Tina Turner (1939-2023)

Tina Turner, Drammenshallen, Norway, February 21, 1985
Photo by Helge Øverås (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and eight-time Grammy Award-winning singer Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Nutbush, Haywood, County, Tennessee. The youngest daughter of a family of sharecroppers, Turner’s father, Floyd Richard Bullock, was an African American Baptist deacon and her mother, Zelma Currie, was a farmer of part-Cherokee and Navajo descent.

At the age of 10, Turner and her older sister were sent to live with their grandparents who also lived in Nutbush. In 1956, they moved to St. Louis, Missouri to live with their estranged mother. During the same year, Turner was introduced to guitarist Ike Turner and his band Kings of Rhythm in an East St. Louis nightclub after spontaneously performing a song with them. She joined the group the next year and adopted the stage name “Tina” in 1960. The band became The Ike and Tina Turner Revue and soon emerged as one of the most successful R&B acts on the so-called “chitlin’ circuit of Black-owned or Black-oriented theaters and clubs mainly across the South and East.  She and Ike became successful crossover artists, attracting non-Black fans beginning in 1966 when the Rolling Stones invited the Revue to open for them, first on their 1966 British tour and then later on their 1969 U.S. tour.

After a short ceremony in Mexico in 1962, Ike and Tina Turner were married and proceeded to tour the United States and Europe. They toured successfully for over a decade, recording a number of hits such as “River Deep, Mountain High,” and “Proud Mary,” her version of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song which won the Revue a Grammy Award for best R&B vocal performance by a group in 1971, the first of seven Grammy Awards over her career.

Turner also acted, playing the lead role in Ken Russell’s memorable movie Tommy in 1975. A decade later she starred in Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome with Mel Gibson. Despite the group’s resounding success, Turner left the Revue in 1976, driven away by Ike Turner’s emotional and physical abuse, as well as his drug and alcohol addiction. After she finalized her divorce from Ike in 1978, Turner, fighting through debt and disinterest, embarked on a solo career in Europe with the help of artists such as David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and Rod Stewart.

Turner secured a recording contract with Capitol Records in 1983 and released her first successful single “Let’s Stay Together,” a cover of Al Green’s 1971 recording. Her 1984 album Private Dancer, featuring the hit single “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” won three Grammy Awards, and sold over 25 million copies worldwide. Since then, Turner has continued to produce albums and perform in record-breaking concerts around the world including a 1988 appearance before 180,000 people at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  After her “Twenty Four Seven” tour in 2000 which sold more than $100 million in tickets, Guinness World Records announced that she had sold more concert tickets than any other solo performer in history.

With her post-divorce success from Ike Turner, Tina Turner managed one of the biggest comebacks in recording history. Rolling Stone magazine voted her 61st Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Artist of All Time, and in 1991, she was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame, as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Turner also received the Lifetime Achievement Prize at the Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards in 1999. In 2008, Turner launched yet another worldwide tour, Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour at the age of 69.

Turner married her long-time partner, German record executive, Erwin Bach, in July 2013, and in October of the same year she became a naturalized Swiss citizen. Annie Mae Bullock/ Tina Turner died on May 24, 2023 in Kusnacht, Switzerland, near Zurich at the age of 83.