NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Country Music Hall of Fame will induct Ray Charles and The Judds into its ranks on Sunday night, though the death of Naomi Judd a day earlier will undoubtedly alter the normally celebratory ceremony.
The hall continued with the ceremony at the request of Judd’s family, but with “heavy hearts and weighted minds,” 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’s rotunda. However, a planned public red carpet prior to the ceremony was canceled.
Fans gathered outside the museum anyway on Sunday, drawn to a white floral bouquet outside the entrance and a small framed photo of Naomi Judd below. A single rose was laid on the ground.
Charles’ induction will showcase his genre-defying country releases, which showed the genre’s commercial appeal. The Georgia-born singer and piano player 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 his era.
Charles’ version of “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” spent five weeks on top of the Billboard 100 chart and remains one of his most popular songs. He died in 2004.
Much of the attention Sunday will likely be on Naomi Judd, who died unexpectedly on Saturday near Nashville.
“We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” daughters Wynonna and Ashley said in a statement to The Associated Press announcing her death. “We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public.”
Sarah Trahern, CEO of the Country Music Association, said at the beginning of Sunday’s ceremony that the music community wanted to lift up the Judd family in their time of grieving.
“Love doesn’t simply build a bridge; it is the bridge,” said Trahern. “The Judds taught us that and love is Naomi’s enduring legacy.”
The Hall of Fame will also honor two recordings 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 regularly played 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 guitar player and a member of Nashville’s A-team of skilled session musicians, played on hits like “Stand By Your Man” by Tammy Wynette and “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones. He is the first pedal steel guitar player to become part of the Hall of Fame.
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