RIP…The Queen of Rock & Roll: Tina Turner Remembered

Text by Dawoud Kringle

Tina TurnerThe music world was shocked to hear of the passing of Tina Turner.

Born Anna Mae Bullock in Brownsville TN and raised in Nutbush, TN, on November 26, 1939, she began her interest in singing with the church choir at Nutbush’s Spring Hill Baptist Church. She first saw Ike Turner (who, it should be noted, played guitar on “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats; which historians believe was the first ever Rock & Roll record) perform with The Kings of Rhythm in East St. Louis. She asked Turner to let her sing in his band, but he refused. One night in 1957, during an intermission, she grabbed a microphone and sang BB King’s “You Know I Love You.” Turner was impressed and she became a featured vocalist with his band.

In 1960, Ike Turner wrote and produced a single for Art Lassiter called “A Fool in Love.” Lassiter failed to show up for the session, and Bullock sang on it. It charted at No. 27 on Billboard’s 100. Their next single “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” reached No. 14 on the Hot 100 and No. 2 on the R&B chart in 1961, earning them a Grammy.

After the release of “A Fool in Love”, Turner created the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Between 1963 and 1965, the band toured constantly and produced moderately successful R&B singles. Their exciting live show (which rivaled that of James Brown) and profitability allowed them to perform in front of desegregated audiences in the south.

Phil Spector worked out a deal with Ike & Tina Turner’s manager Bob Krasnow, offering $20,000 for creative control over the sessions to produce Turner and have them released from their contract. They signed to Spector’s Phillies label in April 1966 and produced “River Deep, Mountain High.” Spector later said it was his best work as a producer. The impact of the record landed them an opening spot for the Rolling Stones in 1966. In November 1967, Turner became the first female artist and the first black artist to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

In 1969 they released Outta Season, which included covers of the Beatles “Come Together” and Sly & the Family Stone‘s “I Wanna Take You Higher.” In early 1971, their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” became their biggest hit. The single reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 and sold more than a million copies, winning them a Grammy.

Their success was marred by problems caused by Ike Turner’s physical abuse against Tina, and his cocaine habit. Ike made plans to leave United Artists Records for a five-year deal with Creem Records for $150,000 per year. On July 1, four days before the deal was to be signed, the Turners flew to Dallas TX for a performance. They got into a violent physical altercation en route to the hotel. Shortly after arriving at the hotel, Turner fled from Ike with 36 cents and a Mobil card and hid at a nearby Ramada Inn hotel. She filed for divorce on July 27, and it was finalized on March 29, 1978 (Ike Turner stated on several occasions that he was never officially married to Turner because he was legally married to another woman. However they had a common law marriage and had to initiate a formal divorce).

Turner was introduced to Buddhism in 1973 by Ike Turner’s friend Valerie Bishop. Turner later practiced Buddhism with her neighborhood Soka Gakkai International chanting group. Turner met with the 14th Dalai Lama on August 2, 2005. In 2009 she met Swiss-Tibetan Buddhist singer Dechen Shak-Dagsey. They co-created a spiritual music project with Shak-Dagsay and Swiss singer Regula Curti called Beyond.

In 1976 and 1977, Turner earned income by appearing on TV shows (including The Hollywood Squares, Donny & Marie, and the Sonny & Cher Show). After her separation from Ike, she was hit with several lawsuits for canceled Ike & Tina Turner gigs. Turner resumed touring to pay off her debts with finances given to her by United Artists executive Mike Stewart.

Her solo career experienced a resurgence in 1984 when her album Private Dancer reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 in the United Kingdom. The album was certified 5× Platinum in the United States, and sold 10 million copies worldwide, becoming her most successful album. On September 1, 1984, Turner achieved her first and only No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “What’s Love Got to Do with It”. The follow-up singles “Better Be Good to Me” and “Private Dancer” were top 10 hits in the US. She also contributed vocals for the song “We Are The World” for the USA For Africa benefit song.

Turner’s foray into acting was also a success. She’s played the Acid Queen in Ken Russel‘s production of the Who’s rock opera Tommy. She played opposite Mel Gibson in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. She also released a single for the movie titled “We Don’t Need Another Hero.”

In 1986, Turner met German music executive Erwin Bach. Bach was over sixteen years her junior. After years of close friendship that developed into a long standing romantic relationship, they married in July 2013.

In January 1988, Turner performed in front of approximately 180,000 people at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. This performance set a Guinness World Record for the Largest Paying Concert Attendance for a Solo Artist.

Turner’s life story was portrayed in the 1993 biopic titled What’s Love Got To Do With It. Angela Bassett played Turner, winning her an Oscar nomination.

Turner began living at Château Algonquin in Kusnacht, Switzerland in 1994. In 2013 she applied for Swiss citizenship, and later relinquished her US citizenship, saying that she no longer had any strong ties to the United States and “has no plans to reside” there in the future.

In 1995, Turner released the track “Golden Eye” for the James Bond film of the same name (the song was written by U2’s Bono and The Edge). In 1999, she released her last solo album Twenty Four Seven. Her tour behind the album was the highest-grossing tour of 2000, and grossed over $120 million. She continued to make occasional performances after her retirement, including an appearance with Beyonce at the 2008 Grammys, and her “Tina! 50th Anniversary Tour.” In 2009 she announced her retirement.

Turner co-founded a global music foundation – Swiss Beyond Foundation – with Swiss Christian musician, Regula Curti and Swiss Tibetan Buddhist, Dechen Shak-Dagsay. Tina Turner co-released 4 albums of spiritual or uplifting music. As of 2023 the Swiss Beyond Foundation remained active and enabled the collaboration of musical artists from different parts of the world. In 2016 Turner announced that she had been working with Phillida Lloyd and Stage Entertainment on Tina, a musical based on her life story,

In October 2021, Turner sold her music rights to BMG Rights Management for an estimated $50 million. Later that month, Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist.

On May 24, 2023, at the age of 83, following lengthy struggles with cancer, strokes, and kidney failure, Turner died at her home in Kusnacht Switzerland,

In 1969, music critic Ralph Gleason put it best when he said “In the context of today’s show business, Tina Turner must be the most sensational professional onstage. She comes on like a hurricane. She dances and twists and shakes and sings and the impact is instant and total.”

The modern female R&B singer owes Tina Turner a debt beyond calculation. She is the standard by which all others will be measured. Her voice was the essence of feminine power. She was sexy without trying, and retained her dignity in the face of overwhelming odds. She rocked it until it couldn’t be rocked anymore, and then rocked it again!

MFM Salutes the memory of Tina Turner.