Wynonna judged: 'Cinderella,' robbed of glass slipper, is putting her foot down

August 04, 1994|By Steve Morse | Steve Morse,The Boston Globe

Many performers keep their personal lives private. You don't know if they're married or how many children they have. They won't talk about these issues in interviews. But Wynonna Judd's life has nearly been an open book. She and her mother, Naomi, were the most popular mother-daughter singing duo in history, selling millions of records and touching fans with their spiritual, family-centered love songs, before Naomi retired due to life-threatening hepatitis three years ago.

The pressure has been on Wynonna ever since. She has answered with two multi-platinum solo albums, but some fans, along with omnipresent tabloid gossip writers, are now harassing her because she's pregnant with a child she plans to have out of wedlock. To them, it's as if Cinderella wasn't the belle of the ball after all.

"People are really looking for me to kind of make it or go home," says Wynonna.

"It's the whole way I've been set up. Mom and I overcame poverty. We made it. We were the American dream. We were the media darlings of 1991. Then mother retired and I came out on my own and spread my wings to fly. And I soared. But now they think, 'Bless her heart, look at what's happened,' " says Wynonna, about the unplanned pregnancy.

"It doesn't really fit into the story the way everybody wanted it to. People wanted to see me get married first to a dream boy, then live happily ever after, then the child can come. That's the way it is in the movies. And I had dreamed it that way. . . . But it didn't happen that way for me. And that's the only regret I have."

'Trying to be patient'

The tabloids have been merciless to her, but Wynonna is just "trying to be patient and quiet." Her boyfriend, whom she met last August, is a 42-year-old Nashville businessman named Archie Kelly. "We want to get married, but there's so much happening now," she says. "I want to come off the road first. I'll come off the day before Labor Day, then somewhere between September and January we'll have the time for Arch and I to finally sit down and talk. . . . There's a season for everything."

The turmoil over the pregnancy is an added insult during a tumultuous year in which she fired her booking agency and injured her back, but it hasn't stopped Wynonna from touring. She's four months pregnant and still going strong.

"I feel this way: 'Look, you can do things if you set your mind to them or you can feel sorry for yourself and complain.' I decided, 'Hey, I'm pregnant, but I'm not going to stop the tour.' . . . I'm doing it for my morale, my group's morale and my fans. They've helped me through a large change here."

Wynonna's travails have taught her that the public expects far too much of performers as role models.

"Musicians used to get away with things, more so than now," she says. "Nowadays, if you step off your bus with a cigarette or a drink, or even look like you're on drugs, you'll be criticized. I mean, people are watching every move you make and I've got letters to prove it. I went down to a bar one night to say happy birthday to a friend of mine who was in my opening act, and I got a letter saying, 'How could you be in this bar and sing about the things you do?'

"We are such a society of judgment. We want to crucify somebody because we are so troubled ourselves and we're not getting any help. The Bible talks about judging, about seeing the splinter in your brother's eye when hey, look, there's a plank in yours!"

'Taking back her life'

Wynonna is also in the process of "taking back her life," as she puts it. She fired her booking agent because he was "way out of line" in never saying no to a gig. She's toured so extensively that she's not even had time to change her show much from her appearances last summer.

But she's already into some new projects. She's been rehearsing with the Neville Brothers in an attempt to cross her country music further into R&B. She's hoping to do some shows with Eric Clapton next year. She just recorded the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "Free Bird" for a Skynyrd tribute album due this fall. Travis Tritt, Steve Earle and Alabama are also contributing tracks.

She also still talks about eventually doing another album with her mother -- maybe in two or three years. "It's something I can't let go of. Maybe we'd do a gospel album. . . . I don't care what anybody says. It's something I need for my own healing. I need to come full circle again. I need her in my life at some point.

"Mom is fearful and she sees this as almost a crutch. Yet I see it as history and family. And Mom does too, but she feels she has to send me on my way. So I said, 'Look, we'll do the album and give all the money to charity.' OK, that's an idea, she said. So we'll see."

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