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Tina Turner, the pioneering ‘queen of rock ‘n’ roll’ who dazzled audiences around the world, dies at 83

Tina Turner, the rambunctious, wild-haired rock goddess who sold out stadiums, won a dozen Grammy Awards and won the adoration of fans around the world during an electrifying music career spanning five decades, died Wednesday at her home near Zurich, Switzerland, according to a statement from her publicist.

She was 83 years old.

“With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model,” Turner’s publicist Bernard Doherty said in a statement. He added that there will be a private funeral ceremony for close friends and family members.

Turner’s high-flying but tumultuous life arc was a music industry legend – as well as the basis for a bestselling 1986 autobiography (“I, Tina”), a Hollywood biopic (“What’s Love Got to Do With It”) and a Broadway jukebox show (“Tina: The Tina Turner Musical”).

Tina Turner at a concert in Madison Square Garden in New York in 1969. Walter Iooss Jr/Getty Images

She rose from rural roots to the heights of national stardom, exploding into public consciousness as one half of the sensational rhythm and blues duo Ike & Tina Turner and later establishing herself as one of the most popular black female solo artists. most popular in the world.

She was the first woman and first black artist to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone – in just its second issue – and her massively successful solo career broke down barriers for future generations of black women in music.

But along the way, Turner has experienced personal upheaval and private trauma. She alleged that Ike Turner, her ex-husband and artistic collaborator, subjected her to years of horrific physical abuse and tried to take control of virtually every aspect of her life.

“It was my relationship with Ike that made me the most unhappy. At first I was really in love with him. Look what he did for me. But he was totally unpredictable,” Turner wrote in “ I, Tina,” a memoir co-written by music critic and MTV News correspondent Kurt Loder.

In the late 1970s, Turner managed to extricate herself from her husband and settle down on her own. In the ’80s, Turner pulled off one of modern rock music’s most triumphant comebacks, reinventing himself as the happily liberated hitmaker who topped the Billboard charts.

Image: Tina Turner performing at the World Music Theater in Tinley Park, Illinois in 1997.
Tina Turner performs at the World Music Theater in Tinley Park, Illinois in 1997.Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Turner, a hugely talented singer who belted out songs with abandon, recorded one chart-topping song after another in the ’80s, but one track in particular made her a superstar: “What’s Love Got to Do With It”, a breathtaking performance anthem from the 1984 album “Private Dancer”.

Turner’s other major hits of the time included “Better Be Good to Me”, “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)”, “Typical Male”, “The Best” and “I Didn’t Wanna Fight” .

In the decades that followed, she toured the world, racked up awards, acted occasionally in films, and remained one of the iconic musical personalities of the late 20th century. She decided to retire in 2009 after completing her 50th anniversary tour.

“I’ve done enough,” Turner announced to a crowd of 75,000 at Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich that year. “I have been performing for 44 years. I should really hang up my dancing shoes.

Turner has won eight competitive Grammy Awards, three Grammy Hall of Fame awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement trophy. She was twice inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – first with Ike Turner (1991), then as a solo artist (2021).

Tina Turner in 1964.
Tina Turner in 1964.Archive by Michael Ochs/Getty Images

Humble beginnings

Anna Mae Bullock was born on November 26, 1939, in rural Brownsville, Tennessee, to a sharecropping family. She loved to sing when she was little. When the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, they threw themselves into the city’s R&B community.

In the mid-1950s, she met Ike Turner at a concert by his band, the Kings of Rhythm. Soon she was part of the group, performing under the alliterative name he chose for her – Tina Turner.

The Ike and Tina Turner revue, as the ensemble was known at the time, garnered attention for spirited performances. Ike was a talented musician in his own right, but Tina was clearly the main attraction, wowing the audience with her vocal chops, fiery dancing and raw verve.

The band struggled to find success in the recording booth until 1960, when “A Fool in Love” climbed the pop charts and raised the revue’s national profile. Two years later, Ike and Tina got married and the duo went on to record several popular singles.

“Tina Turner is an amazing chick,” wrote Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner in 1967. sparks stuck on it. Her dancing is completely unbridled.

“Unlike the polite bands of Motown cheering, she and the Ikettes scream, moan and do a fantastic boogaloo,” the reporter added. “No matter what you think of the music, Tina Turner is worth sitting down and paying close attention to.”

But behind the scenes, the Turners’ marriage was deeply troubled. Ike, who struggled with drug addiction and psychological issues, frequently attacked his wife physically and emotionally. He also pursued affairs with other women.

Ike and Tina Turner
Ike and Tina Turner in London in 1965.Chris Walter/WireImage via Getty Images

The years of abuse took their toll – and one day she decided enough was enough. She left Ike after they fought en route to the Dallas Statler Hilton on July 1, 1976, leaving alone with only 36 cents and a Mobil credit card in her pocket.

She filed for divorce later that month, citing irreconcilable differences, and the legal split was finalized in 1978. (Ike, during the couple’s 1977 divorce proceedings, claimed the two had never been legally married because he was still married to another woman at the time of the ceremony.)

Turner spent the next few years trying to find his footing. She toured to pay off debt, opened the Rolling Stones in 1981, and earned income wherever she could, such as appearances on TV shows like “The Hollywood Squares.”

At that time, Turner was considered an “act of nostalgia” – a talented but not exactly culturally vital relic of ’60s pop. But in 1984, that all changed: Turner released his first solo album, “Private Dancer.” , a commercial and critical success.

The album sold over 20 million copies worldwide and won three Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year and Best Female Vocal Performance, for “What’s Love Got to Do With It”. Turner also introduced a new look — big hair, high heels — that highlighted her sex appeal.

Turner thrived in the 80s, illuminating concert halls with his cheerful theatrics, dynamic vocals and commanding stage presence. She was a symbol of female empowerment and black success, reaching new creative heights even as racist record executives tried to get in her way.

Pain and survival

In the HBO documentary “Tina” (2021), she recalled that many journalists seemed closely interested in her past experiences of abuse, forgetting – or ignoring outright – her second act as a megawatt solo artist and source of energy. inspiration for women around the world.

Image: Tina Turner at the premiere of the musical 'Tina - Das Tina Turner Musical' at Stage Operettenhaus on March 2019 in Hamburg, Germany.
Tina Turner at the premiere of “Tina – the Tina Turner Musical” in Hamburg, Germany in 2019. Franziska Krug/Getty Images File

In the film, she also spoke about her own journey to acceptance and even forgiveness: “By not forgiving, you suffer,” she told documentarians. “I’ve had an abusive life. … That’s what you have … so you have to accept it.

Turner’s painful experiences with Ike were dramatized in the 1993 biopic “What’s Love Got to Do With It”. Angela Bassett played Tina and Laurence Fishburne played Ike; they were both nominated for Oscars at the 66th Academy Awards.

The real Turner eventually found love with German recording executive Erwin Bach, whom she started dating in 1986 and married in a civil ceremony in Switzerland in 2013, after a 27-year romantic partnership . (Bach was one of the HBO documentary’s executive producers.)

Turner’s musical success was accompanied by roles in films, including “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”, released in 1985. She then released popular albums in the late 80s and 90s, including “Break Every Rule”, “Foreign Affair”. and “Wildest Dreams”.

Tina Turner in Chicago
Tina Turner in Chicago in 2000. File Paul Natkin/Getty Images

“All the Best,” a greatest hits album, debuted in 2004. Five years later, Turner decided to cut back on public appearances and retire from music industry demands.

She received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018. In 2021, she sold her music rights to BMG Rights Management for $50 million; later the same month, she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a solo act, accepting the award via satellite from her home in Zurich.

“If they’re still giving me awards at 81, I must have done something right,” Turner said with a smile in her acceptance speech.

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