How can one describe Tina Turner? She was a Black American singer that defied musical genres and racial barriers in entertainment. She was a domestic abuse survivor. She was a woman who reinvented herself and rebranded her career to go to heights unimagined. She was a mother. She was a country girl who made big. On May 24, at the age of 83, the phenomenon known as Tina Turner died.
Turner died at her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland. Her publicist Bernard Doherty confirmed her death in a statement but did not offer the cause. In recent years she did have a stroke and was known to be struggling with kidney disease and other illnesses, The New York Times reported.
“With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model,” her family said in a statement.
“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,” a statement on her verified Facebook page read.
Turner’s life story has been played out in her autobiography, in film, and on Broadway. She was born Anna Mae Bullock in 1939 to sharecroppers near Nutbush, Tennessee. As a young girl, she lived with her grandmother after her parents split. Following the death of their grandmother in the 1950s, she and her sister Ruby moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to live with their mother. Soon after, she met musician Ike Turner, whose band, Kings of Rhythm, were local celebrities. While she was still in high school, at the age of 17, she began performing for him. He credited her as a backup singer named Little Ann on his 1958 record “Boxtop,” The New York Times reported. When the band’s lead singer failed to show up for the recording of “A Fool in Love,” she stepped in. The record was a hit, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart and No. 27 on the pop chart.
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Little Ann soon became Tina, and Ike renamed the group the Ike and Tina Turner Revue in 1960.
Their relationship became romantic, and they had a son, Ronnie, in 1960. They were married in 1962 on a quick trip to Tijuana, Mexico. They raised four children, including two from Ike’s previous relationships and Tina’s song, Craig, also from a previous relationship.
They enjoyed a string of R&B hits, including “A Fool In Love,” “Nutbush City Limits,” and “Proud Mary,” their 1971 cover of a Creedence Clearwater Revival song, which reached No. 4 on the pop charts and won them a Grammy, CNN reported.
Ike and Tina’s relationship turned violent as Ike battled a cocaine addiction and career challenges. n 1976 she left him, she said, with 36 cents and a Mobil gasoline card in her pocket. She divorced him two years later.
“He’d hit me in the ribs and then always try to give me a black eye. He wanted his abuse to be seen. That was the shameful part,” Turner later told Oprah Winfrey in an interview.
Ike died of a cocaine overdose in 2007.
Tine focused on making her solo career a success, although it floundered for years until 1984, when she had a multiplatinum album called “Private Dancer.” It produced a No. 1 hit, “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” At age 44, she became the oldest female artist to score a No. 1 hit. The album sold five million copies. The pop, rock-flavored music was a departure from her hist in the Sixties, and she was now deemed the “Queen of Rock ‘n Roll.”
“For a long time, I felt like I was stuck, with no way out of the unhealthy situation I was in,” she told Harvard Business Review in 2021. “But then I had a series of encounters with different people who encouraged me … And once I could see myself clearly, I began to change, opening the way to confidence and courage. It took a few years, but finally, I was able to stand up for my life and start anew.” She has also become a Buddhist.
In 1985, she was tapped as one of the singers for the all-star charity single “We Are the World,” performed alongside Mick Jagger at the historic Live Aid concerts, and co-starred in Mel Gibson’s film “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” from which came another hit song for her–“We Don’t Need Another Hero.” In 1986, her best-selling memoir, “I, Tina,” was published. By 1993, the book had been made into a film called “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” starring Angela Bassett.
Turner also toured endlessly. In 1988 she performed before about 180,000 people at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro; the show broke a record for the largest paying audience for a solo artist, The New York Times reported. Her “Twenty-Four Seven” tour in 2000 sold more than $100 million in tickets, prompting the Guinness World Records to declare that Turner had sold more concert tickets than any other solo performer in history.
During the 1990s, she left the U.S. and moved to Switzerland with her German boyfriend Erwin Bach, an executive for her record company. There were married in 2013 after a 27-year relationship.
Ike and Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991; she was inducted as a solo artist in 2021.
“One of my early career goals was to become the first Black woman to fill stadiums around the world,” she told NBC. “At the time, it seemed impossible. But I never gave up, and I’m so happy I made that dream come true.
Tina Turner performs on stage, during a concert at the O2 Arena, in London on March 3, 2009. Turner, the unstoppable singer and stage performer, died after a long illness at her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland, according to her manager. She was 83. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, file)