The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll is no more. Singer Tina Turner, whose soul classics and pop hits like The Best and What’s Love Got to Do With It made her a superstar, has died at the age of 83.
She won eight Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2021 as a solo artist, having earlier been inducted alongside her former husband Ike.
In 2013, at the age of 73, she became the oldest person ever to feature on the cover of Vogue magazine. “I will never give in to old age until I’m old,” she said. “And I’m not old yet.”
She married a record executive, Erwin Bach, after a 27-year relationship, and abandoned her US citizenship to become a citizen of Switzerland.
American singer Gloria Gaynor, who gained prominence at the same time, said Turner “paved the way for so many women in rock music, black and white”. Another contemporary, Diana Ross, said she was “shocked” and “saddened” by Turner’s death.
In 2020, she released an updated version of What’s Love Got to Do with It? It entered the UK top 40, making her the first artist to achieve the feat in seven separate decades.
A year later, Turner sold the rights to her work to BMG Rights management for more than $50m and was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Before she died, Tina Turner found herself the subject of a musical in London’s West End that told the story of her incredible life.
She was once asked what had driven her on through the years of struggle and abuse.
“I stayed on course from the beginning to the end,” she said, “because I believed in something inside of me that told me that it can get better.”
Sir Mick Jagger described the star as “enormously talented”, singling out the fact that “she helped me so much when I was young”. Sir Elton John, called Turner a “total legend on record and on stage”
Life ain’t Easy!
In recent years, she suffered a number of health issues: cancer, a stroke and kidney failure.
She rose to fame alongside husband Ike [they were billed as Ike and Tina Turner in those days – the 1960s] with songs including Proud Mary and River Deep, Mountain High.
She was almost 40 before she broke free from an abusive relationship to establish herself as a solo artist.
She divorced the abusive Ike in 1978 and went on to find even greater success as a solo artist in the 1980s. Tina Turner was famous for her ‘raunchy and energetic’ stage performances and husky, powerful vocals.
Singer Mariah Carey called Turner not only an “incredible performer” but also a “survivor and an inspiration to women everywhere”.
No Silver Spoon
Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on 26 November 1939 in the small rural town of Nutbush, Tennessee. Her father Floyd worked on a local farm.
Tina wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She and her elder sister Aillene were separated when her parents moved to work in a munitions factory during the World War, and the young Anna Mae went to live with strict religious grandparents. She would sing in the Baptist Church choir.
Her mother walked out when she was just 11 and, two years later, when her father remarried, Anna and her sister were sent to live with her grandmother in Brownsville, Tennessee.
President Barak Obama praised her for “singing her truth through joy and pain”. Current US President Joe Biden, who noted that Turner had started life as a farmer’s daughter and saluted her “once-in-a-generation talent”.
She became a cheerleader at her local school, played basketball and enjoyed a hectic social life. On graduating in 1958, she got a job at a hospital in St Louis, Missouri, and set out to become a nurse.
‘Gutsy’ is the word to describe the late great Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
It was in a nightclub, where she and her sister had gone for the evening, that she first saw Ike Turner perform with his band, The Kings of Rhythm.
When Ike Turner refused to give her an audition, she waited for the intermission in his show, grabbed a drummer’s microphone and let rip.
She sang with the band for the rest of the night, and soon got equal billing with Ike himself – later marrying her co-star.
TV presenter Oprah Winfrey cited Turner’s “courage”, adding: “Her life became a clarion call for triumph.”
Ike was encouraged to put his protege in the front of the band and persuaded her to change her name to Tina. By now, she was in a relationship with Ike, who had divorced his fifth wife. The couple finally married in 1962.
Trauma: My Love Story
She recalled the trauma she suffered throughout their relationship in her 2018 memoir, My Love Story, in which she compared sex with the late musician to “a kind of rape”.
“He used my nose as a punching bag so many times that I could taste blood running down my throat when I sang,” she wrote.
After escaping her abuser, she went on to rebuild her career and become one of the biggest pop and rock stars of the 80s and 90s, with hits including Let’s Stay Together, Steamy Windows, Private Dancer, James Bond theme GoldenEye, I Don’t Wanna Fight and It Takes Two, a duet with Rod Stewart.
She also starred in 1985 film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome – which featured another of her smashes, We Don’t Need Another Hero – and The Who’s 1975 rock opera Tommy as the Acid Queen.
An enduring Icon
Tina’s life story spawned a 1993 biopic titled What’s Love Got To Do With It, which earned Angela Bassett an Oscar nomination for playing the star; and a hit stage musical – aptly titled Tina: The Musical. She was also the subject of HBO documentary Tina in 2021.
In an interview with Marie Claire South Africa in 2018, Turner said: “People think my life has been tough, but I think it’s been a wonderful journey. The older you get, the more you realise it’s not what happened, it’s how you deal with it.”
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