Tina Turner exploded onto the rhythm & blues charts as a lead singer in 1960. As a solo artist, she had proved herself a diehard singer of rock and roll. By 2000 her credits included 27 top ten songs and more than 180 million records sold worldwide. Her life with Ike Turner was the subject of the biographical film What's Love Got to Do with It in 1993. Twenty years after the release of her 1960s recording of "River Deep, Mountain High" with the Ike & Tina Turner Review, the song appeared among the top 20 recordings in Rolling Stone's top 100 hits of all time. Youthful, ageless, and a wellspring of energy, even as the diva turned 60 years old, she continued to entertain eager audiences, leaving her legions of fans to marvel at the music that continued even after her retirement from touring in 2000.
Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Brownsville, Tennessee. She grew up in Nutbush, Tennessee, not far from Brownsville, where she lived with her sharecropping family in a two-room house. Turner recalled in her 1986 autobiography, I, Tina, that neither she nor her family wanted for anything, thanks to a lush garden and plenty of chickens and cows, as well as game in the surrounding area. "Were we poor? I don't remember being poor. My father was always the top man on the farm: all the sharecroppers answered to him, and he answered to the owner," she recalled. "We always had nice furniture in our house, and Alline and I always had our own separate bedroom. And we had animalshe cows and pigs and chickens and horsesnd I knew people who didn't."
Young Anna Mae spent much of her childhood with various relatives, starting with her paternal grandparents. She moved in with the farm overseer's family when her parents moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in search of government jobs promised by the United States during World War II. When her sister Alline graduated from high school and moved to Detroit, Anna Mae moved in with her maternal grandmother. When her grandmother died in 1956 she went to live with her mother and Alline in St. Louis, Missouri.
Her musical talent emerged when she was still a youngster, but it was during her teen years in St. Louis in the mid-1950s that she made her historic liaison with band leader Ike Turner, whom she married in 1960. The collaboration began at the Club Manhattan in East St. Louis, Kansas. Initially Tina Turner performed under the stage name of "Little Anna," until the band's first hit single, "A Fool in Love," scurried up the Rhythm & Blues charts in 1960, with Tina Turner as lead singer. The success of that record led Ike Turner to reinvent his band in order to spotlight Tina Turner. Thereafter the group performed as the Ike & Tina Turner Review. They embarked on a national tour, and a succession of recordings followed, including several hit singles. During the 1960s the Turners worked as an opening act for the Rolling Stones, and Tina released a crossover hit called "River Deep, Mountain High," recorded by the legendary Phil Spector, that moved her into the fore-front of popular music.
"'River Deep, Mountain High' was indeed a Spector masterpiece," wrote co-author Kurt Loder in the book I, Tina. "The sound was so preternaturally deep and lustrous that one felt almost in danger of falling into it. With the enormous studio orchestra pounding away at the rumbling riffs, a soaring string section, and what sounded like a battalion of backup singers doot-do-dooting away, Tina gave the performance of her life. While some of Spector's early work has dated over the years, 'River Deep,' two decades later, can still take the top of your head off."
Sadly, the record was not a success. Spector went into seclusion. Some attributed the failure of the single to the fact that Spector had had 26 consecutive hits on the charts prior to this, and the industry was tiring of his successes. "River Deep, Mountain High" only reached the number 88 spot on domestic charts, but fared much better on the British charts, where it reached number three and then stayed on the charts for another 13 weeks. "That record just never found a home," said Turner in her autobiography. "It was too black for the pop stations, and too pop for the black stations. Nobody gave it a chance. But I still felt real good about that record, felt it was something I could be proud of. 'River Deep' showed people what I had in me."
Tina Turner's Let Me Touch Your Mind, released in 1972 during the Ike & Tina Turner Review days, was her first solo album. In 1973 she released a second album, called The Country of Tina Turner. The Turners' performances, enhanced with high-energy backup singers called the Ikettes, brought them to the forefront of rock and roll between 1958 and 1978. "Proud Mary," the Turners' frenzied arrangement of a popular classic, became a trademark theme, with music erupting from a slow and soothing introduction into an unbridled melee of rhythm. "Proud Mary" peaked at number four on the record charts, and in 1971 the duo won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal for their interpretation of the rhythmic, pile-driving ballad.
Abuse Took a Toll
One fact that had remained hidden to the public during the Turners' years of stardom was the presence of severe domestic violence that plagued their marriage. Tina Turner, who suffered intense physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband, reached her limit in June of 1976. She endured a severe beating shortly after the couple arrived in Dallas for their first stop on a national tour. In desperation, she abandoned Ike Turner, although the tour was a major one for their careers. She left with less than 50 cents in her pocket and spared no time to collect her baggage. One month later, on July 27, 1976, Tina Turner filed for divorce, and emerged with a small fortune from the settlement once the divorce was finalized in March of 1978. The money paid off lawsuits from canceled Ike & Tina Turner Review engagements. Tuner gave the rest away, leaving her virtually penniless. But she forged ahead, intent on creating a solo career of her own.
On Her Own
In 1977 Turner moved to London, England, and spent the remainder of that decade living and working in Europe. Undeterred by the poor showing of her 1978 solo album Rough (on United Artists), Turner hired manager Roger Davies in 1979. She returned to the United States in 1981, toured with the Rolling Stones, and renewed her efforts to revitalize her career. She met with success in 1984 when her album Private Dancer spun off three top ten singles, including "What's Love Got to Do with It." The song became her first number one hit record, and she won three Grammys that year, including Best Female Pop Vocalist, Best Female Rock Vocalist, and Record of the Year. She was lauded for her sensational comeback, and in 1985 she scored with a number two hit, "We Don't Need Another Hero," from the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Additionally, her recording of "One of the Living" won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Female.
Yet as she conquered the issues of her tempestuous marriage to Ike Turner, she quickly tired of explaining to the press and public about the years she had spent under his Svengali spell. In an attempt to bring closure to the affair, she immersed herself in documenting the painful details of her former marriage in an autobiography, I, Tina. The book, co-written with rock journalist Kurt Loder, appeared in 1986. That same year her Break Every Rule album went multi-platinum, and she added another Grammy to her collection, for "Back Where You Started." In 1987 Turner took to the road for 18 months for a world tour of 25 countries that lasted into 1988. She performed 220 concerts during that promotion, including a phenomenal program in Brazil where she appeared before an audience of 182,000, one of the largest concert audiences ever assembled. Turner's concert tours sold out repeatedly, her recordings registered brisk sales, and her Capitol Records release Tina Live in Europe won a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Female.
By this time Turner's image had grown to legendary proportions. She took some time to rest after the well-received tour, and in 1989 returned to Europe, where she bought a home in London at Notting Hill Gate and settled there. Her 1989 release Foreign Affair, largely self-produced, was her first album after a year's hiatus.
At the Movies
Turner performed in select motion pictures, although acting was never the focus of her career. In 1975 she appeared as the Acid Queen in the film version of the The Who's rock opera Tommy, and in 1985 she portrayed the character of Auntie Entity in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Her preference was to appear in roles of women who emote strength.
In 1993 a British video appeared, called Tina Turner: The Girl from Nutbush, a documentary including rare footage from the early years of the Ike and Tina Turner Review. The low-visibility project was upstaged, however, when film director Brian Gibson transformed Turner's 1986 autobiography into a feature film. Kate Lanier wrote the screenplay for the movie, which starred Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne, and Turner generously provided creative consultation for the project. In related interviews after the movie opened in theaters, Turner expressed her desire to let go of the memories portrayed in the film; Ike Turner avoided endorsement of the final product.
In 1996 the indefatigable Turner released Wildest Dreams, featuring Bono, Sheryl Crow, Sting, and Antonio Banderas, among others. Turner, nearly 60 years old by then, seemed a human dynamo. On her tenth solo album, Twenty Four Seven, released by Virgin Records in January of 2000, she collaborated with several younger artists. It was her first album since 1996, and critics applauded the effort. The Los Angeles Times said of Turner that she "successfully meshes retro-soul with techno flava [and] is still up to any challenge." In conjunction with the release of her album in 2000, she performed in the pre-game show of Super Bowl XXXIV, and then embarked on an international tour, beginning in South Africa and encompassing 49 cities, with a grand finale at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Turner then announced her plans to retire from touring at the end of the 2000 tour, which would include 116 concerts. Jon Pareles of the New York Times noted that "Ms. Turner is not about to become a grande dame anytime soon, reflecting from a distance on past triumphs and heartbreak. The way she sings, she's still a fierce contender in the battle of the sexes." The tour was the top-grossing concert tour of 2000 with $80.2 million in ticket sales.
Turner was repeatedly asked why she would choose to retire while fans are still in thrall. "I'm still in good shape, I still have the energy, but when you work at a job for so long, you start to feel the need to make a change," Turner told People. "I'm rock and roll, and I'm a woman. and at a certain age you stop looking the part." She still had plans to continue recording and make occasional live appearances.
Private Life of "Private Dancer"
It is a surprise to Turner's fans that her on-stage gyrations and shouting match singing style are solely a performance illusion. In person she is slight and calm, not at all like her stage and musical persona. Writers Hedda Maye and Robyn Foyster of Ebony called her "the epitome of classic chic with a classic sense of style." After moving to London in 1977 following her breakup with Ike Turner, she moved on to Cologne, Germany, and then to Zurich, Switzerland, in 1998, where she owned a luxury home shared with Erwin Bach, a German record company executive with whom she had begun a relationship in 1986. Turner has repeatedly said she and Bach do not ever plan to marry. "We're like an old wedded couple anyway, so we really don't see the need," she said in an interview with United Press International. She also spends time in a custom mansion in Cap Ferrat, France, called Anna Fleur. "It offers me security," she told Swiss News, of living in Europe. "It is a place where I have found more success, more appreciation!"
She is the mother of two sons, Craig and Ron, and is also a grandmother and great-grandmother. Shortly before she left Ike Turner, she became a student of Buddhism and continues to practice that religion devotedly. Turner is reportedly a homebody who enjoys decorating her homes and eating Bach's home-cooked meals.
Even in retirement, Turner has continued to triumph on the charts. A 2005 greatest-hits compilation, All the Best, debuted on the charts in the number two position. The collection included three new songs, one of which resulted in a new hit for the diva within four weeks of its release, when "Open Arms" made it atop the Adult Contemporary radio charts. "All the Best could usher in another stage in Turner's long career," wrote Fred Bronson in Billboard. "One thing is certain: The debut of 'Best' expands Turner's overall chart span to 44 years, five months and three weeks." But who's counting?
"Let's Stay Together," Capitol, 1984.
"Private Dancer," Capitol, 1984.
"What's Love Got to Do with It," Capitol, 1984.
"Better Be Good," Capitol, 1984.
"One of the Living," Capitol, 1985.
"We Don't Need Another Hero," Capitol, 1985.
"Open Arms," Capitol, 2005.
The Country of Tina Turner, United Artists, 1973.
Acid Queen, Razor & Tie, 1975.
Love Explosion, United Artists, 1977.
Rough, United Artists, 1978.
Private Dancer, Capitol, 1984.
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Capitol, 1985.
Break Every Rule, Capitol, 1986.
Tina Live in Europe, Capitol, 1988.
Foreign Affair, Capitol, 1989.
Simply The Best, Capitol, 1991.
Wildest Dreams, Virgin, 1996.
Twenty Four Seven, Virgin/Parlophone, 2000.
All The Best (2-CD "best of"), Capitol, 2005.
Singles (with Ike Turner)
"A Fool in Love," Sue Records, 1960.
"It's Gonna Work Out Fine," Sue Records, 1961.
"You Should'a Treated Me Right," Sue Records, 1962.
"River Deep, Mountain High," Phillies, 1966.
"I've Been Loving You Too Long," Blue Thumb, 1969.
"The Hunter," Blue Thumb, 1969.
"Proud Mary," Liberty, 1971.
Albums (with Ike Turner)
The Sound of Ike and Tina Turner, Sue Records, 1960.
Festival of Live Performances, United Artists, 1962.
Dance with Ike and Tina Turner, Sue Records, 1962.
Don't Play Me Cheap, Sue Records, 1963.
Dynamite, Sue Records, 1963.
Ooh Poo Pah Doo, Harmony, 1965.
Ike & Tina Show 2, Tomato, 1965.
The Ike and Tina Turner Revue Live, Kent, 1965.
The Ike and Tina Turner Revue Live, Warner Brothers, 1965.
Live/The Ike and Tina Show, Loma, 1966.
River Deep and Mountain High, Phillies, 1966.
Ike and Tina Turner's Greatest Hits, Warner Brothers, 1967.
Get It Together, Pompeii, 1969.
Outta Season, Blue Thumb, 1969.
Fantastic, Sunset, 1969.
Her Man, His Woman, Capitol, 1969.
The Hunter, Blue Thumb, 1969.
Cussin', Cryin' and Carryin' On, Pompeii, 1969.
Workin' Together, Liberty, 1970.
On Stage, Valiant, 1970.
Ike and Tina Turner's Greatest Hits, Sunset, 1970.
'Nuff Said, United Artists, 1971.
Soul to Soul, Atlantic, 1971.
Something's Got a Hold on Me, Harmony, 1971.
What You Hear Is What You Get, EMI, 1971.
Feel Good, United Artists, 1972.
Let Me Touch Your Mind, United Artists, 1972.
Nutbush City Limits, United Artists, 1973.
The World of Ike and Tina Live, United Artists, 1973.
The Best of Ike & Tina Turner, Blue Thumb, 1973.
Strange Fruit, United Artists, 1974.
Sweet Rhode Island Red, United Artists, 1974.
Greatest Hits, Vol. 3, Atlantic, 1974.
Proud Mary: The Best of Ike & Tina Turner, EMI America, 1991.
Sixteen Great Performances, ABC, 1975.
Too Hot To Hold, Charly, 1975.
Delilah's Power, United Artists, 1977.
Airwaves, United Artists, 1979.
Great Rhythm & Blues Sessions, Rhino, 1991.
20 Rare Recordings, Sound Solution, 1992.
Get It On, Sound Solution, 1993.
Shake, Sound Solution, 1993.
Funky Ball, Sound Solution, 1993.
Live at Cirkus Krone, ITM/Traditional, 1994.
Mississippi Rolling Stone, Prime Cuts, 1995.
Shake Rattle & Roll, Delta, 1995.
Keep on Pushing, Laserlight, 1995.
Rockin' and Rollin', Laserlight, 1995.
Livin' for the City, Laserlight, 1995.
Nutbush Limits, Laserlight, 1995.
Turner, Tina, and Kurt Loder, I, Tina, William Morrow, 1986.
Billboard, January 29, 2005; February 19, 2005.
Ebony, November 1989, p. 166; January 1992, p. 102; September 1996, p. 38; May 2000, pp. 52-63.
Entertainment Weekly, March 18, 1994, p. 105; August 2, 1996, p. 72.
Essence, May 1993, p. 93(10); July 1993, p. 50(6).
Jet, January 22, 2001.
Los Angeles Times, January 31, 2000, p. CAL. 73+; January 31, 2000, p. F-2.
New York Times, April 11, 2000.
People, December 4, 2000; July 31, 2000.
Swiss News, November 2000.
Time, June 21, 1993, p. 64(2); March 22, 2004.
UPI NewsTrack, October 18, 2004.
Washington Post, February 9, 2000, p. C1.
Washington Times, October 5, 2000; October 9, 2000.
"Tina Turner," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (April 25, 2005).
"Tina Turner," The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, http://www.grammy.com/awards/ (June 26, 2005).
/Gloria Cooksey and
Linda Dailey Paulson
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