Tina Turner Dead At 83

John Rogers/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Tina Turner Dead At 83

John Rogers/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Tina Turner, the legendary singer known around the world as the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” has died. “Tina Turner, the ‘Queen of Rock’n Roll’ has died peacefully today at the age of 83 after a long illness in her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland,” her family said in a statement Wednesday. “With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model.”

Turner was world-renowned for her fiery, impassioned vocals and the strong, resilient persona she built up over the course of decades. She was an incredible performer with a large library of hits, from early rock classics like “Proud Mary” to her 1984 smash “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” Her half-century career yielded Grammy wins, Guinness world records, major acting roles, multiple inductions into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, a memoir, a biopic, and a jukebox musical, among other achievements. Very few music popular music icons measure up to her stature.

Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock in 1939 in Brownsville, TN, the youngest of three sisters. She grew up in the small rural Tennessee town of Nutbush in a farming family, but spent some time living in Knoxville as well while her parents worked for a defense facility during World War II. Like so many of her peers, Bullock got her start singing in church. Her parents split up when she was 11, and the sisters eventually went to live with their grandmother in Brownsville. In high school, Bullock was a cheerleader and a basketball player. Her grandmother died when Bullock was 16, at which point she went to live with her mom in St. Louis.

While working as a nurse’s aid after high school, Bullock began to frequent St. Louis nightclubs, where she first encountered Ike Turner. She was impressed by Turner’s performances with his band, the Kings Of Rhythm and eventually crashed the stage during one of their intermissions one night in 1957. Her performance of B.B. King’s “You Know I Love You” led to her sitting in with the band for the rest of the night and joining the lineup full-time.

Bullock began recording with the Kings Of Rhythm under the name Little Ann. In 1960, when Art Lassiter failed to show up to record Ike’s composition “A Fool In Love,” he cut it as a duet with Bullock. The track caught the attention of radio deejays and Juggy Murray of Sue Records, who convinced Ike to make her the star of the show. Inspired by Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, Ike rechristened Bullock with the stage name Tina Turner, thinking of the name as a character he could later replace with another singer. That plan went out the window when “A Fool In Love” broke through to a pop audience and Tina Turner became a huge star. Ike and Tina soon began a romantic relationship as well, having a child together in 1962 and marrying in Tijuana in 1963.

Off the back of the success of “A Fool In Love,” the newly launched Ike & Tina Turner Revue became one of the hottest stage shows in America, first on the Black-focused Chitlin’ Circuit and then in desegregated clubs. Their concert tours spawned a successful live album. Meanwhile Tina kept scoring R&B hits and winning over industry titans like Phil Spector, who sought to produce for Turner after casting her in the concert film The Big T.N.T. Show. Ike & Tina’s first single for Spector’s Philles label was “River Deep – Mountain High,” a crossover hit that didn’t chart as high as “A Fool In Love” but led to opening gigs with the Rolling Stones. In 1967, Tina became the first Black performer and the first woman to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone.

As the ’60s wore into the ’70s, Ike & Tina began incorporating rock songs into their previously R&B-based sets. Their 1971 cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” became their biggest hit, peaking at #4 and winning a Grammy. In the early ’70s, Tina assumed more of a songwriting role, penning the hit “Nutbush City Limits” among other songs, and played the Acid Queen in the film version of the Who’s rock opera Tommy. Despite lots of success, things were dark behind the scenes.

In 1976, Tina filed for divorce from Ike, who was physically abusive, promiscuous, and addicted to cocaine. As she discussed later in her career, even after escaping the marriage, she was forced to relive the story in interview after interview. There was also professional fallout from the split in the form of lawsuits over canceled Ike & Tina gigs and a series of flop solo albums. She began to regain career momentum in the early ’80s via gigs like a guest spot with Rod Stewart on Saturday Night Live, more shows opening for the Stones, and an appearance on Chuck Berry’s TV special.

In 1983, Tina’s cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” became a surprise hit, lifting her out of the nostalgia market and back into current pop stardom. Her subsequent album, 1984’s Private Dancer, became a multi-platinum blockbuster, spinning off her only Hot 100 #1 singles in “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and two more top-10 hits, “Better Be Good To Me” and “Private Dancer.” Her comeback peaked when “What’s Love Got To Do With It” won Record Of The Year at the 1985 Grammys. Tina became a mainstay of that mid-’80s moment when pop stars seemed more larger-than-life than ever, singing on “We Are The World” and at Live Aid.

More bestselling albums, hit singles, and Grammys followed, as did a return to acting opposite Mel Gibson in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which launched the #2 hit “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome).” Further chart successes included “Typical Male,” “What You Get Is What You See,” “The Best,” and “I Don’t Wanna Fight.” She also penned the 1987 memoir I, Tina, which was adapted into the 1994 biopic What’s Love Got To Do With It starring Angela Bassett. In 1995 Turner sang the title theme from the James Bond movie GoldenEye, two years after acting opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Last Action Hero. By the turn of the millennium, Tina Turner was a legacy artist — one of the most beloved in the world. She retired from performing after her 50th anniversary tour in 2009, and her work was adapted into the jukebox musical Tina in 2018.

Below, survey some of Tina Turner’s most enduring hits.

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