Tina Turner, the legendary singer and stage performer known for her unstoppable energy and dynamic collaborations with husband Ike Turner, has passed away at the age of 83. Turner, who survived a horrifying marriage and emerged triumphant in her middle age with the chart-topping hit “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” died on Tuesday at her home in Küsnacht, near Zurich, Switzerland, after battling a long illness. She had become a Swiss citizen ten years ago.
Few artists have traveled as far and overcome as much as Tina Turner. Born Anna Mae Bullock in a segregated Tennessee hospital, she rose from her humble beginnings to establish herself as a global superstar. Despite enduring physical abuse, emotional devastation, and financial ruin during her 20-year relationship with Ike Turner, Tina achieved remarkable success as a solo artist in her 40s, defying the industry norms that dictated a decline in career longevity. She continued to captivate audiences as a top concert performer for years to come.
Tina Turner’s musical prowess and charisma garnered her widespread admiration from the entertainment industry. Her extensive catalog of hits, including “Proud Mary,” “Nutbush City Limits,” “River Deep, Mountain High,” and her ’80s chart-toppers like “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” and her cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” solidified her status as one of the world’s most successful entertainers. Her trademark growling contralto, infectious smile, distinctive wigs, and powerful legs, which she proudly displayed, added to her iconic image. With over 150 million records sold worldwide, 12 Grammy Awards, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside Ike Turner in 1991 (and as a solo artist in 2021), and a prestigious honor at the Kennedy Center in 2005, Tina Turner’s influence and talent were widely recognized. Notably, her life story inspired a film, a Broadway musical, and an HBO documentary in 2021, serving as her public farewell.
Before breaking free from her husband and sharing their harrowing story, Tina was primarily known as the dynamic on-stage counterpart to the steady-going Ike, as part of the “Ike and Tina Turner Revue.” Ike took the lead in the act, selecting the material, arrangements, and backing singers. The couple toured extensively for years, often due to Ike’s financial constraints and unwillingness to miss a performance. Despite suffering from bronchitis, pneumonia, and even a collapsed lung, Tina Turner was forced to take the stage. However, many times, her misfortunes were a direct result of Ike’s abusive behavior.
In her memoir, “I, Tina,” Tina Turner revealed that Ike started physically assaulting her shortly after they met in the mid-1950s, and the abuse only grew worse over time. Provoked by anything and anyone, he would throw hot coffee at her, choke her, beat her until her eyes swelled shut, and even rape her. On one occasion, he broke her jaw before she performed with her mouth full of blood. Eventually, Tina found the strength to leave Ike in early July 1976, risking everything. Sneaking out of their Dallas hotel room with only a Mobil credit card and 36 cents while Ike slept, she narrowly avoided a speeding truck and sought refuge in another hotel. Reflecting on that moment, she recalled looking at Ike and realizing, “You just beat me for the last time, you sucker.”
Tina Turner’s courageous decision to speak openly about domestic abuse made her a role model for battered women and a symbol of resilience for all. Although Ike Turner never denied mistreating her, he attempted to shift blame onto Tina for their troubles. When he passed away in 2007, Tina’s representative simply stated, “Tina is aware that Ike passed away.”
Despite the tumultuous nature of her personal life, Tina Turner’s talent and stage presence remained captivating to fans. The Ike and Tina Turner Revue enjoyed immense popularity during the 1960s and ’70s, evolving from soulful ballads such as “A Fool in Love” and “It’s Going to Work Out Fine” to electrifying renditions of “Proud Mary,” “Come Together,” and other rock hits that propelled them into the mainstream.
Their association with the Rolling Stones, including opening for the band in 1966 and 1969, solidified their reputation as a force to be reckoned with. The 1970 Stones documentary “Gimme Shelter” showcased Ike and Tina’s passionate performance of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” In 1993, Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett delivered Oscar-nominated portrayals of Ike and Tina in the film “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” based on Tina’s memoir. However, Tina found it too painful to watch the movie as it brought back memories of her years with Ike.
It was the support of fellow rock stars that reignited Tina Turner’s career when it appeared to be on the decline in the late 1970s. Rod Stewart invited her to perform “Hot Legs” alongside him on “Saturday Night Live,” and Mick Jagger, who had drawn inspiration from Tina’s on-stage moves, joined her for a rendition of “Honky Tonk Women” during the Rolling Stones’ 1981-82 tour. At a listening party for David Bowie’s 1983 album “Let’s Dance,” Bowie publicly declared Tina as his favorite female singer, further boosting her reputation.
Although she enjoyed more success in England than in the United States at the time, Tina Turner recorded a distinctive version of “Let’s Stay Together” at Abbey Road studios in London. By the end of 1983, the song became a hit across Europe and was on the brink of breaking into the American music scene. Capitol Records recognized her potential and signed her, leading to the release of her groundbreaking album “Private Dancer” in May 1984. The album sold over eight million copies, featuring several chart-topping singles, including the title track and “Better Be Good to Me.” Tina earned four Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year for “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” which came to symbolize her resilient spirit in the post-Ike era.
In her memoir, Tina Turner addressed the public’s perception of her as someone who had lived a glamorous and carefree life. She remarked, “People look at me now and think what a hot life I must have lived—ha!” Tina’s journey serves as a testament to her remarkable strength and determination to overcome adversity.
The world has lost a true pop culture icon and a trailblazer in the entertainment industry. Tina Turner’s legacy will forever be remembered through her powerful voice, electrifying performances, and unwavering spirit, inspiring generations to come.