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Naomi Judd
Naomi Judd
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Naomi Judd Interview

Country Music Artist and Social Advocate

June 2, 1995
Williamsburg, Virginia

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  Naomi Judd

When did you first start singing?

Naomi Judd: I started singing when Wynonna was 12. That's a weird answer, but it was all predicated on her. So that's the origin. She was 12 years old. She was beyond rebellious. This was a kid who had the attention span of a gnat, and we were living on a mountaintop in Kentucky with no TV or telephone. So you can't even imagine the resentment that she had for me at that point in her life. I took her from living off of Sunset Strip in Hollyweird (and put her) on a mountaintop and put her in earth shoes and overalls and said, "This is the drill. Welcome to the country. Pretend you are in the middle of a National Geographic special. You will plant a garden. You will learn how to take care of animals. You will communicate with your lovely eight-year-old sister, and you will develop your imagination."

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

And one night, I handed her an old flanky guitar, just so we could keep from killing each other, and something magical happened when I handed her that guitar. I said, "Hmm, very interesting." She just acted like it was an appendage of herself, and she would sit, literally for hours, hunkered over this thing, and I went, "Hmm. Now, if I was to participate with her, what would happen?" And really, it was that natural in evolution. There was never any epiphany where you went, "Bingo, I've got it. We'll go to Nashville and be country singers." We were just trying to communicate with each other.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

So it was more about bringing the two of you together?

Naomi Judd: Right. I actually had this very romantic noble notion of being a doctor and working with my people in Appalachia. We're from Kentucky, and I wanted to work with the unloved and the unlovely and was putting myself through nursing school at that point.

So that as we lived in a splendid isolation on this hilltop in Morrill, Kentucky, I was doing it for a multitude of reasons. One was to sort of decompress and demystify the Hollywood thing -- you know, the artifice, the greed, the commercialization -- just sort of to turn down the background noise. I needed the solitude definitely for my studies, and I really wanted the girls to understand their Appalachian heritage. I had already been hip to it my whole life, but I really wanted them to understand this very rich legacy that they had. And this was just such fertile ground for them to each tap into that intuition that gets beat out of kids these days. So when I took away all of this overstimulation and they really had to hear their own inner voices and open up, like I said, Wynonna was 12 and Ashley was eight at that point, and Ashley, frankly, didn't need music to communicate. She was one of these popular, well-rounded, "straight A" kind of kids, very autonomous. So I handed her a book, and the same thing happened. She began to develop a fantasy life with the written page.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

She became an actress and she just finished starring in a movie with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino and Val Kilmer.

I look back on that summer and I think, as a mom, I was literally getting out of bed every day going, "Oh, my God, I don't know what I'm doing. I feel ill-equipped. I don't know how to handle these kids. I've just done the best I can from moment to moment, living a paycheck away from the streets." I got tired of being on welfare, so I put myself in college. And trying to give Ashley what she so needed and deserved as far as stability, and trying to give Wynonna something to get us through the day.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

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This page last revised on Sep 23, 2010 15:08 EDT
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