Tina Turner, the American-born “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” died Tuesday at the age of 83.
On Wednesday, a representative for Turner said she died peacefully at her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland, after a long illness. She became a Swiss citizen a decade ago.
Turner was best known for her dynamic stage presence, powerful pipes, and long, muscular legs, churning out a run of hit records and live shows in the 1960s and ’70s with her then-husband, Ike Turner.
Ike Turner discovered her at age 17 when she grabbed the mic to sing at his club show in St. Louis in 1957. He was responsible for her stage name (she was born Anna Mae Bullock in 1939) and the two married in Tijuana, Mexico.
However, her 20-year marriage was also a major source of burden and heartbreak, which left her physically battered, financially ruined and emotionally scarred.
As she recounted in her memoir, I, Tina, Ike began hitting her in the mid-1950s, shortly after they met, and the violence escalated quickly. She said he was quickly provoked by anyone and everything and would take it out on her by choking her, throwing hot coffee in her face, or beating her until she couldn’t open her swollen eyes, before raping her. Before one show, he broke her jaw and she went on stage with her mouth full of blood.
Turner left her husband one night in 1976 on a tour stop in Dallas – with just a credit card and a few cents in her pocket – after he pummeled her during a car ride and she struck back, according to her memoir. Their divorce was finalized in 1978.
However, in the aftermath of the divorce, she channeled her emotional turmoil and sorrow into her career, which sent her skyrocketing to fame in her 40s — a time when many other entertainers’ careers begin to slow down.
In 1980, she met new manager Roger Davies, an Australian music executive who went on to manage her for three decades. That led to a solo no.1, What’s Love Got to Do With It, and then in 1984 her album Private Dancer landed her at the top of the charts.
Private Dancer went on to become Turner’s biggest album, the capstone of a career that saw her sell more than 200 million records in total.
Turner was one of the world’s most successful entertainers, known for a core of pop, rock and rhythm and blues favourites: Proud Mary, Nutbush City Limits, River Deep, Mountain High, and the hits she had in the ’80s, among them We Don’t Need Another Hero and a cover of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together.
Turner was among the first celebrities to speak candidly about domestic abuse, becoming a heroine to abused women and a symbol of resilience to all. Ike Turner did not deny mistreating her, although he tried to blame Tina for their troubles. When he died, in 2007, a representative for his ex-wife said simply: “Tina is aware that Ike passed away.”
She was honoured at the Kennedy Center in 2005, with Beyoncé and Oprah Winfrey among those praising her. Her life became the basis for a film, a Broadway musical and an HBO documentary in 2021 that she called her public farewell.
In a memoir published in 2018, Tina Turner: My Love Story, she revealed that she had received a kidney transplant from her second husband, former EMI record executive Erwin Bach.
While her first marriage was an extremely toxic and tainted affair, her relationship with Bach, who was a decade younger than her, was a love story she always hoped for and the two married in a civil ceremony in Switzerland in 2013.
“It’s that happiness that people talk about,” Turner told the press of her marriage to Back at the time, “when you wish for nothing, when you can finally take a deep breath and say, ‘Everything is good.’”
In 2018, while battling health problems, she faced a family tragedy, when her oldest son, Craig, took his life at age 59 in Los Angeles. Her younger son Ronnie died in December 2022.
She is survived by Bach and two sons of Ike’s that she adopted.
— with files from The Associated Press and Reuters
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