NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Country Music Hall of Fame will induct Ray Charles and The Judds into its ranks on Sunday night, though Naomi Judd’s death a day earlier will no doubt alter the normally celebratory ceremony.
The room continued with the ceremony at the behest of Judd’s family, but with “a heavy heart and a weighted mind,” according to CEO Kyle Young.
Mother-daughter act Naomi and Wynonna Judd were among the most popular duos of the 1980s, scoring 14 No. 1 hits during their nearly three-decade career.
Inductees are usually honored with speeches, performances of their songs, and the unveiling of a plaque that will hang in the Hall of Fame rotunda. However, a public red carpet scheduled before the ceremony was cancelled.
Fans still gathered outside the museum on Sunday, attracted by a bouquet of white flowers outside the entrance and a small framed photo of Naomi Judd below. A single rose lay on the ground.
Charles’ induction will feature his genre-defying country releases, which showed the commercial appeal of the genre. The Georgia-born singer and pianist grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry and in 1962 released “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music,” which became one of the best-selling country releases of its day.
Charles’ version of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” spent five weeks atop the Billboard 100 chart and remains one of his most popular songs. He died in 2004.
Much of the focus on Sunday will likely be on Naomi Judd, who died unexpectedly near Nashville on Saturday.
“We have lost our beautiful mother to mental illness,” daughters Wynonna and Ashley said in a statement to The Associated Press announcing her death. “We are broken. We navigate deep mourning and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her audience.
Sarah Trahern, CEO of the Country Music Association, said at the start of Sunday’s ceremony that the music community wanted to uplift the Judd family in a time of grief.
“Love doesn’t just build a bridge; it’s the bridge,” Trahern said. “The Judds taught us that and love is Naomi’s lasting legacy. »
The Hall of Fame will also honor two recording musicians: Eddie Bayers and Pete Drake.
Bayers, a drummer in Nashville for decades who worked on 300 platinum records, is a member of the Grand Ole Opry band. He has regularly performed on records for The Judds, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney. He is the first drummer to join the institution.
Drake, who died in 1988, was a pedal steel guitarist and A-team member of skilled Nashville session musicians, played on hits like Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today by George Jones. . He is the first pedal steel guitar player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.