Tina Turner, the American-born singer who rose from a hardscrabble agricultural village and an abusive relationship to become one of the greatest recording artists of all time, died on Wednesday at the age of 83.
Her spokesman says she died quietly at home in Küsnacht, near Zurich, Switzerland, following a protracted illness.
Turner started her career in the 1950s, during the early years of rock ‘n’ roll, and blossomed into an MTV sensation.
Turner embodied 1980s style in the video for her chart-topping song “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” in which she termed love a “second-hand emotion,” as she strolled around New York City streets with her spiky blond hair, cropped denim jacket, little skirt, and stiletto heels.
Turner’s passion for musical experimentation and bluntly written songs fit in nicely with a 1980s pop scene in which music consumers preferred electronically created sounds and despised hippie-era idealism.
Turner, also known as the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” won six of her eight Grammy Awards in the 1980s. During that decade, she had a dozen Top 40 hits, including “Typical Male,” “The Best,” “Private Dancer,” and “Better Be Good to Me.” Her 1988 event in Rio de Janeiro gathered 180,000 people, which remains one of the highest concert crowds for any one musician.
Turner had been divorced from musician Ike Turner for a decade at the time.
During their marriage and musical union in the 1960s and 1970s, the diva was open about the abuse she endured at the hands of her ex spouse. She detailed damaged eyes, smashed lips, a fractured jaw, and other injuries that took her to the emergency room on many occasions.
“Tina’s story is not one of victimhood, but one of incredible triumph,” singer Janet Jackson wrote of Turner in a Rolling Stone edition that ranked Turner No. 63 on a list of the best 100 performers of all time.
“She’s transformed herself into an international sensation – an elegant powerhouse,” Jackson added.
Turner fictionalised her survivor reputation in 1985. In the third film of the Mad Max movie, “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” she portrayed the brutal head of an outpost in a radioactive wasteland alongside Mel Gibson.
“It’s three-tiered, with a nasal low register, a yowling, cutting middle range, and a high register so startlingly clear it sounds like a falsetto,” Pareles said in a concert review in 1987.
“She gave us her whole self,” Bassett said in a statement. “Tina Turner is a gift that will always be’simply the best.'”
The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger expressed sadness at Turner’s passing, calling her “inspiring, warm, funny, and generous.”
“She helped me so much when I was young, and I will never forget her,” Jagger remarked.
Bryan Adams, who collaborated with Turner on the 1985 hit “It’s Only Love,” remarked, “the world just lost one hell of a powerhouse of a woman.”
US President Joe Biden called Turner a “once-in-a-generation talent” whose “personal strength was remarkable.”
“Overcoming adversity, and even abuse, she built a career for the ages and a life and legacy that were entirely hers,” Biden said in a statement.
Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in the rural Tennessee settlement of Nutbush, which she characterised in her 1973 song “Nutbush City Limits” as a “quiet little old community, a one-horse town.”
Her father worked as a farm supervisor, and her mother left the family when she was 11 years old, according to the singer’s 2018 biography “My Love Story.” She relocated to St. Louis as an adolescent to be with her mother.
Ike Turner spotted her when she was 17 and took the mike to perform at his club event in St. Louis in 1957.
The bandleader eventually produced a hit song, “A Fool In Love,” with his protégé and gave her the stage name Tina Turner before the two married in Tijuana, Mexico.
Tina was the main singer in an ensemble called the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, where she used her powerful voice and well trained dance routines. In the 1960s and 1970s, she worked with rock royalty such as The Who and Phil Spector, and she featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in 1967.
Ike and Tina Turner hopped across record companies, attributing much of their economic success to a gruelling travelling schedule. Their greatest success was a version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.”
Turner left her husband during a tour stop in Dallas one night in 1976 after he pummelling her during a vehicle trip and she retaliated, according to her biography. Their divorce was finalised in 1978.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognised Ike and Tina Turner in 1991, calling them “one of the most formidable live acts in history.” Ike Turner died in 2007.
BOUND FOR EUROPE
Turner struggled for years after her divorce to reclaim her fame, producing failure solo albums and singles and performing at corporate conferences.
In 1980, she met new manager Roger Davies, an Australian music businessman who would go on to manage her for the next three decades. That led to a solo No. 1 – “What’s Love Got to Do With It” – and her album “Private Dancer” reaching the top of the charts in 1984.
“Private Dancer” went on to become Turner’s biggest album, capping off a career in which she sold more than 200 million copies.
Turner met German music producer Erwin Bach in 1985, who became her long-term companion, and in 1988 she relocated to London, commencing a decades-long stay in Europe. She released two studio albums in the 1990s that did well, particularly in Europe, sang the theme song for the 1995 Bond film “GoldenEye,” and performed a successful global tour in 2008 and 2009.
She experienced a lot of health issues after retirement, and in 2018, she endured a family tragedy when her eldest son, Craig, committed himself at the age of 59 in Los Angeles. Her youngest son Ronnie died in December 2022.
Years after her retirement, her name continues to entice audiences. The musical stage performance “TINA: The Tina Turner Musical,” with Adrienne Warren first portraying and singing the star’s life story, was a smash first in London’s West End in 2018, and then on Broadway, where it is currently running. “Tina,” a documentary on her life, was released by HBO in 2021.
Bach and two adoptive kids of Ike survive her.
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