The career of the singer Tina Turner, who died today at the age of 83, can be divided into two parts. From the 1960s to the mid-1970s, she had great success with Ike Turner, her abusive and drug-addicted (second) husband and mentor. They made soul music with a sharp edge, with a clear sound that would later be called funk. hits like River Deep-Mountain High and Proud Mary come from that period.
After her divorce, she built a successful solo career with world hits such as Let’s Stay Together, private dancer and What’s Love Got To Do With It and albums like Simply the Best. The singer has sold more than 200 million records.
‘Queen of Rock & Roll’ Tina Turner (83) passed away
“The Queen of Rock ‘n Roll”, as she was nicknamed, was accompanied by predominantly white musicians in the 1980s and 1990s and had hits with stars such as David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Eros Ramazotti.
She sold about 200 million albums and her concerts, often in large stadiums, were invariably sold out. In more than fifty years she won twelve Grammys, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame together with Ike Turner.
Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock in Tennessee in 1939. As a child she sang in church choirs. After school she worked as a cotton picker, at the age of twelve she was employed as a housekeeper in a white family.
She met Ike Turner in 1958 when she was evicted by her mother because she had become pregnant by the saxophonist of Turner’s band. Turner shared a house with that saxophonist she moved in with, who left her before their son was born.
They got into a relationship and ‘Little Ann’, as her stage name had been until then, changed into Tina Turner and became the face of the band. In 1962 they moved to Los Angeles and got married.
I was deeply unhappy about my relationship with Ike. At first I was very in love with him. But he was totally unpredictable.
They had great success with the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, with its own mixture of soul, funk and R&B. They performed night after night. The well-known American producer Phil Spector was so impressed by Tina Turner that he insisted on making a record with her. That became River Deep-Mountain High (1965) on which a whole new sound could be heard.
But things went wrong on a relational level: Ike abused her. “I was deeply unhappy about my relationship with Ike,” she wrote in her first autobiography I, Tina from 1986. “At first I was very much in love with him. Look at all he had done for me. But he was totally unpredictable.” In 1968 she attempted suicide by taking a large amount of Valium just before a performance.
However, it was not until 1978 that they divorced. Tina Turner had to relinquish the rights to their collaborative songs, but retained the copyright to the songs she wrote, as well as two Jaguars, her fur coats and jewellery. But most importantly, she was allowed to keep the stage name Tina Turner, which was trademarked by Ike.
She did not receive any money, but she did receive care for their four children, two of whom were from Ike’s previous relationships. So she quickly had to work as a solo artist. Turner performed a lot in the years that followed and released new records steadily.
The major commercial success came with her fifth solo album Private Dancer in 1984:
She went on tour almost every year and actually wanted to stop in 1990. But the inevitable ‘farewell tour’ was followed by four other series of concerts. Until old age, she stood out for her energetic style, powerful voice, wild hairstyle, high heels and miniskirts. It wasn’t until 2008, at the age of 69, that she really stopped.
Learning to walk again
Since 1994 she lived in Switzerland on an estate near Zurich with her new partner, the German record executive and producer Erwin Bach, whom she had married in 2013, sixteen years her junior. In that year Turner also obtained a Swiss passport and renounced her American nationality.
Later in life she suffered serious health problems: a stroke in 2013, after which she had to learn to walk again, cancer and problems with her blood pressure caused her kidney function to deteriorate. She was ready to die but was given another chance when her husband donated one of his kidneys to her. In 2018, another setback followed when her eldest son committed suicide at the age of 59.
“I had the most problems when I was young and growing up. But in the period when many people suffer with their age and develop ailments, I found happiness. I am really very happy,” she told the BBC in 2018, to add that she intended to make it to 90.