NASHVILLE, Tenn (AFP) – Ray Charles and The Gods joined the Country Music Hall of Fame Sunday for a gala filled with tears, music and laughter, just a day after Naomi Judd’s unexpected death.
The loss of Naomi Judd changed the usual festive party, but the music continued, as singers and musicians mourned the country legend while also celebrating the four volunteers: The Judds, Ray Charles, Eddie Bayers and Pete Drake. Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, and others have performed their hit songs.
Naomi and Winona Judd were among the most popular duo of the ’80s, recording 14 songs during their nearly three-decade career. On the eve of her induction, the family said in a statement to The Associated Press that Naomi Judd died at the age of 76 from “mental illness.”
Daughters Winona and Ashley Judd accepted the induction amidst tears, holding onto each other and reciting a Bible verse together.
“I’m sorry she couldn’t hold it until today,” Ashley Judd said of her mother to the audience as she cried. Winona Judd spoke about the family gathering where they said goodbye to her and she and Ashley Judd recited Psalm 23.
“Even though my heart is broken I will continue to sing,” said Winona Judd.
Fans gathered outside the museum, drawn to a white flower bouquet outside the entrance and a small framed photo of Naomi Judd below. One rose was laid on the floor.
Charles’s induction offered his genre-defying rustic versions, that demonstrated the commercial appeal of country music. 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 his day.
Blind and orphaned at a young age, Charles became famous for R&B, gospel, and soul, but his decision to record country music changed the way the world thought about the genre, expanding audiences in the civil rights era.
Charles’ version of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” spent five weeks at the top of the Billboard 100 and remains one of his most popular songs. He died in 2004.
Brooks sang “Seven Spanish Angels,” one of Charles’ songs with Willie Nelson, while Betty Lafitte sang “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”
Country Music Hall of Famer Ronnie Millsap said he met Charles when he was a young singer and that others tried to imitate Charles, but no one could be up to it.
“There was one of him and only one person,” Millsap said. “He sang country music as it should be sung.”
Charles is the third black artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, along with Aubrey majors DeFord Bailey and Charley Pride.
“Charles has always stood up for what he loves,” said Valerie Irvine, president of the Ray Charles Foundation. “And country music was what I really, really liked.”
hall of fame She also made two recordings of musicians who were fundamental to many country songs and singers: Eddie Byers and Pete Drake.
Byers, a Nashville drummer for decades who has worked on 300 platinum records, is a member of the Grand Ole Opry. 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 establishment.
Drake, who died in 1988, was a steel-pedal guitarist and member of the Nashville A-Team of skilled session musicians, playing songs such as “Stand By Your Man” by Tammy Winnett and “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones. He is the first steel pedal guitarist to become a part of the Hall of Fame.
Drake is best known for creating the Talk Show box, a technique that allowed him to speak through his pedaled steel guitar. It was later popularly adopted by artists such as Peter Frampton and many others.
His wife Rose said that musicians like her husband deserve a place in music history.
Musicians of the ’60s and ’70s. ‘The ’80s created Nashville as a music city and we can’t leave that far behind,” Rose Drake said.
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