Tina Turner, legendary Queen of Rock, dead at 83
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Tina Turner, the revolutionary “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” who overcame serious personal and professional hurdles to forge a standout six-decade career as a singer and actress, died Wednesday. She was 83.
The “What’s Love Got to Do With It” singer’s rep confirmed to the Telegraph that she passed away after a long illness in her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Tina Turner,” the team behind her official Instagram account announced.
“With her music and her boundless passion for life, she enchanted millions of fans around the world and inspired the stars of tomorrow.
“Today we say goodbye to a dear friend who leaves us all her greatest work: her music. All our heartfelt compassion goes out to her family. Tina, we will miss you dearly.”
The legendary performer first found fame in the 1960s as part of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, which churned out chart-topping songs until she left him after years of domestic abuse.
Having survived the horrifying relationship, Turner later made one of the most dramatic comebacks in music history, achieving international superstardom as a solo artist in the 80s, with hits such as “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”
Also famous for her iconic 1971 version of “Proud Mary” and her role as Aunty Entity in 1985’s “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” Turner was plagued in her final years by ill health, including a stroke, intestinal cancer and kidney failure, which required a transplant.
She bid a final farewell to her fans in the 2021 documentary “Tina.”
“Some people say the life that I lived and the performances that I gave, the appreciation… I should be proud of that. I am,” Tuner said in the HBO doc.
“But when do you stop being proud? I mean, when do you, how do you bow out slowly? Just go away?”
When she retired to live her last act out of the spotlight, Turner had already cemented herself as one of the world’s most iconic singers and influenced a generation of musicians.
She has won 12 Grammy awards, sold more than 200 million albums, acted in several movies and wrote three bestselling memoirs, including one that was adapted into the 1993 biopic “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” starring Angela Bassett as Turner.
Born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939 in rural Tennessee, Turner began her career as a blues singer in nightclubs at the age of 16.
When she was 11, her mother Zelma ran off, seeking freedom from an abusive relationship with Turner’s dad, Floyd, a sharecropper.
Turner stated in her 1986 autobiography “I, Tina” that she felt like she “wasn’t wanted” by her mom, whose 1999 funeral she skipped, Page Six reported at the time.
She first saw Ike Turner perform with his band Kings of Rhythm in the late 50s and soon joined the group.
Ike was responsible for refashioning her into Tina Turner, a sultry songstress with a gritty voice whose stage persona was highlighted by short skirts and stilettos. She was introduced to the world in 1960 with the song “A Fool In Love,” which became a hit single.
That success spawned the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. The duo married in 1962 and had a son, Ronnie, and Tina adopted two of Ike’s children, Ike Jr. and Michael. She also had a son, Craig, from a previous relationship.
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Ike and Tina produced a slew of chart-toppers, including “I Idolize You” and “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” and toured around the country. In 1967, Tina became the first black woman to cover Rolling Stone magazine.
But Ike held tight control over Tina, beating and belittling her. She told Rolling Stone magazine in 1971, “I have to do what Ike says.”
By 1969, the pair’s profile had raised following two stints opening for the Rolling Stones, including on a US tour.
They found fame with their rousing 1971 cover of of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” which won them a Grammy for best R&B vocal performance by a group.
In 1975, Tina made her silver screen debut as The Acid Queen in “Tommy,” a British film based on The Who’s 1969 rock opera.
Behind the scenes, however, Tina would later describe how she suffered a cycle of abuse at the hands of cocaine-addicted Ike.
“He didn’t like that he had had to depend on me. And I didn’t want to start a fight because it was always a black eye, a broken nose, a busted lip, a rib,” she told CBS News in 2019.
The couple finally separated after an altercation in Dallas, in which Tina fought back, she would later say.
Their divorce was finalized in 1978, with Tina citing Ike’s abuse, as well as his frequent infidelities and increasing drug and alcohol use.
After the split, both Ike and Tina fell into obscurity for years. Tina would later say that, when she left Ike, she had just “36 cents and a gas station credit card.”
But Tina made a dramatic comeback in 1982 with the multiplatinum album “Private Dancer,” which included hits “Let’s Stay Together” and “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”
The album went on to win four Grammy Awards and eventually sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
By then in her-mid 40s, the leggy songstress became even more renowned for her energetic performances, raspy voice and iconic punk-inspired style.
She returned to the big screen in 1985, starring opposite Mel Gibson in the post-apocalyptic action flick “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.”
A year later, she published “I, Tina,” which would later be turned into the biopic “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” with both Laurence Fishburne and Bassett earning Academy Award nominations for their portrayals of Ike and Tina respectively.
She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Ike in 1991. He died of an accidental drug overdose in 2007, at which point she said the two hadn’t spoken in 30 years.
“For a long time I did hate Ike, I have to say that. But then, after he died, I really realized that he was an ill person,” Turner said in the documentary.
“It hurts to have to remember those times, but at a certain stage forgiveness takes over, forgiving means not having to hold on.”
Turner finally found love and happiness with German music producer Erwin Bach, whom she met in 1986.
As their relationship blossomed, Turner started to wind down her recording career, producing her last album in 1999, aged 59.
She officially retired from the stage in 2009 after after completing her “Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour,” one of the highest-grossing tours of all time.
“I was just tired of singing and making everybody happy,” she told the New York Times in 2019. “That’s all I’d ever done in my life.”
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But while she was trying to make the world happy, Turner suffered from loneliness, and amid Ike’s abuse, tried to escape with a sleeping pill overdose in 1968.
She also lost her son Craig to suicide in 2018, which she said was her “saddest moment as a mother.”
“He was 59 when he died so tragically, but he will always be my baby,” Turner said in the documentary.
Turner and Bach married in 2013 after a 27-year relationship, and Turner renounced her US citizenship and moved to Switzerland to live in a castle there with him. Their nuptials were “the first time that I got married, as far as I was concerned,” Turner once said.
In her 2018 autobiography “Tina Turner: My Love Story,” she revealed that Bach, who is 16 years her junior, saved her life by giving her a kidney when she needed a transplant two years earlier.
“I could hardly believe it then, and there are times when I still can’t believe it.” she wrote. “When he thought about his future, he thought of me. ‘My future is our future,’ he told me.”
In addition to being the subject of a hit movie, Turner’s boundary-breaking career and turbulent life were also turned into the popular show “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” which opened on Broadway in 2019.
She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a solo act in 2021.
While promoting her 2018 book, Turner told CBS’ Gayle King that she was “glad” her time on stage was over, to which the anchor said, “People miss you, though, Tina.”
“That’s OK,” Turner had replied with a laugh. “They can go watch the videos… enjoy those. But I’m finished with it.”
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