Tina Turner's Dramatic Escape and Triumphant Return
By Sophia Maddox | May 31, 2023
Ike Turner Harassed Her After Their Separation, 1977
The legendary Tina Turner, renowned for her explosive voice and electrifying stage presence, did not always bask in the spotlight's warm glow. In the heart of her story lies a harrowing struggle - one where she faced the daunting challenge of an abusive relationship and a fight for personal and professional freedom.
Our gallery takes you through the various stages of her journey, presenting a poignant exploration of her life off-stage. We begin with Tina's early years with Ike Turner, a chapter marked by both professional growth and personal turmoil. Tina's story serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit of a woman who refused to be defined by her circumstances. She was a beacon of resilience, strength, and unstoppable talent: Miss Tina Turner!
Tina's separation with Ike Turner unfortunately wasn't quite the end of his attempts to keep control of her. Apparently Ike would send men to harass her and even shoot at her house to scare her and their children.
Another night, they actually shot into the house. We were so scared that Rhoda slept in the boys’ room and I slept in the closet because the room had a skylight and I was afraid there would be more shooting.
The divorce was finalized in March 1978.
Tina Turner Was Born Anna Mae Lubbock, 1939
Tina Turner was born as Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in the small town of Nutbush, Tennessee. When she was still a young girl, both of her parents, Zelma and Floyd Bullock, left town, leaving Tina and her sisters to be raised by their grandmother in Brownsville, Tennessee. Sadly, her grandmother died when Tina was 16, and so Tina ended up reuniting with her mother despite their strained relationship. They lived together in St. Louis, Missouri, which was where Tina's music career was launched.
She connected with Music From A Young Age, 1950s
As a child in rural Nutbush, Tina spent a lot of time singing in the local church choir, the Spring Hill Baptist Church Choir, which ignited her passion for music. She also performed with a local group, Bootsie Whitelow and his String Band. Upon moving to St. Louis to live with her mother, Turner and her sisters began spending time at local nightclubs and music venues. Turner knew without a doubt she wanted to spend her life singing:
I could do two things: work in a hospital or sing... I didn't know anything else...And I wanted to sing.
She Met and Began Performing With Ike Turner in 1957
Tina met Ike at a local nightclub when she was only 17, but their relationship was platonic and professional for the first few years. Tina described it as first as feeling like they were "brother and sister from another lifetime". At the time, Ike was living with his long-term girlfriend, Lorraine Taylor, and Tina began dating Ike's bandmate, Raymond Hill. After being blown away by her voice, Ike brought in Tina as the vocalist of his band, The Kings of Rhythm, and began to teach her formal vocal techniques and training. Her first performances and recordings with The Kings of Rhythm were under the stage name "Little Ann".
She Gave Birth To Her First Son, Craig Hill, 1958
In 1957, 17 year old Tina was dating Raymond Hill, the saxophonist in Ike's band The Kings Of Rhythm. Their relationship evolved quickly and before they knew it, they were expecting a child together. However, the bliss was short-lived - the relationship was tumultuous, and they ended things when Hill broke his ankle in a fight with the Kings Of Rhythm vocalist. Hill left town and Tina, now an expecting single parent. Their son, Craig was born in August 1958, and raised by Tina (and later, Ike).
She Debuted As Tina Turner With "A Fool In Love", 1960
"A Fool in Love" marked a significant turning point in Tina Turner's career. Released in 1960, this was the first significant hit for Tina and her then-husband, Ike Turner, who performed together as the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Interestingly, the song was not initially intended for Tina. Ike Turner had written the song for another artist, Art Lassiter. However, when Lassiter failed to appear for the recording session, Tina, then known as "Little Ann," was asked to lay down a guide vocal.
Tina's vocal performance was so impressive that it was decided that her vocals would remain on the track. The song became a hit, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart and crossing over to the pop chart where it peaked at No. 27. It was around this time that Tina and Ike's relationship turned intimate, despite his long-term girlfriend.
Ike and Tina Turner Rose To Fame, 1961
While Ike and Tina were both enjoying the highs of professional successes, Tina had been forced to deal with intense lows behind the scenes since the start of her relationship with Ike. Right after the recording of "A Fool In Love", Tina had tried to end the relationship - and the physical and sexual abuse began.
First, he was verbally abusive. Then, he picked up a wooden shoe stretcher. Ike knew what he was doing. If you play guitar, you never use your fists in a fight. He used the shoe stretcher to strike me in the head – always the head...After that he made me go to bed and he had sex with me. That was the beginning of the torture...He threw hot coffee in my face, giving me third-degree burns. He used my nose as a punching bag so many times that I could taste blood running down my throat when I sang. He broke my jaw. And I couldn’t remember what it was like not to have a black eye.
Ike would continue with this abuse towards Tina for over a decade.
Ike and Tina Turner Produced Non-Stop Hits, 1960s
Ike and Tina, performing together as The Ike and Tina Turner Revue, achieved great success in the 1960s, pushing out hits like "I Idolize You," "Poor Fool," and "It's Gonna Work Out Fine," which earned them their first Grammy nomination in 1962. In 1966, they signed with Phil Spector's label, Philles Records, and produced the single "River Deep – Mountain High." While the song was initially not successful in the US, it was a big hit in the UK and is now considered one of the greatest songs ever recorded. the Revue was known for its electrifying performances, complete with a high-energy band, the Ikettes as backup dancers, and Tina's vibrant stage presence and emotive vocals at the forefront. Ike, on the other hand, masterminded the musical direction and production.
Ike and Tina Turner Married, 1962
In 1962, Ike and Tina got married, but the wedding - and marriage - were far from fairytale-esque. Twenty-two year-old Tina felt too afraid to turn Ike down, and so he hurried her across the border to Tijuana for a fast marriage - and right after, to a sex show.
People can't imagine the kind of man he was - a man who takes his brand new wife to a live, pornographic sex show right after their marriage ceremony...the experience was so disturbing... I suppressed it, scratched it out and created a different scenario, a fantasy of romantic elopement. I was miserable the whole time, on the verge of tears, but there was no escape.
Tina Turner is Synonymous With Her Hit, "Proud Mary", 1971
"Proud Mary" is one of the signature songs of Tina Turner's career, even though it was originally written and performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival. The song was released by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969 and quickly became a hit, but it was Tina Turner's cover, performed with Ike Turner, that gave the song a second life and cemented its place in music history.
Ike & Tina Turner's version of "Proud Mary" was released in 1971 as part of their album Workin' Together. Their rendition transformed the song with a funkier, soulful edge, characterized by a high-energy arrangement and Tina's raw and powerful vocals. It became one of Ike & Tina Turner's most successful singles, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and winning the Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group in 1972. Tina Turner continued to perform "Proud Mary" during her solo career, and it has remained one of her most popular and enduring songs.
Tina Suffers In Silence, 1960s-1970s
While her career in music thrived, Tina was suffering in her day-to-day life with Ike. He was reportedly not only unfaithful but incredibly abusive, both verbally and physically, throughout their relationship. Tina eventually even attempted suicide to escape, but was unsuccessful:
It was my relationship with Ike that made me most unhappy. At first, I had really been in love with him. Look what he'd done for me. But he was totally unpredictable...Busted lips, black eyes, dislocated joints, broken bones and psychological torment became a part of everyday life...At my lowest, I convinced myself that death was my only way out. I actually tried to kill myself. But I came out of the darkness believing I was meant to survive.
She's Been A Practicing Buddhist Since 1973
Tina Turner has practiced Nichiren Buddhism, a branch of Buddhism that originated in Japan, since the mid '7. A central practice of Nichiren Buddhism is chanting the phrase "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo," which is believed to enable individuals to tap into their inner life force and potential. In interviews, Turner has spoken about how she would chant for hours, seeking to transform her life circumstances. She credits her Buddhist practice with helping her find the courage to leave Ike Turner and subsequently reinvent her career. Her faith also helped her endure and overcome health struggles, including a stroke and cancer:
I used to be baffled about why I had to endure so much abuse, because I hadn't done anything to deserve it. After I began practicing Buddhism, I realized that my hardships could give me a mission—a purpose.
She Fled Ike Turner With Just 36 Cents In Her Pocket, 1976
Tina's escape occurred in July 1976, following a particularly brutal session of abuse from Ike in Dallas, Texas. With only 36 cents in her pocket, Tina fled from their shared limo and made it to a local Ramada Inn, where she was offered sanctuary. The hotel even stationed a guard at the hotel room door after seeing Tina's battered face. She then filed for divorce, but the process was long and difficult.
In the divorce settlement, Tina asked for and received her stage name. She gave up her share in their various properties and assets in exchange for her freedom, signifying her determination to sever all ties and start anew.
She Spread Her Wings And Went Solo, 1977
Despite the abuse Tina Turner suffered, she stayed strong and was determined to get back on her feet. And come back she did, even better than ever. She began making solo albums - even a country album - to roaring approval - and sharing the story of her marriage with Ike. She found comfort in the fact that she survived all the hardship she went through:
"I am strong. I lived through a divorce, separation from my family. I never let it break me down. I’m not an alcoholic. I’ve never smoked, I’ve never done drugs. I’ve floated through the disaster of my past clean. I arrived here undamaged...I can look back and understand why my karma was the way it was. Good came out of bad. Joy came out of pain. And I have never been so completely happy as I am today."
She Performed on SNL, 1981
Turner's SNL performance served as an important platform for her comeback. The episode was hosted by Fred Willard and aired on November 7, 1981. Rod Stewart invited Tina Turner on as his special guest, and they performed his hit song "Hot Legs" as a duet.
The song had been a huge hit for Rod Stewart, and Tina performed the song during her early solo concert days - referring her infamous legs.
Her Biggest Hit Ever Was "What's Love Got To Do With It", 1984
Take that, Ike! Proving that she was the musical magic all along, Tina's biggest hit of all time happened during her solo career. Written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, "What's Love Got To Do With It" was initially offered to Cliff Richard and Donna Summer, both of whom passed on it. It was then brought to Tina Turner, who was in the middle of a major career comeback at the time. The song was included on her fifth solo album, Private Dancer. The song was an immediate success, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, and staying there for 3 years straight.
"What's Love Got to Do with It" won three Grammy Awards in 1985: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The success of the song was a key part of Turner's resurgence in popularity during the 1980s and proved that she could be a major force in the music industry as a solo artist.
Just Look At All Those Grammys! 1985
Tina Turner is an accomplished artist with numerous Grammy Awards to her credit. Over her extensive career, she has won a total of 12 Grammy Awards, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the music industry. She has five Grammy Awards alone for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance! Turner's remarkable number of wins and nominations reflect her talent, versatility, and enduring impact on the music industry.
Her Legs Were So Iconic They Were Insured...Or Were They?
Tina Turner often joked that her legs were as famous as she was:
Sometimes I think I’m as famous for my legs as much as my voice. I only had my legs on show so much as it made it much easier to dance…and then it became part of my style...When I was younger, I never felt confident about any part of my body, but with all the attention my legs received, I realized they must be OK!
Though unsubstantiated, a long-running internet rumor is that Turner's legs were insured for $3.2 million, as they were such a crucial part of her stage persona. Those are some expensive stems!
She Set the Guinness World Record, 1988
In 1988, Tina Turner broke a Guinness World Record for the largest paying audiencefor a solo performer. She was performing for an audience of 180,00 in Rio De Janeiro. Known for her energetic and engaging stage presence, Turner's concerts are major events, showcasing her powerful voice, infectious enthusiasm, and enduring stamina.
This record is a testament to Turner's extraordinary career and enduring appeal. From the 1960s to the 2000s, she has been a significant figure in the music industry, recognized for her gritty and powerful vocals as well as her remarkable performance skills. Her ability to captivate audiences around the world is remarkable and has earned her a devoted fanbase. Previously to Tina Turner, the record had been held by Frank Sinatra!
Her Style Was - And Is - Iconic, 1997
Tina Turner's fashion sense has been a dynamic reflection of her music and personal journey throughout the years. She has always been known for her bold, glamorous, and daring style, which has evolved and transformed along with her career. During the early years with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, Tina embraced the fashionable trends of the time, often appearing in matching outfits with her Ikettes. During the 1970s, her style began to evolve, featuring more bohemian elements, including denim, fringe, and bold prints, reflecting the prevailing trends of the era. The 1980s marked Turner's successful reinvention as a solo artist. Her style during this period became more daring and provocative. She was known for her signature mini dresses, typically made of leather or embellished with sequins, showcasing her powerful and athletic legs. Another significant aspect of Turner's 80s style was her hair. Her wild, tousled mane became one of her trademarks
The look pictured here was created by Versace, and inspired by lingerie. Worn by Tina in 1997 (at age 58!), she allegedly asked for it to be made shorter when she first saw it, according to Donatella Versace:
We created a lingerie-style minidress made from crystal mesh, very short. When she saw it, she said, 'Shorter.' As she put the dress on and looked at herself in the mirror, there was a sudden change in her attitude. The lioness came out. Tina really understands and is able to harness the power of clothes. Backstage, before the performance, she danced with Gianni. It was magical, I will never forget that moment.
She Performed At The Super Bowl, 2000
Super Bowl XXXIV, held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, featured a matchup between the St. Louis Rams and the Tennessee Titans. Tina Turner delivered an electrifying performance at the Great American Music of the 20th Century pre-game show. She graced the audience with a condensed rendition of her new single "When The Heartache Is Over," as well as a performance of the classic hit, "Proud Mary." This appearance served as part of a promotional campaign for her then-new album, Twenty Four Seven, and upcoming tour. Her back-up dancers, dressed as cheerleaders, formed the letters - TINA ROCKS - which we all know to be true!
Kennedy Center Honors, 2005
Tina Turner has won many awards outside of the music world, including the NAACP Outstanding Actress Award (1968), the Vanity Fair Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award (1996), and the Women Of The Year Award (2005). She was also named one of Oprah's 25 Legendary Black Women in 2005. She also received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2005, as an acknowledgement of her extraordinary career, which spanned rock 'n' roll, R&B, pop, and soul genres. From her early days with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue to her phenomenal success as a solo artist, Turner's career had been marked by groundbreaking performances, popular hits, and an indomitable spirit of resilience and reinvention.
The ceremony included tributes by other artists and performers, celebrating Turner's achievements and influence in the music industry. Her recognition by the Kennedy Center not only highlighted her exceptional talent and iconic status as a performer but also affirmed her cultural significance and the enduring impact of her music.
She Forgives Ike Turner, 2007
Tina Turner still struggles with PTSD. Her husband, Erwin Bach, says she still has nightmares, even though her ex-husband Ike Turner passed away in 2007. After his death, Tina decided to let go of the anger she had long held towards him, despite the awful things he did:
For a long time I did hate Ike, I have to say that. But then, after he died, I really realized that he was an ill person. He did get me started and he was good to me in the beginning. So I have some good thoughts. Maybe it was a good thing that I met him, that I don’t know. It hurts to have to remember those times, but at a certain stage forgiveness takes over, forgiving means not having to hold on...It was letting go, because it only hurts you. By not forgiving, you suffer, because you think about it over and over. And for what?
She Performed Her 50th Anniversary Tour At Age 68, 2008
Tina Turner's 50th Anniversary Tour was a testament to her enduring talent, energy, and passion for performance. This tour, which took place in 2008 when Turner was 68 years old, marked a milestone in an already impressive career that spanned five decades.
The tour began in October 2008 and extended into 2009. It consisted of more than 90 shows spread across North America, Europe, and Asia. Her setlist included a mix of her iconic hits and some covers, providing a comprehensive view of her illustrious career. Some of the highlights included "Proud Mary," "River Deep – Mountain High," "What's Love Got to Do With It," and "Better Be Good To Me." The 50th Anniversary Tour was a commercial success and received positive reviews, fans and critics impressed by Turner's stamina and ability to deliver an electrifying performance that would be challenging for artists half her age. It is notable for being her last major tour, making it a poignant chapter in her extraordinary career.
She Found Her Happy Ever After, 2013
Turner ended up unexpectedly meeting the love of her life in 1985 at an airport in Germany. Music producer Erwin Bach was sent to pick her up when her flight landed, and Tina instantly felt a spark:
He was just so different. So laid back. So comfortable. So unpretentious. I really needed love. I just needed to love a person.
After nearly three decades together, the two tied the knot in 2013, and are still together to this day.
She's Faced Numerous Health Challenges Including A Stroke, 2013
Tina Turner's later years have not been without hardship, either. The singer has faced numerous health challenges, beginning with a stroke in 2013, just a few weeks after her wedding to husband Erwin Bach.
Her Husband Gave Her His Kidney Following Her 2016 Cancer Battle
Following her diagnosis and battle with intestinal cancer, Tina's health struggles continued - she was diagnosed with kidney failure. Not wanting to live out the rest of her life on machines, Turner was even considering medically assisted death, a legal option as a resident of Switzerland. However, husband Erwin Bach would not hear of it:
He said he didn't want another woman, or another life. Then he shocked me. He said he wanted to give me one of his kidneys. I wondered if anyone would think that Erwin’s living donation was transactional in some way. Incredibly, considering how long we had been together, there were still people who wanted to believe that Erwin married me for my money and fame. What else would a younger man want with an older woman? Erin always ignored the rumors.
Bach donated a kidney, and Turner had a successful transplant. Now that's love!
A Musical Based On Her Life Hit Broadway in 2018
The Tina Turner musical, officially titled TINA: The Tina Turner Musical, is a jukebox musical that premiered in 2018. The show chronicles the life and career of Tina Turner, from her humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee, to her rise to superstardom.
Created in collaboration with Tina Turner herself, the musical features many of her hit songs, including "What's Love Got to Do with It", "Proud Mary", "Private Dancer", and "River Deep – Mountain High". It is renowned for its powerful performances and the inspirational story it tells. The musical begins with Turner's early life and continues through her turbulent relationship with Ike Turner, her difficult journey to stardom, and her eventual emergence as one of the most iconic figures in music.
She Spent Her Final Years Peacefully In Switzerland with Her Husband
As of 2013, Turner renounced her U.S. citizenship and moved to her beautiful home, Chateau Algonquin, in Zurich, Switzerland. She resides there with her longtime husband, Erwin Bach. A reporter from the New York Times got the chance to visit, and painted readers a gorgeous picture of the $76m estate:
It has cartoon palace energy: ivy snaking up the walls, gardeners manicuring the shrubs, a life-size two-legged horse sculpture suspended from a domed ceiling, a framed rendering of Turner as an Egyptian queen, a room stuffed with gilded Louis XIV style sofas and, sprawled on one of them, Tina Turner herself.
She Wrote Her Own Love Story, 2018
Tina Turner's memoir, titled My Love Story, was published in October 2018. It's a comprehensive look into Turner's life, filled with personal and intimate details that she hadn't previously shared with the public. She discusses her childhood, her monumental career comeback in the 1980s, and her life beyond her music career.
One of the significant aspects of the book is her candid discussion about her abusive marriage to Ike Turner. She speaks openly about the physical and emotional abuse she suffered during their relationship and the courage it took to leave and forge her own path. Her memoir also delves into her health struggles, including her stroke, her battle with intestinal cancer, and kidney failure, all of which she faced in her later years. My Love Story is not only a tale of survival but also a testament to Turner's enduring legacy in the music industry. It's a story about a woman who faced numerous adversities but never allowed them to break her spirit.
She Passed Away In 2023
Turner passed away on Wednesday, May 24. Her publicist, Bernard Doherty, confirmed her demise in a statement, revealing that Turner had succumbed to a prolonged illness at her residence near Zurich, Switzerland. The statement read:
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. With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model. There will be a private funeral ceremony attended by close friends and family. Please respect the privacy of her family at this difficult time.
She will truly be missed by fans and friends alike.