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Tina Turner Dead at 83

Photo caption: Tina Turner

The 17-year-old teenager whose family was barely making it in Tennessee and who went on to become a global success with “million-dollar legs,” Tina Turner died after a long illness in her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland, according to her representative. She died at the age of 83 on Wednesday, May 24.

According to a 2021 HBO documentary titled “TINA,” Turner was an impressionable teen when she was discovered by the late, guitarist Ike Turner, when she was living in St. Louis. She was still in school, and Ike would buy her furs and clothes. But on Mondays she would go to school just like any other teenage girl. “It started as a family love and then I fell in love,” she added, explaining how at first Ike seemed like an uncle or father figure to her.

She went on to become her own sensation after a turbulent existence with Ike. In a previous Rolling Stone article, superstar Janet Jackson said: “Tina’s story is not one of victimhood but one of incredible triumph. She’s transformed herself into an international sensation – an elegant powerhouse.”

In the fall of 1981, Tina sat for an interview with Carl Arrington, the music editor of People Magazine. Five years earlier, she had filed for divorce from Ike Turner, her husband and musical partner for over 16 years. They had climbed the charts and made musical history with their hits “A Fool in Love” and “Proud Mary.”

She revealed to Arrington an honest and harrowing account of the abuse and torture she had suffered during her marriage, and the brave escape she made after years of trauma. “I was living a life of death. I didn’t exist,” Tina said at that time. The article would be the first of many profiles that would cement Tina’s image as a survivor, helping to fuel the story of her extraordinary yet improbable career comeback.

However, Tina says it wasn’t a comeback, it was her “introduction as Tina,” since she hadn’t considered her time performing with Ike as actually living. “Tina had never arrived. After I left Ike, that was my debut. I don’t consider it [the 1983 ‘Private Dancer’] a comeback album.”

Having lost everything but her name in the divorce, as Ike had previously trademarked her name, Tina spent several years in Las Vegas, performing in cabaret clubs and appearing on television variety shows. And later she struck out on her own, with that sultry, emotive voice and swerving hips.

Privately, she wrestled with the survivor narrative that shaped her later life and career, and she struggled to be released from her past.

The life-changing event for Tina came in 1976, according to the documentary, when she and Ike were in the car traveling to a Dallas Hotel. He offered her a piece of chocolate, and she expressed concern that it was melting and would ruin her white suit. He was upset and started beating her.

With that, she fought back for the first time, after many times that Ike had laid hands on her. She waited until he fell asleep in the hotel, and she ran across the freeway to a Ramada Inn, where the manager gave her a nice room. Afterward, she called an associate in Los Angeles who provided her a return ticket home. She credits her practice of Buddhism with her newfound courage during that time. “I was introduced to Buddhism, and it promised change, and I saw that I had to make a change,” Tina said.

She says that she never saw the film “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” saying the worst parts of her life have been an inspiration. “Do I want to sit and see the violence and brutality on the screen? No, that’s why I haven’t seen it.”

Why did she stay so long in a relationship that she described as “brutal torture?” Tina said, “I promised him that I wouldn’t leave him.” She explained that Ike was paranoid and insecure because he had been abandoned before, and other musicians were always poaching his music, specifically his 1951 “Rocket 88” song, for which his sax player received credit.

A few years ago, a musical about Tina’s life premiered on Broadway and has also played in Chicago. At that time, Tina mentioned that she had hoped her appearance at the play would serve as a goodbye to her American fans, who watched her rise after such hardship. “I realize Ike was a sick person. Maybe it was a good thing that I met him. That I don’t know. There were some good times, but it hurts to have to remember those [bad] times.”

Deservedly nicknamed the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Turner won six of her eight Grammy Awards in the 1980s, and about a dozen more during her career. In 2018, she received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award; she was a recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021. “Simply the best” describes the canon of songs and performances of Tina Turner, as one of her song titles implies. Other hits include: “Typical Male,” “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” “One of the Living,” “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” among dozens others.

And as much as she has said that she tired of talking about Ike Turner during interviews after she divorced him, regrettably this profile of Tina, born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee, wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Ike.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader. She is a National Newspaper Publishers Association ‘Entertainment Writing’ award winner, contributor to “Rust Belt Chicago” and the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood: South Side of Chicago.” For info, Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago (

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