Tina Turner, Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Dies Age 83

Tina Turner performs at the Poplar Creek Music Theater on September 12,1987 in Hoffman Es
Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Tina Turner, the legendary pop and rock icon who defied and ruled an often male-dominated genre and topped the charts for decades, has passed at the age of 83.

From her humble beginnings as Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee, to her meteoric rise as half of Ike & Tina, to her triumph over an abusive marriage to emerge as the Queen of Rock’n Roll, Tina Turner embodied survivalism and artistic integrity in ways unmatched in the music industry.

Tina Turner died Wednesday at her home in Küsnacht, near Zurich, Switzerland, following a long illness, a spokesman for the singer said. She was 83.

With her signature raspy singing voice and athletic stage presence, Turner possessed a singular kind of star power that has provided a template for generations of younger female pop stars to imitate but never match.

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Her turbulent personal life — which included decades of physical abuse by her ex-husband Ike Turner — only endeared her to her fans whose loyalty to her remained strong well into her eighth decade.

Photo of Ike Turner (1931-2007) and Tina Turner posed circa 1964. (GAB Archive/Redferns)

Her hits spanned more than 50 years and included many singles made with Ike Turner, whom she first met in 1957 when she was an unknown talent fresh off the bus from Tennessee. Together, the couple recorded a string of hits included “A Fool in Love,” “Nutbush City Limits,” and their smash sensation version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.”

Her 1984 single “What’s Love Got to Do With It” — made following her bitter divorce from Ike — became the biggest hit of career and later served as the title for the 1993 Hollywood movie about her life, starring Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne.

She scored another smash with “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” which was written for the 1985 movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, in which Turner starred.

During the 90’s, her biggest hit was “I Don’t Wanna Fight,” which was used in the soundtrack for the movie What’s Love Got to Do With It.

In 1989, she recorded a cover version of “The Best” for her greatest hits album. The single — often referred to as “Simply the Best” — became something of a calling card for Turner and helped make her a wealthy woman thanks to its frequent use in TV commercials.

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Born in 1939 as Anna Mae Bullock, Turner grew up in relative poverty in Nutbush, Tennessee where her father worked as a sharecropper picking cotton. Her extraordinary talents as a singer became evident early on in performance with the local church choir.

As recounted in her bestselling memoir I, Tina, the singer got her first taste of domestic turmoil as a child when her parents split up and she was sent to live with a grandparent.

It would unfortunately become a recurring theme in her life. At age 18, a chance encounter with Ike Turner at an East St. Louis nightclub proved to be fateful. They quickly became a couple and in 1960 released “A Fool in Love,” which was an instant success. It was at that point that Anna Mae Bullock took the stage name Tina Turner.

Ike & Tina churned out a steady stream of hits through the 60s and early 70s, though it was Tina who was getting most of the attention. Producer Phil Spector took an interest and signed her in 1965. Together, she and Spector released the hit song “River Deep — Mountain High.”

But behind the scenes, Tina Turner suffered from regular abuse from Ike, whose drug problems and violent temper only grew with their success. The abuse became so bad that in 1968, she attempted suicide by overdosing on Valium.

Following her recovery, Turner found increasing solace in Buddhism, after being introduced to the religion by Ike’s friend Valerie Bishop. Buddhism would eventually become a central part of her life, with Turner sometimes describing herself as a “Buddhist-Baptist.”

The breaking point in the marriage arrived during a 1976 performance in Dallas. Following an especially violent fight, Tina Turner abruptly fled their hotel, ran across a busy freeway, and found refuge at a Ramada Inn where a manager allowed her to stay even though she only had 36 cents in her pocket.

Throughout her later career, she would frequently thank the Dallas Ramada Inn for saving her life.

As a newly single woman, Turner struggled to make it as a solo artist, performing cabaret shows and making TV appearances.

Tina Turner performs onstage at the United Center, Chicago, Illinois, on October 1, 2000. (Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Her solo career took off in 1984 with the release of the album Private Dancer, which featured the single “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” The album netted three Grammy Awards and turned Turner’s frosted, sky-high hairstyle into an instant rock symbol.

With her professional success in the 80s and 90s, Turner also found, finally, personal happiness. She met German music executive Erwin Bach in the mid 80s and they dated for nearly 30 years before marrying in 2013.

Turner spent most of her time in Switzerland following her retirement in 2000, though she would continue to work sporadically on special projects. One of them was the Broadway musical Tina, which opened in New York in 2019 and is currently touring the country.

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Another was HBO’s 2021 documentary, Tina. In a review for Breitbart News, John Nolte concluded: “The good news is this: the ultimate result of her hard work and talent, of all the risks she took, was that all of Tina Turner’s dreams came true, every single one of them… And how lucky those of us are who were there to see it, and who, in our own small way, helped to make it happen.”


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