NEW YORK (AP) — Tina Turner, the ageless singer and stage performer who teamed up with husband Ike Turner for a dynamic run of hit records and live shows in the 1960s and ’70s and her troubled marriage in middle age off the charts Won the -topping “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” has died at age 83.
He died on Tuesday after a long illness at his home in Kusnacht, near Zurich, according to Turner’s manager. She became a Swiss citizen a decade ago.
Few stars traveled that far — she was born Anna Mae Bullock in an isolated Tennessee hospital and spent her later years at a 260,000-square-foot estate on Lake Zurich — and went far beyond. Physically battered, emotionally devastated and financially ruined by her 20-year relationship with Ike Turner, she became a superstar in her own right in her 40s, at a time when most of her peers were down were going, and remained a top concert for years afterwards.
“How can we bid farewell to a woman who owned her pain and trauma and used it as a means to help change the world?” Angela Bassett, who played Turner in the 1993 biopic “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” said in a statement.
“Through his courage in telling his story, his commitment to staying the course in life, no matter the sacrifice, and his determination to make a place in rock and roll for himself and others who look like him.” Determined, Tina Turner showed others who lived in fear what a beautiful future filled with love, compassion, and freedom should look like.
With fans ranging from Mick Jagger to Beyoncé to Mariah Carey, the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” was one of the world’s hottest entertainers, performing pop, rock and rhythm and blues favorites: “Proud Mary” Was known. “Nutbush City Limits,” “River Deep, Mountain High,” and his hits in the ’80s, among them “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “We Don’t Need Another Hero” and a cover of Al Green’s Let’s stay together.”
Her trademarks included a growling contralto that could smolder or explode, her bold smile and strong cheekbones, her palette of wigs and the muscular, dashing legs she wasn’t shy about showing. She’s sold over 150 million records worldwide, won 12 Grammys, was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Ike in 1991 (and on her own in 2021) and honored at the Kennedy Center with Beyoncé and Oprah in 2005 Kiya Winfrey is among those who praised him. His life became the basis for a film, a Broadway musical and an HBO documentary due in 2021 called A Public Farewell.
Until she left her husband and revealed her back story, she was best known as the gourmet on-stage foil of stable-goer Ike, the leading lady of the “Ike and Tina Turner Revue”. Ike was billed first and ran the show, choosing material, arrangements, backing singers. They toured continuously for years, partly because Ike was often short of money and unwilling to miss a concert. Tina Turner was forced to leave with a collapsed right lung, with pneumonia, with bronchitis.
Other times, the cause of his misfortune was Ike himself.
As she recounted in her memoir, “I, Tina”, Ike began hitting on her shortly after they met in the mid-1950s, and only grew more vicious. Provoked by anything and anyone, he would throw hot coffee in her face, strangle her, or beat her until her eyes were swollen, then rape her. Before a show, he broke her jaw and she went on stage with a mouth full of blood.
Terrified of both being with Ike and being permanent without him, she credited her budding Buddhist faith in the mid-1970s with giving her a sense of strength and self-worth, and she finally left in early July 1976. The Ike and Tina Turner Revue was when Tina walked out of her Dallas hotel room with just a Mobil credit card and 36 cents, set to embark on a tour marking the country’s bicentennial while Ike was asleep. I went. She sped onto a nearby highway, avoiding a speeding truck, and found another hotel.
“I looked at him (Ike) and thought, ‘You beat me last time, you suck,'” he recalled in his memoir.
Turner was one of the first celebrities to speak openly about domestic abuse, becoming a heroine for battered women and a symbol of resilience for all. Ike Turner did not deny abusing her, although he tried to blame Tina for their troubles. When he died, in 2007, a representative for his ex-wife said simply: “Tina knows that Ike has passed away.”
Little did Ike and Tina fans know about it during the duo’s prime. Turner was a hot act in the 1960s and ’70s, from bluesy ballads like “A Fool in Love” and “It’s Going to Work Out Fine” to catchy covers of “Proud Mary” and “Come Together.” and other rock songs that brought them crossover success.
They opened for the Rolling Stones in 1966 and 1969, and were seen performing a sensuous version of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” in the 1970 Stones documentary “Gimme Shelter”. Bassett and Laurence Fishburne gave an Oscar-nominated performance in “What’s Love Got to Do With It”, based on “I, Tina”, but she would say that re-living her years with Ike was so painful that she found it hard to see herself. Could not bring movie.
Ike and Tina reworked “Proud Mary”, a tight, mid-tempo hit originally intended for Creedence Clearwater Revival, which helped define their sexual aura. Against a backdrop of funky guitars and Ike’s humming baritone, Tina begins with a few spoken words about how some people wanted to hear “nice and easy” songs.
“But that’s one thing,” he warned, “you see, we never do anything nice and easy.
“We always do it good – and rough.”
But by the late 1970s, Turner’s career seemed to be on the wane. She was 40, her first solo album had flopped and her live shows were mostly confined to the cabaret circuit. Desperate for work and money, she even agreed to tour in South Africa when the country was widely boycotted because of its racist apartheid regime.
Rock stars helped bring them back. Rod Stewart convinced her to sing “Hot Legs” with him on “Saturday Night Live” and Jagger, who openly borrowed some of Turner’s on-stage moves, performed during the Stones’ 1981–82 tour. sang “Honky Tonk Women” with them. At a listening party for his 1983 album “Let’s Dance”, David Bowie told guests that Turner was his favorite singer.
“She was inspiring, warm, funny and generous,” Jagger tweeted Wednesday. “He helped me a lot when I was little and I will never forget him.”
More popular in England at the time than in America, she recorded a raspy version of “Let’s Stay Together” at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in London. By late 1983, “Let’s Stay Together” had become a hit across Europe and was on the verge of breaking in the States. John Carter, an A&R man at Capitol Records, urged the label to sign her up and produce an album. Among the material submitted was a contemplative pop-reggae ballad co-written by Terry Britton and Graham Lyle and initially dismissed as “cowardly” by Tina.
“I thought it was some old pop song, and I didn’t like it,” she later said on “What’s Love Got to Do With It”.
Turner’s “Private Dancer” album came out in May 1984, which sold over eight million copies and contained several hit singles including the title track and “Better Be Good to Me”. It won four Grammys, among them record of the year for “What’s Love Got to Do With It”, the song that came to define her clear-eyed image for years afterward.
“People look at me now and think what a hot life I must have had – ha!” He wrote in his memoirs.
Even with Ike, it was hard to mistake him for being romantic. Her voice was never “pretty”, and love songs were never her forte, as she had little experience to draw upon. She was born in Nutbush, Tennessee in 1939 and says she received “no love” from her mother or father. After her parents separated, she frequently moved around Tennessee and Missouri, living with various relatives. She was outgoing, loved to sing, and as a teenager checked out blues clubs in St. Louis, where one of the top draws was Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm. Tina doesn’t notice his looks the first time they attend a Manhattan club.
“Then he got up on stage and picked up his guitar,” he wrote in his memoir. “He hit a note, and I thought, ‘Jesus, listen to this guy play.'”
Tina soon made her move. During intermission at an Ike Turner show at the nearby Club D’Lisa, Ike was alone on stage, playing a blues melody on the keyboard. Tina recognizes the song, B.B. King’s “You Know I Love You,” grabs a microphone and sings along. As Tina remembers, a stunned Ike calls out “GIRRL!!” and demanded to know what else she could perform. Over her mother’s objections, she agrees to join their group. She changed her first name to Tina, inspired by the comic book heroine Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, and changed her last name after marrying him in 1962.
In rare moments of generosity from Ike, Tina enjoys success on her own. He added a roaring lead vocal to Phil Spector’s Titanic production of “River Deep, Mountain High,” which flopped in the US when it was released in 1966, but was a hit overseas and eventually became a standard. She was also featured as Acid Queen in the 1975 film version of the Who’s rock opera “Tommy”. Recent film work includes a cameo in “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It”.
Turner had two sons: Craig, with saxophonist Raymond Hill; and Ronald, with Ike Turner. (Craig Turner was found dead of an apparent suicide in 2018). Later in a memoir published in 2018, “Tina Turner: My Love Story,” she revealed that she had received a kidney transplant from her second husband, former EMI record executive Erwin Bach.
Turner’s life seemed to be an argument against marriage, but her life with Bach was the kind of love story young Tina did not believe possible. They met in the mid-1980s when she was in Germany for record promotion and he picked her up at the airport. He was more than a decade younger than she — “the most beautiful face,” she said of him in the HBO documentary — and the attraction was mutual. She married Bach in 2013, taking vows in a civil ceremony in Switzerland.
“It’s the happiness that people talk about,” Turner told the press at the time, “when you want nothing, when you can finally take a deep breath and say, ‘Everything is good. ‘”
Associated Press Writer Hillary Fox contributed to this report.
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