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In wake of Judds’ loss, Country Music Hall of Fame induction celebrates life and music

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Photo by Jason Kempin
Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MAY 01: (L-R) Ashley Judd accepts induction on behalf of Naomi Judd with inductee Wynonna Judd, Ricky Skaggs and CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Kyle Young onstage for the class of 2021 medallion ceremony at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on May 01, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ken Paulson) — What could have been an evening of mourning instead became a celebration of life and music as the Country Music Hall of Fame inducted its class of 2022.

The sudden death of honoree Naomi Judd might have cast a pall over the event honoring the Judds, Ray Charles, pedal steel guitarist Pete Drake and session drummer Eddie Bayers, but the Hall captured exactly the right tone for the ceremony, respectfully acknowledging Naomi's passing while celebrating the music that led the inductees to this night.

If there was any tension in the room, it quickly dissipated when Hall of Fame Director Kyle Young noted that the Judds - mother Naomi and daughter Wynonna - sang in perfect harmony, but didn't always live that way. Wynonna was quick to add an "Amen!" from the audience.

Hall of Fame member Ricky Skaggs inducted the duo, recalling that he first met the Kentucky women backstage at a club date in San Francisco and then learned a few years later that they had been signed to a recording contract. They opened for him on a number of tours, but not for long, he noted.

A tearful Wynonna Judd, along with sister Ashley, accepted the award.

"I didn't prepare anything tonight because I knew Mom would do most of the talking," she said.

Celebrating the Judds musically were Carly Pierce with a version of "Grandpa, Tell Me About the Good Old Days," Gillian Welch and David Rawlings with "Young Love" and Tommy Sims performed “Love Can Build a Bridge.”

Pedal steel guitarist Pete Drake became the first musician on his instrument to be inducted. His work has been at the heart of dozens of country classics and he was tapped by Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr and George Harrison to work on their respective projects. Elizabeth noted the Dylan connection with her version "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," followed by Wendy Moten's stirring take of "He Stopped Loving Her Today," the George Jones hit fueled by Drake's playing.

Bayers was honored for his drumming and percussion on decades of country hits, including Vince Gill's "I Call Your Name" and Trisha Yearwood's "I Call Your Name." Both artists performed their songs in Bayers' honor.

The late Ray Charles was the final honoree for the evening. His 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music was groundbreaking in multiple ways, in addition to being both a historic release and commercial success,

Americana artists The War and Treaty performed Charles' "You Don't Know Me," Garth Brooks followed with "Seven Spanish Angels" and Bettye LaVette closed out the salute with an impassioned "I Can't Stop Loving You."