Tina Turner, the legendary rock’n’roll star who became a pop icon in the 1980s, died at 83 after a long illness. She suffered ill health recently, having been diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016 and having a kidney transplant in 2017.
Tina Turner, born Anna Mae Bullock, was an American-born singer-songwriter and actress who captivated audiences for over five decades with her powerful voice, energetic performances, and iconic style. Beginning her career with Ike Turner in the 1950s, Tina eventually broke free from her abusive marriage and embarked on a massively successful solo career that cemented her status as a rock and roll legend.
Early life and introduction to music
Born on November 26, 1939, in Nutbush, Tennessee, Tina Turner was the daughter of Floyd and Zelma Bullock, who were sharecroppers. After her parents separated in the early 1950s, Turner lived with her maternal grandmother in Nutbush. At 16, she moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where she would eventually begin her music career.
As a teenager, Turner immersed herself in the local rhythm-and-blues scene in St. Louis. She met Ike Turner at a performance by his band, the Kings of Rhythm, in 1956 and soon became part of the act. Initially performing under the stage name “Little Ann,” she was given the moniker “Tina Turner” by Ike Turner, who reportedly trademarked the name to maintain control over her career.
The Ike and Tina Turner Revue
The ensemble, which toured as the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, was renowned for its live performances but struggled to find recording success. That changed in 1960 when “A Fool in Love” hit the pop charts, and a string of hit singles followed. Ike and Tina were married in 1962, although the date is subject to some speculation (during the couple’s divorce proceedings in 1977, Ike claimed that the two were never legally married).
Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Ike and Tina Turner released multiple hit songs, including “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” “River Deep–Mountain High,” and “Nutbush City Limits.” Their electrifying stage presence and dynamic performances earned them a dedicated fanbase and critical acclaim.
The struggles behind the scenes
Despite their professional success, Tina’s personal life was fraught with difficulty. She endured years of physical abuse and infidelity at the hands of Ike Turner. In 1978, Tina divorced Ike, citing his frequent affairs and increasing drug and alcohol use in addition to the abuse.
Tina Turner’s solo career
After separating from Ike Turner, Tina embarked on a solo career that initially struggled to gain traction. However, her persistence paid off, and in 1984, Tina released her debut solo album, Private Dancer, which won three Grammy Awards and sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
Private Dancer marked a turning point in Tina’s career, earning her critical and commercial success. The album’s hit single, “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” became Turner’s signature song and won her the Grammy for Record of the Year. Other successful singles from the album include “Better Be Good to Me” and the smooth-jazz title track “Private Dancer.”
In the late 1980s, Turner continued to enjoy musical success with albums such as Break Every Rule (1986), Foreign Affair (1989), and Wildest Dreams (1996). In addition to her music career, Tina also ventured into acting, making her film debut in 1975 as the Acid Queen in the Who’s Tommy. She later starred opposite Mel Gibson in 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Autobiographies and film adaptation
Tina Turner has written two autobiographies: I, Tina (1986; co-written with Kurt Loder) and My Love Story (2018). I, Tina was later adapted into the 1993 film What’s Love Got to Do with It, starring Angela Bassett as Tina and Laurence Fishburne as Ike. The film earned both actors Oscar nominations for their performances.
Recognition and Awards
Tina Turner received numerous accolades throughout her career, including eight Grammy Awards and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice—once as a duo with Ike Turner in 1991 and later as a solo performer in 2021. In 2005, she was honoured with a Kennedy Center Honor, and in 2018, she received a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Spiritual journey and later life
In the 1970s, Turner was introduced to Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, which greatly influenced her life and helped her find peace. She later collaborated on spiritual albums such as Beyond: Buddhist and Christian Prayers (2010), Children Beyond (2011), and Love Within (2014). In 2013, Turner became a Swiss citizen and married her longtime partner, German record executive Erwin Bach.
Throughout her later years, Turner experienced several major health issues, including a stroke, cancer, and a kidney transplant. Despite these challenges, she continued to make occasional appearances and participate in projects related to her music. In 2018, the musical TINA: The Tina Turner Musical opened in London, further celebrating her life and career.
Legacy and impact
Tina Turner’s incredible journey, from her humble beginnings in rural Tennessee to her status as a global rock icon, is an inspiration to millions. Her resilience, determination, and immense talent have made her one of the most influential and successful artists in music history. A Tina Turner Barbie doll was released in 2021 as a testament to her enduring impact, further immortalising the rock legend.
Tina Turner’s life and career are a testament to the power of perseverance, talent, and self-belief. Despite facing numerous challenges and setbacks, she emerged as a trailblazing rock icon. Through her captivating performances, timeless music, and inspiring personal story, Tina Turner has left an indelible mark on the world of music.
Rest in Peace, Tina Turner