Tina Turner, Rock Star Who Overcame Turbulent Life, Dies at 83

Tina Turner, Rock Star Who Overcame Turbulent Life, Dies at 83
US rock-legend Tina Turner performs on stage of the Hippodrome in Sopot, in the last concert of her European tour in Sopot, Poland, 15 August 2000. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Maciej Kosycarz)

(Bloomberg) -- Tina Turner, the Grammy Award-winning singer who endured an abusive marriage, cancer and a stroke and made it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, has died. She was 83. 

She died on Wednesday at her home in Küsnacht, Switzerland, near Zurich, the New York Times reported, citing her publicist, Bernard Doherty.

Known as much for her hyper-energetic dance moves — she purportedly taught Mick Jagger how to move on stage — as her powerful and sultry singing, Turner initially rose to fame in the 1960s singing rhythm and blues as part of the duo with her husband, Ike. After a divorce and a fallow period, she revived her career in the mid-1980s as a solo performer who sold out massive stadiums.

Turner won her first Grammy in 1971 for Proud Mary. Another tune of the era, What’s Love Got to Do With It?,  served as the title of a 1993 biopic starring Angela Bassett as Turner.

The singer ventured into movies, notably as Aunty Entity in the 1985 action film Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. She was the subject of a 2019 Broadway musical and a 2021 HBO documentary, both called Tina.

Despite all her success and a long love affair with German music executive Erwin Bach, Turner had a grim view of her journey when asked about it in the documentary.

“It wasn’t a good life,” Turner said, revealing that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of beatings during her first marriage. “The good did not balance the bad. I had an abusive life, there’s no other way to tell the story.”

She and Ike were inducted into the rock music’s Hall of Fame as a duo in 1991, based largely on her enduring songs such as Proud Mary and River Deep, Mountain High. She was inducted again three decades later, this time for her solo career, which began in earnest in the mid-1980s.

As a middle-aged singer, she struggled as a solo act after her 1978 divorce from Ike. A cabaret act in Las Vegas was followed by duets with performers such as Rod Stewart.

It was not until 1984 that she released her first solo album, Private Dancer. The recording, which included several hit singles, sold more than 20 million copies and won multiple Grammy awards, including record of the year and best female vocal performance for What’s Love Got To Do With It?, which became her signature song.

Turner received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2005 and gave her final performance in 2009. After that, she led a quiet life in Switzerland with Bach, whom she married in 2013 after a long romantic relationship.

Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on Nov. 26, 1939, in Nutbush, Tennessee, a town made famous in her song, Nutbush City Limits. Her parents, Floyd and Zelma Bullock, were sharecroppers. Her father abandoned the family, and Turner was raised for a while by her grandparents.

“She didn’t want me,” Turner said of her mother.

Nonetheless, she reunited with her mother in St. Louis, where she went to high school and was introduced to R&B nightclubs as a teenager.

At one of them, she wound up singing for Ike Turner, then leader of a group called the Kings of Rhythm. He liked what he heard, realized she was his key to commercial success and had her record A Fool in Love in 1960. After it took off, he married her and urged her to change her first name to Tina. As the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, the pair became popular at R&B venues.

Turner had two biological sons. The first was Raymond Craig Hill, whose father was Raymond Hill, a saxophonist with the Kings of Rhythm. Ike adopted him and changed his last name to Turner. She had her second son Ronald with Ike and later adopted two of his children, Ike Jr. and Michael, from a previous relationship.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.