstrated the timelessness of a song that wondered what made the “good old days” seem so much greater than what mankind seems to be experiencing now. Interestingly enough, the questions raised by The Judds never did meet with their grandfather’s answer. “Grandpa” earned The Judds another Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, as well as Best Country Song.
#1 – Mama He’s Crazy
1984 marked the year “Mama He’s Crazy” by The Judds as their major breakthrough single as it topped the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart. It also earned Naomi and Wynonna Judd their first Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1985. The timing of this song came when Wynonna was involved in her first romance. Singing about a man that was head over heels in love with her, “Mama He’s Crazy” easily became a romantic favorite for country music fans.
The innocence behind the lyrics, combined with the earthy performance by Naomi and Wynonna was a mother-and-daughter team at their best. This was the beginning of a career the two would enjoy as The Judds dominated the country music industry for nearly a decade. Even after Naomi hung up her bootstraps as a recording artist for medical reasons, The Judds continued to make an impact as fans couldn’t get enough. “Mama He’s Crazy” became The Judds’ signature song, one of the most identifiable when the duo’s name comes up in conversation.
Top 10 Songs By The Judds article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
Classicrockhistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business, or organization is allowed to re-publish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission. All photos used are either public domain creative commons photos or licensed officially from Shutterstock under license with ClassicRockHistory.com. All photo credits have been placed at the end of the article. Album Cover Photos are affiliate links and the property of Amazon and are stored on the Amazon server. Any theft of our content will be met with swift legal action against the infringing websites.