One of the greatest legends in music is Tina Turner. She began with humble roots and grew into an R & B, pop and rock sensation. With her gravelly voice, sensuality and non-stop energy, Tina Turner rose to fame with her then-husband Ike Turner. After deciding to leave Ike after over a decade of successful hits and performances, Tina Turner made her comeback as one of the most successful rock stars of the 1980’s and 1990’s. She also acted. She’s won many awards and honors for her work. She’s even sold more tickets to a solo concert than any other artist.
Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock in rural Nutbush, Tennessee on November 26, 1939. She was the youngest of three daughters of Floyd and Zelma Bullock. Floyd worked as an overseer of sharecroppers at Poindexter Farm before he and Zelma moved to Knoxville to work in a factory during World War II. During that time, the girls were separated with Anna Mae going to live with her paternal grandparents. With the war over, the Bullocks reunited in Nutbush where Anna Mae completed elementary school. She enjoyed singing in the Church choir at Spring Hill Baptist Church.
In 1950 Zelma Bullock left her abusive husband and moved to St. Louis, Missouri. The girls moved in with their grandma Georgianna Currie in Brownsville, Tennessee. When their grandmother died, the girls moved in with their mom in St. Louis where Anna Mae finished high school. She worked as a maid, was a cheerleader and played on the ladies’ basketball team. Before she graduated, her sister and several cousins were killed in a car accident.
Anna Mae graduated from high school in 1958. She worked as a nurse’s aide and enjoyed attending nightclubs with her sister. At one St. Louis nightclub she was in awe of Ike Turner’s performance with the Kings of Rhythm. After appearing on stage during an intermission, Anna Mae impressed the group and became a singer in the band. She wrote “A Fool In Love” in 1960 for Art Lassister and sang backup vocals on the record. After being persuaded to send the demo to the president of Sue Records, Anna Mae was paid $25,000 for the record and publishing rights. Ike Turner, who started a relationship with Anna Mae, chose the stage name Tina Turner for his protege. “A Fool In Love” was a crossover R & B and pop rock hit.
Ike and Tina
For the next decade and a half, Ike and Tina Turner were a hit. Ike started the Ike & Tina Review touring with the Kings of Rhythm and the Ikettes, a girl band that sang backup for Tina. They had several hit records and made albums under Loma Records. They performed on Sunset Strip at the Hollywood-a-Go-Go where they met Phil Spector who asked them to perform in a concert film “The Big TNT Show”. Tina also appeared in solo performances on shows like “American Bandstand”. They continued to perform and record with one of their biggest hits being their 1971 cover of Creedance Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary”. In 1974 Ike and Tina got two Grammy nominations for their albums. The following year, Tina played the role of Acid Queen in the London film production of “Tommy”.
Ike and Tina had a son together in 1960 and married in 1962, adopting each other’s children from previous relationships. Unfortunately, Ike was addicted to cocaine and would later be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He hit Tina on several occasions and she left him in 1976. At the time, Ike controlled all of the money and music rights and left Tina with very little to live on. Tina filed for divorce which was finalized in 1978. Their record label, United Artists, would release two more albums.
With little money to live on and limited rights to her own music, Tina Turner forged ahead without Ike. She took care of all four of their children with little child support and supported them with government food stamps and performance work in small venues. United Artists supported her and sponsored Tina’s album “Rush”. She appeared on television shows including game show “Hollywood Squares” and variety shows “Donny & Marie” and “Sonny & Cher”. She also began touring again and hired Roger Davies as her manager in 1980. He helped Tina gain popularity with her music played in European dance clubs. Tina continued to record and slowly built a new career for herself. She toured with Chuck Berry, Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones in the early 1980’s. She recorded a cover of The Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion”. Her music video, which appeared in the early years of MTV, was a hit.
In 1983 Tina Turner signed with Captial Records. She released a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” before releasing one of her most successful albums “Private Dancer” in 1984. The album made Platinum in the United States of America. The following year was huge for Tina’s solo career. She appeared as Aunty Entity in Mel Gibson’s film “Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome” and also recorded the soundtrack which included the hit song “We Don’t Need Another Hero”. Tina won the 1986 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress for her role in the movie. Tina appeared at Live Aid singing with Mick Jaeger. She released her biography “I, Tina”. She and Bryan Adams won the MTV Music Video Award for Best Stage Performance for “It’s Only Love”.
Tina Turner would continue to record and tour over the next decade and performed often with other great musicians. In 1991 she and Ike were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Neither would attend the ceremony. Ike was in prison, and Tina was on tour in Europe. In 1993 a semi-autobiographical movie was released in theaters, “What’s Love Got to Do With It”. It starred Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne who both got best actor and actress nominations. Tina sang “What’s Love Got to Do With It” for the movie. In 1995 Tina would record on the soundtrack of the James Bond movie “Golden Eye”. The song was written by U2’s Bono and The Edge. In 1996 Tina performed her Wildest Dreams album world tour and later that year released her 10th and final album “Twenty-Four/Seven”. The tour would be her last as she was ready to retire.
Tina Turner’s first son Craig was born from a relationship with his biological father, a member of the Kings of Rhythm. When she and Ike Turner began a relationship, Tina gave birth to her second son Ronnie. After they married in Mexico in 1962, Ike adopted Ronnie and the family moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Ike brought his two sons from a previous relationship, Ike Jr. and Michael. Tina adopted both boys. The marriage lasted twelve years through a successful musical career but a volatile marriage. On their way to the Dallas Statler Hilton Hotel where Ike and Tina were scheduled to sign a contract with Universal Artists, they got in a fight and Tina was done. She left Ike despite having hardly any money. Tina would struggle for the next two years to pay off debts and promoters who’d lost money when the couple broke up and stopped performing together. Tina raised the boys and built her career as a solo artist.
In 1986 Tina Turner met German music executive Erwin Bach. Despite him being much younger than her, the two began a relationship settling near Zurich, Switzerland. Tina and Ike’s son Ronnie is a successful bass guitarist who has performed with both his mother and his father. Ike Jr. is also a successful musician. Tina remained closest with her son Craig who committed suicide in 2018. Tina continues to practice the Baptism she grew up with and also Buddhism which helped her through her tumultuous times with Ike. Tina published a second biography in 2018 “My Love Story” and wrote about suffering from intestinal cancer and kidney failure. Edwin Bach donated a kidney to her, and Tina continues to treat herself with homeopathic remedies. Despite her illness, Tina began working on the Broadway play “Tina” in 2016.
Awards and Honors
Throughout her career and even after her retirement, Tina Turner continues to be honored for her iconic role in music. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She and Ike were inducted into the American Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the St. Louis Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She has been inducted into the Soul Music and Memphis Music Halls of Fame. She is consistently listed as one of the greatest performers of all time in magazines including Rolling Stone and Time Magazines. In 2005 she received the Kennedy Center Honor. In 2008 she returned to the stage to perform at the Grammy Awards Ceremony.