Remembering the Queen Of Rock, Tina Turner

A voice and figure that crossed through several generations in a planetary scale was born on this day in 1939

Remembering the Queen Of Rock, Tina Turner

A voice and figure that crossed through several generations in a planetary scale, an example of strength, talent and perseverance, irreplaceable and unique. The Queen of Rock left behind a valuable and influential body of work, a place that can’t ever be filled by anyone else, anywhere in the world.  She started to perform professionally with Ike Turner in 1956, and Tina came a long way, releasing herself from the chains of an abusive husband and exploitation, Tina made one of the greatest comebacks ever in music when at age 44 she became the highly acclaimed solo artist that we all know today. We look back  at the life and career of Miss Hot Legs, Queen Of Rock, or simply Tina, simply “the best”.

1940’s-1960’s: Early Years and Ike Turner 

Tina Turners was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939 in Nutbush,Tennessee. As a youngster, Anna Mae sang in the church choir at Nutbush’s Spring Hill Baptist Church and as a preteen, Anna Mae worked as a domestic worker for the Henderson family. When Anna Mae was 13, her father married another woman and moved to Detroit. When Anna Mae was 16, her grandmother died suddenly. After the funeral, Anna Mae went to live with her mother in St. Louis, Anna and her sister began to frequent nightclubs in the St. Louis and East St. Louis areas around this time and it was then she first met Ike Turner at the  Club Manhattan, a nightclub in the East St. Louis area, where Ike and his band, the Kings of Rhythm were performing. One night in 1956, 16-year-old Anna was given a microphone by Kings of Rhythm drummer Gene Washington during an intermission. Upon hearing her sing, Ike asked her if she knew more songs; she was allowed to sing that night, becoming a guest vocalist from then on. Her first studio recording was in 1958, singing background, under the name “Little Ann”, on the Ike Turner song, “Box Top”, alongside singer Carlson Oliver. After becoming a local success and sensation, the local St. Louis deejay Dave Dixon convinced Ike to send a tape with some songs featuring her to Juggy Murray, president of R&B label, Sue Records. Upon hearing the song, Murray was impressed with Anna’s vocals, later stating that her vocals “sounded like screaming dirt… it was a funky sound.” Murray bought the track and paid Ike a $25,000 advance for recording and publishing rights. Murray also convinced Turner to make Anna “the star of the show.” It was at this point that Ike Turner renamed Anna Mae Bullock “Tina” because the name rhymed with the television character Sheena.Ike patented the name Tina Turner as a form of protection so that if Anna left him like his previous lead singers, he could replace her with another singer and have her perform as Tina. During the early 1960’s the duo released several records and started to gain notoriety in the music business, in 1965, Phil Spector caught an Ike & Tina performance in Los Angeles and sought to work with Tina. Working out a deal, Spector gave Ike a $20,000 advance to keep out of the studio to which Ike agreed. With Spector, Tina produced the song “River Deep – Mountain High”, which was released in 1966 on Spector’s Philles label. Spector considered that record, with Tina’s maximum energy over a symphonic sound, to be his best work. It was very successful overseas, particularly in the United Kingdom, where it eventually reached number 3 on the singles chart, but it failed to go any higher than #88 in the United States. Crushed, Spector never signed another act to Philles. But the impact of the record gave Ike and Tina an opening spot for The Rolling Stones’ UK tour later that fall, which was later extended by performing all over Europe and Australia. Signing with Blue Thumb Records in 1968, they issued the blues-heavy albums, “Outta Season” and “The Hunter”. “Outta Season” produced their charted cover of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” while the latter earned Tina a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for her rendition of the title track, originally recorded by Albert King. The success of the albums led to the Ike and Tina Revue headlining at Las Vegas where their shows were attended by a variety of celebrities including David Bowie, Sly Stone, Janis Joplin, Cher, James Brown, Ray Charles, Elton John, and Elvis Presley.

1970’s: Proud Tina

In early 1971, their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” became their biggest hit, reaching number 4 on the Hot 100 and selling over a million copies, winning them a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group. The duo’s final major hit single, “Nutbush City Limits”, was released in 1973, reaching number 22 on the Hot 100, and peaking at number 4 in the UK. In 1974, Tina released her first solo album, “Tina Turns the Country On!”, winning a Grammy nomination. That year, Tina traveled to London to participate in the filming of the rock musical, “Tommy” with The Who, in which she played The Acid Queen, a drug addicted prostitute who tries to coax Tommy into sex and illegal drug addiction and sang the song of the same name. Turner’s performance was critically acclaimed. By the mid-1970s, Ike Turner’s excessive cocaine habit had gotten out of hand. During this period, Tina adopted the Nichiren Buddhism faith and chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo to help her deal with a stressful marriage and career. Due to Ike Turner’s drug abuse, some shows were either canceled or postponed. On July 1, 1976, Ike and Tina were en route from Los Angeles to Dallas where they had a gig at the Dallas Statler Hilton. but got into a fight during their ride to the hotel, which lead Tina to finally gaining the courage to take the step to go separate ways from Ike after several years of physical and psychological abuse as well as exploitation. On July 27, Tina sued for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.

1980’s: An Amazing Comeback

During the late 1970’s she tried to launch her career as a solo artist, however it wasn’t until the 1980’s, when she was already 44 that Tina gained worldwide acclaiming and became one of the most famous and biggest music stars in the world, it still stands as one of the greatest comeback’s in music history ever.  It all started in November 1983, when Tina released her cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”, with Capitol. The record became such a hit, reaching several European charts that forced Capitol to rethink its contract with Turner, offering the singer a three album deal, demanding an album on short notice, which had Turner staging what Ebony magazine later called an “amazing comeback.” Recorded in two months in London, the album, “Private Dancer”, was released in June 1984. That same month, Capitol issued the album’s second single, “What’s Love Got to Do with It.”, earlier recorded by the rock group Bucks Fizz in 1984. It reached the top 10 within a month and in September had reached number 1 on the Hot 100 in the U.S. Featuring hit singles, such as “Better Be Good to Me” and “Private Dancer”, the album peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 200, selling five million copies alone in the states and selling over twenty million copies worldwide, making it her most successful album. Turner’s comeback culminated in early 1985 when she won four Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year for “What’s Love Got to Do with It.” In February of that year, she embarked on her second world tour supporting the “Private Dancer” album, where she toured to huge crowds. During this time, she also contributed on vocals to the USA for Africa benefit song “We Are the World.” She was finally being rewarded after decades spent next to abusive Ike, she could finally control her life and career.  Turner’s success continued when she travelled to Australia to star opposite Mel Gibson in the 1985 post-apocalyptic film “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”. She recorded two songs for the film, “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” and “One of the Living”; both became hits, with the latter winning Turner a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. In July, Turner performed at Live Aid alongside Mick Jagger. Encouraged by a performance together during Tina’s filmed solo concert in England, singer Bryan Adams released their duet single together, “It’s Only Love”, later resulting in another Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Turner followed up “Private Dancer” with “Break Every Rule” in 1986 which was proven to be another big success for the singer. Featuring “Typical Male”, “Two People” and “What You Get Is What You See”, the album sold over four million copies worldwide.  Turner’s European “Break Every Rule Tour”, which culminated in March 1988 in Munich, Germany, contributed to record-breaking sales and concert attendances. In January 1988, Turner made history alongside Paul McCartney when she performed in front of the largest paying audience (approximately 184,000) to see a solo performer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, earning her a Guinness World Record. In 1989 she released “Foreign Affair ” that went gold in the United States, with its singles “The Best” and “Steamy Windows” becoming Top 40 hits there. It was hugely successful in Europe, where Turner had personally relocated.

1990’s-2010’s: Recognition and Retirement

In 1991, Ike & Tina Turner were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Phil Spector later accepted on their behalf. That same year, the ex-couple signed away their rights to have their lives dramatized in the semi-autobiographical film “What’s Love Got to Do with It”, later released in 1993 and starring Angela Bassett as Tina and Laurence Fishburne as Ike, with the actors receiving Best Actress and Best Actor Academy Award nominations for their portrayals of the former husband-and-wife team. Tina Turner’s voluntarily took a a break from her career for some years during the early 1990’s, she returned in 1995 with the U2 composition, “GoldenEye” for the James Bond film of the same name. During the rest of the decade, despite her continuous success, Tina started to retract from the music industry and only did minor releases that weren’t as successful as her 1980’s smash hits, however, this was a thought plan, after 40 very active years, Tina started to plan her retirement.  During the 2000’s she was honoured with several awards and recogniztions, such as in 2002,  when Tennessee State Route 19 between Brownsville and Nutbush was named “Tina Turner Highway and in December 2005, Turner was recognized by the Kennedy Center Honors at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and was elected to join an elite group of entertainers. President George W. Bush commented on Turner’s “natural skill, the energy, and sensuality”,and referred to her legs as “the most famous in show business.” On December 12, 2007, Turner’s former husband Ike Turner died from a cocaine overdose, she made no comment on it.  Turner made her public comeback in February 2008 at the Grammy Awards where she performed alongside Beyoncé In addition, she picked up a Grammy as a featured artist on River: The Joni Letters. In October 2008, Turner embarked on her first tour in nearly ten years with the” Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour” and in support of the tour, Turner released another hits compilation. The tour became a huge success and culminated in the release of the live album/DVD, “Tina Live”. Ever since Tina has pretty much retired and makes no plans to do another comeback, although she recently showed up in public when she visited the theater in London where in 2018 a musical about her life will take the stage. Tina has been living in a lake house, Château Algonquin in Küsnacht, next to Zürich since moving there in 1994 with her now husband Erwin Bach. Turner met German music executive Erwin Bach. Initially friends, Turner and Bach began dating after meeting at a record label party in London, 1985, and have remained together ever since. In July 2013, after a 27-year romantic partnership, the couple married in a civil ceremony

Tina Turner’s influence on music it’s enduring and along with names such as Janis Joplin (with whom she actually duet back in the 1960’s) she is one of the most influential female singers of all time. Her unique recognizable vocals and charisma continue to gather new fans, with a legacy that features over 60 years of music and performances, in 2018 a musical based on her life premiered in London, because, Tina it’s the righteous Queen of Rock. In 2018 she gave an exclusive interview to CBS where she talked about her retirement in Switzerland and also the struggle she had with a serious health problem in recent years. The HBO documentary “Tina” premiered in 2021, and Tina graced us once more with her presence. Also 2021 Tina Turner was finally inducted as a solo artist into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (after being induced in the past as part of Ike and Tina) where she sent a video message acknowledging the award.

On May 24th, 2023 it was announced that Tina Turner passed in her house in Switzerland at age 83 after years of struggling with health problems.

Watch Ike and Tina performing “River Deep Mountain High” live on TV in 1969

Watch the Tina Turner concert live in Rio, 1988

Listen to the compilation “Tina Turner – All The Best” on Spotify


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