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Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll not defined by trauma, enjoyed music career 

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The music world was enveloped in darkness on May 24, 2023, as the globally acclaimed American singer and actress, Tina Turner, passed on at the age of 83 after a long illness. The “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” rose to prominence as the lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue before launching a successful solo career.

During her singing career, Turner sold over 100 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling recording artists of all time. She also received 12 Grammy Awards, which include eight competitive awards, three Grammy Hall of Fame awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Turner was an inspiration to many global artists, including record breaker, Beyonce Knowles Carter.

This piece takes a look at the legendary pace setter, whose life and work are worth written in stone.

Tina Turner biography

Tina Turner

Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Brownsville, situated in the U.S. state of Tennessee. She was the youngest daughter of Floyd Richard Bullock and his wife Zelma Priscilla (née Currie). Her account in her book, I, Tina, depicts that she came from a poor and abusive family. Her father worked as an overseer of the sharecroppers at Poindexter Farm on Highway 180 as the family lived in the nearby rural unincorporated community of Nutbush, Tennessee.

Turner had two older sisters, Evelyn Juanita Currie and Ruby Alline Bullock, a songwriter. The three sisters were separated when their parents relocated to Knoxville, Tennessee, to work at a defence facility during World War II. Tina stayed with her strict, religious paternal grandparents, Alex and Roxanna Bullock, who were a deacon and deaconess at the Woodlawn Missionary Baptist Church. Two years after the war, the family were reunited and attended Flagg Grove Elementary School from first through eighth grade.

Turner’s childhood was not a happy one. She revealed in her book that her mother did not want her. Zelma, her mother, was forced to stay with her abusive father after discovering she was pregnant again with Turner. Turner’s mother eventually ran off without warning, in a bid to seek freedom from her abusive relationship with Floyd. She relocated to St. Louis in 1950. Bullock remarried and Turner and her sisters were sent to live with her maternal grandmother, Georgeanna Currie, in Brownsville, Tennessee.

Turner was a tomboy while growing up. She joined both the cheerleading squad and the female basketball team at Carver High School in Brownsville. However, her grandmother died when she was 16 and she was made to go live with her mother in St. Louis. It was there that she finished her high school education at  Sumner High School in 1958.

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Tina Turner career

Tina Turner performing
Photo credit: Getty Images

As a child, Turner sang in the church choir at Nutbush’s Spring Hill Baptist Church. After graduating from high school, she got a job as a nurse’s aide at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Bullock’s sister began taking her to several nightclubs in the city. Then she met Ike Turner at Club Imperial one night. Turner was a Mississippi-born rhythm and blues musician with a band, the Kings of Rhythm at the Manhattan Club in East St. Louis.

The then-Tina Bullock was impressed by Turner’s talent and asked him if she could join his band. At first, Turner was sceptical about her request. One night in 1957, Tina Bullock took the microphone from Kings of Rhythm drummer, Eugene Washington, during an intermission and she sang the B.B. King blues ballad, You Know I Love You. Turner was impressed and asked if she knew more songs. She sang for the rest of the night and became a featured vocalist for the band. Turner taught her the finer points of vocal control and performance and she recorded her first single, Boxtop, under the name “Little Ann” in 1958.

That was the beginning of the massive success she enjoyed in her music career. She was subsequently introduced to the public as Tina Turner with the single A Fool in Love, in July 1960. Ike Turner also changed the band’s name to “Ike & Tina Turner Revue”.  A Fool in Love was a huge R&B hit as it reached No. 2 in the U.S. pop chart. Before long, she began touring alongside the band and they earned positive acclaim for their electrifying stage performances. Turner released more hit songs like It’s Gonna Work Out Fine, I Idolize You, River Deep, Mountain High and Proud Mary.

Following her split from Ike Turner and her initial failed attempt to launch a solo career, Turner made a huge comeback with hit songs such as Let’s Stay Together, What’s Love Got to Do with It, and Simply the Best.

Apart from singing, Turner was an accomplished actress. She starred in movies, such as Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. She performed the soundtrack of the movie We Don’t Need Another Hero, which peaked at number two in America and three in the U.K. The song received a Grammy nomination for “Best Female Pop Vocal” and received a nomination for a Golden Globe Award for “Best Original Song”.

Tina Turner songs

Tina Turner's album cover

Turner was a successful singer with many hit songs. Below are some of her songs:

  • A Fool in Love
  •  Proud Mary
  • Nutbush City Limits
  • What’s Love Got To Do With It
  • Private dancer
  • One of the Living
  •  Better Be Good to Me
  • I Can’t Stand the Rain
  • Typical Male
  • Two People
  • Back Where You Started
  • What You Get Is What You See
  • Break Every Rule
  • Afterglow
  • Simply the Best
  • It’s Gonna Work Out Fine
  • Missing You
  • When the Heartbreak is Over
  • On Silent Wings
  • Look Me in the Heart
  • Great Spirits

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Tina Turner family

Tina Turner's family

Tina Turner married Ike Turner after moving to Los Angeles in 1962. The couple met at the Club Imperial. Ike Turner was in another relationship with Lorraine Taylor at the time but it did not stop Tina Turner from falling in love and starting an affair with him. The relationship produced a son, Ronnie, in October 1960.

Tina Turner had a son – Raymond Craig (born in 1958) – from a previous relationship with Kings of Rhythm saxophonist, Raymond Hill. She also adopted two of Ike Turner’s children: Ike Jr. and Michael, raising them as her children.

Tina and Ike Turner’s marriage was legendary for being abusive. The abuse began when they were still in a relationship but Tina stayed with Ike because she “really did care about him”. In her book, I, Tina, the singer revealed that her husband was abusive and promiscuous throughout their marriage, which led to her suicide attempt – she took an overdose of Valium pills – in 1968.

Things came to a head when the couple got into a fight on their way to the Dallas Statler Hilton on July 1, 1976. Tina fled with only 36 cents and a Mobil credit card in her pocket to the Ramada Inn across the freeway. She filed for divorce on July 27, 1976, citing irreconcilable differences. In her divorce petition, she asked for $4,000 a month in alimony, $1,000 a month in child support and custody of her sons, Craig and Ronnie.

The divorce was finalised on March 29, 1978, after Tina Turner took responsibility for missed concert dates and an IRS lien, while Ike Turner got the publishing royalties for his compositions and hers. The singer also retained songwriter royalties from songs she had written.

Ike Turner later revealed that they were never officially married as he was legally married to someone else at the time. However, he noted that they had a common-law marriage and still had to go through a formal divorce. He also admitted that he had “punched her (Tina) to the ground without thinking”. Ike told Jet that he still loved her and he had written a letter apologising for “putting her and the kids through that kind of stuff” but he never sent it.

Ike Turner was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his old age. He died on December 12, 2007. Tina Turner did not attend his funeral. She released a statement explaining that she had not been in contact with her ex-husband for over 30 years.

In July 2013, Tina Turner married German music executive, Erwin Bach, in a civil ceremony on the banks of Lake Zurich in Küsnacht, Switzerland, after dating him for 27 years. Meanwhile, her eldest son, Craig Raymond Turner, was found dead in an apparent suicide in July 2018.

Her second son, Ronnie Turner, died from complications of colon cancer in December 2022. He was survived by a wife, French singer Afida Turner, and two children.

Tina Turner later revealed that she was estranged from her children, including those of her ex-husband whom she adopted, except Craig Turner, after her divorce. She told TV Week that “she’s still there for the boys” but there was reported estrangement before her death.

Tina Turner advocacy

Tina Turner: Queen of Rock 'n' Roll not defined by trauma, enjoyed music career  1

Turner was a self-professed “Buddhist-Baptist”. The reference was inspired by her upbringing as a Baptist and later conversion to Buddhism. She was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism by Ike Turner’s friend, Valerie Bishop, who taught her the chant, nam-myōhō-renge-kyō, in 1973. Turner later revealed that the chant helped during the traumatic times in her marriage. She was encouraged by her son, Ronnie, to learn the chant which she did four hours a day during her troubling times.

Turner was also a known advocate for LGBT rights. Her story as a survivor of domestic abuse, as well as her powerhouse voice, made her an instant icon in the LGBTQ+ community alongside the likes of Gloria Gaynor, Cyndi Lauper and Whitney Houston. She earned a “gay icon” status following her participation in explicitly LGBTQ+ events such as the first-ever Gay Games. She performed at the opening ceremonies of the international LGBTQ+ sporting event in San Francisco in 1982.

Turner returned to San Francisco to perform a medley of songs at the Macy’s Passport fashion show in support of education, research, and services for those living with HIV/AIDS in 1997.

Tina Turner’s net worth

According to Celebrity Networth, Tina had an estimated net worth of $250 million at the time of her demise.

Tina Turner’s death

Turner endured a lot of health challenges during her latter years. She suffered a stroke in 2013, three weeks after her wedding to her second husband. She was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016. She later had kidney failure as a result of untreated high blood pressure. which led her to get kidney transplant surgery on April 7, 2017.

Tina Turner died at her home in Küsnacht, Switzerland, on May 24, 2023, at the age of 83.

Conclusion

Tina Turner was an icon whose legendary exploits in the music business will be evergreen. She earned numerous awards and recognitions, which include a Guinness World Record for the largest paying audience (180,000 in 1988) for a solo performer, 12 Grammy Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1986 and a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 1991. She was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a duo with Ike Turner in 1991.

In 1993, Turner’s life story was turned into a box-office film, What’s Love Got to Do with It. Hollywood star, Angela Basset, played her character. The film received mixed reviews but it was nominated for “Best Actress” and “Best Actor” at the Academy Awards.

Tina Turner’s story is an inspiring one. The “Queen of Rock and Roll showed that you can always rise again no matter how low you may have fallen.

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