The World Has Lost The Iconic Tina Turner
This one hurt straight to the bone. And if you heard a high-pitched “Noooooo,” earlier, that was me reacting to the news that legendary icon and trailblazer Tina Turner has died. Tina’s rep delivered the news of sadness in this statement:
“Tina Turner, the ‘Queen of Rock’n Roll’ has died peacefully today at the age of 83 after a long illness in her home in Kusnacht near Zurich, Switzerland. With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model.”
Tina was 83.
Most of us know about Tina Turner’s life from repeatedly watching What’s Love Got to Do with It and reading her 1986 memoir, I, Tina. So you’ll probably scream at me, “We know,” when I tell you that Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939. Now, I always thought that Tina was born in Nutbush, Tennessee. She spent her childhood in Nutbush but was actually born in nearby Brownsville. Tina had a hard childhood. Her mother left her and her older sisters to escape their abusive father. After Tina’s father married another woman, she and her sisters went to live with their maternal grandmother. When Tina was a teenager, she lost her sister Evelyn in a car accident.
Tina grew up singing in the church, and when she got older, she and her sister Ruby Alline Bullock hit up clubs in St. Louis. At one of those clubs is where Tina first saw Ike Turner perform and was mesmerized by him. Tina convinced Ike to let her sing with his band. And that was the beginning of Anna Mae Bullock’s journey into becoming THEE Tina Turner, as well as the beginning of an abusive and toxic relationship with Ike Turner, who she married in 1962.
Tina sang backup for Ike’s band, but when singer Art Lassiter failed to show up to record Ike’s song A Fool in Love, she volunteered to sing it. When Juggy Murray, co-founder of Sue Records, heard Tina’s demo, he let Ike know that she should be the star of the show. Ike then renamed Anna Marie Bullock “Tina” because he wanted to model her stage persona after Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, and Tina rhymes with Sheena. Here’s Tina Turner giving you ROCK and SOUL while sandblasting the walls of my ears in a good way:
Tina wrote in her 2018 memoir My Love Story that when it became apparent that she was a star, that’s when Ike really became abusive and controlling:
“My relationship with Ike was doomed the day he figured out I was going to be his moneymaker. He needed to control me, economically and psychologically, so I could never leave him.”
Throughout the 60s and into the 70s, Ike and Tina Turner made several albums together, opened for the Rolling Stones on tour, did a Las Vegas residency, and released hit songs like Nutbush City Limits and River Deep Mountain High:
During the Ike & Tina years, Tina did go off and do her own thing sometimes, like setting fire to the screen as The Acid Queen in 1975’s Tommy. One year after Tommy‘s release, Ike assaulted Tina at the Statler Hilton in Dallas, and she ran from him with only a few cents on her. She filed for divorce three weeks later. And she left the marriage with just two cars and her stage name.
After leaving Ike, Tina was faced with lawsuits from canceled Ike & Tina gigs. She paid off her debts by appearing on variety shows, doing a solo tour in Australia, and starring in a string of cabaret shows in Vegas. Tina also released a couple of solo albums at the end of the 1970s, but they failed to chart. In 1983, Tina released her cover of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together, and that got some play. So Capitol Records ordered a full album from her, and she only had two weeks to record it. Private Dancer came out on May 24, 1984, and it went on to sell 10 million copies. It was a comeback, AND HOW! Especially since Tina was in her mid-40s when Private Dancer was released, and to the music industry, a woman in her 40s is about as old as Methesula’s bone dust.
Private Dancer is a treasure trove of pure gold thanks to What’s Love Got to Do with It, her cover of I Can’t Stand The Rain, Let’s Stay Together, Private Dancer, and my personal favorite, Better Be Good To Me. I’m gayer than a flamingo getting a glitter enema while ass up on a rainbow, but when Tina coos “hot whispeeeers in the night,” I turn straight for a second. Every time.
The massive success of Private Dancer turned Tina into a bona fide 80s icon. Not to mention that a year later, in 1985, the world really learned that Tina Turner was a force when she yodeled out We Don’t Need Another Hero for the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome soundtrack. Tina also played Aunt Entity in the movie. Tina went on to release four more studio albums: Break Every Rule (1986), Foreign Affair (1989), Wildest Dreams (1996), and Twenty Four Seven (1999). In 1990, Tina released her greatest hits album, Simply The Best. And in 1995, Tina delivered sultriness and intrigue while singing the theme song for the Bond movie GoldenEye
Throughout her career, Tina won 12 Grammys (including a Lifetime Achievement Award) and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice (once with Ike Turner). She also set a Guinness World Record in 1988 for the “Largest paying rock concert attendance for a solo artist” when she performed for 180,000 people in Rio de Janeiro.
Tina first bravely shared her story about being a survivor of abuse in a 1981 profile for People Magazine. Tina told her story in more detail in I, Tina, which of course, was turned into the movie What’s Love Got to Do with It, starring Angela Bassett. In 2021, HBO released the documentary Tina. And the musical based on her life, Tina, opened in the West End in 2018 before going to Broadway in 2019.
During an interview with Larry King in 1997, he called her a feminist hero for being open about the marital abuse she suffered from, and she said that her life would probably be different if she didn’t share her story. via HuffPo
“I think that if I had not given the story to the world, maybe my life [would not be] what it is,” the singer told King, explaining how she didn’t know what would happen when she went public with her story in the ’80s.
“It wasn’t something that I planned.”
During that same interview, Tina also talked about moving to Europe because Europeans were more supportive of her career, and that’s where her partner, producer Erwin Bach, lived. Tina and Erwin married in 2013 after 27 years together. Here’s Tina talking about that, as well as how converting to Buddhism changed her life:
Tina is survived by Erwin Bach and her two sons, Ike Turner Jr. and Michael Turner, who were Ike’s sons from a previous relationship and who she adopted. Tina’s first child, Craig Turner, whose father was saxophonist Raymond Hill, died in 2018 at 59. Tina’s only biological child with Ike, Ronnie Turner, died last year at 62.
Rest in peace, Tina Turner. My neighbors better get ready for a non-stop Tina Turner song marathon blasting from my speakers for the next few days as a tribute to this powerhouse goddess:
Pic: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images