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Tina Turner, legendary singer and 'Queen of Rock 'n' Roll,' dead at 83

Olivia Singh,Rebecca Cohen   

Tina Turner, legendary singer and 'Queen of Rock 'n' Roll,' dead at 83
  • Tina Turner has died at the age of 83, her family said in a statement.
  • She rose to fame with her musical partner (and later husband) Ike Turner on songs including "Proud Mary."
  • As a solo artist, Turner achieved success with albums like "Private Dancer."

Legendary singer Tina Turner has died at the age of 83.

"With her music and her boundless passion for life, she enchanted millions of fans around the world and inspired the stars of tomorrow," read a post on her Instagram page. "Today we say goodbye to a dear friend who leaves us all her greatest work: her music. All our heartfelt compassion goes out to her family. Tina, we will miss you dearly."

Her family said in a statement that the "Queen of Rock & Roll" "died peacefully" in Switzerland on Wednesday after a "long illness," according to Rolling Stone.

"With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model," Turner's family said.

The Grammy-winning music icon was known for hit songs like "What's Love Got to Do With It," "Private Dancer," "The Best," and "Better Be Good to Me."

Early life in the South

Tina Turner, whose real name is Anna Mae Bullock, was born on November 26, 1939, in Nutbush, Tennessee. She grew up with her mother, Zelma Bullock, father, Floyd Bullock, and older sister, Alline Bullock. Turner described her family as "well-to-do farmers" in a 1986 cover story for Rolling Stone magazine and said that while they weren't poor, she could recognize the difference between her family and others that were wealthier.

"To me, it seemed as if we lived well," Turner told the publication. "My sister and I had our own room. Each season we'd get new clothes, and I was always fresh and neat, especially compared to a lot of other people around me. We were never hungry."

She added: "Of course, we knew the difference between our family and, say, the daughters of schoolteachers — those people were educated. My parents weren't, per se, but they had a lot of common sense and spoke well. We weren't low-class people. In fact, my parents were church people; my father was a deacon in the church."

Turner lived with her paternal grandmother at one point and recalled being "miserable" during a 2005 interview with Oprah Winfrey. Turner told Rolling Stone that her parents "didn't love each other" and constantly fought.

Her mother left her when Turner was 10 years old and went to live in St. Louis, Missouri. Her father left the family for Chicago when she was 13 years old; Turner said it was "fine" because the pair "weren't that close."

"My parents weren't mine, and I wasn't theirs, really, so when they left, it was as if they had always been gone as far as I was concerned," she told Rolling Stone.

Meeting Ike Turner and discovering her talent

During high school, Turner worked for a white family called the Hendersons, then moved to St. Louis to live with her mom "because it was my way out of the South." It was there that Tina met her future husband and musical partner, Ike Turner.

Turner first encountered Ike at Club Manhattan in 1956, when she was 16 years old. At the time, Ike was part of a group called Kings of Rhythm. Her first impression was that the musician was "terribly ugly" but had a "great presence," she said told Rolling Stone.

"There had been such a buildup about him because he had the hottest band around," she told Rolling Stone. "When I first saw him, I remember thinking that I had never seen anyone that skinny. He was immaculately dressed, real clean, and all sculptured — the bones and the hair."

She first sang with Ike and the Kings of Rhythm one night after the drummer gave her the microphone. Her talent caught the attention of Ike, and she soon began singing with him.

"That's when I knew I wanted to be an entertainer," she told Winfrey in 2005. "Forget marriage, children, and living happily ever after as a housewife. That was gone. Ike went out and bought me a fur, a dress, some high-heeled shoes. He got my hair all done up. I rode to work in a pink Cadillac. I even got my teeth fixed."

Turner began dating Ike's bandmate, Raymond Hill, and they welcomed a son named Raymond Craig Turner in 1958. (He later died by suicide in 2018, at 59.)

In 1960, Ike gave Anna Mae the stage name Tina Turner, and the duo's track "A Fool in Love" became a success.

Her abusive relationship with Ike Turner

After that success, Turner said their relationship took a turn.

"That is when he took over the money, the name, the whole control," Tina told Gayle King in a 2018 CBS interview.

Known as the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, they performed shows together and even opened for the Rolling Stones during their 1969 US tour.

Years later, Tina would reveal that she endured years of physical abuse, which began when Ike beat her with a shoe stretcher after telling him she no longer wanted to continue recording. Tina told Winfrey that Ike typically tried to harm her face because he "wanted his abuse to be seen."

She also said that Ike surrounded himself with drugs and alcohol, which often led to anger and violence. (He died from a cocaine overdose in late 2007.)

She also once attempted suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills before a show, telling Rolling Stone that she "didn't know how to get out."

In interviews, Tina explained that she stayed in a professional and personal relationship with Ike for several reasons.

"As horrible as he treated me, I still felt responsible for letting him down," she told the outlet. "That was a mental problem I had at the time. And I was afraid to leave. I knew I had no place to hide, because he knew where my people were. My mother was actually living in Ike's house in St. Louis. My sister was living in an apartment basically rented by Ike."

"I felt sorry for him," she added.

The pair welcomed their first and only child together, Ronnie Turner, in 1960. (Ronnie died from colon cancer complications in December 2022 at 62 years old.) Two years later, they got married in Tijuana, Mexico.

"It was horrible," Tina told Rolling Stone of marrying Ike in a 1984 interview. "When he asked me to marry him, I didn't want to, because I knew then what my life would be like. But I was afraid to say no. So we went to Tijuana, and a man signed the paper, and he slid this paper across the table. And I just remember it was dirty and ugly, and I said to myself, 'This is my wedding.'"

Tina had a physical altercation with Ike, in which she said she fought back, in July 1976 and finally left him.

She had 36 cents at the time and made ends meet by putting on cabaret shows and cleaning houses. She also used food stamps and made appearances on TV shows like "Hollywood Squares" to make money.

Around then, Tina discovered Buddhism and began regularly practicing it to improve her well-being.

In a 2018 interview with The Times, the singer said that she came to forgive Ike.

"As an old person, I have forgiven him, but it would not work with him," she said. "He asked for one more tour with me, and I said, 'No, absolutely not.' Ike wasn't someone you could forgive and allow him back in."

"It's all gone, all forgotten," she added. "I don't know what the dreams are about. The dreams are still there — not the violence, the anger. I wonder if I'm still holding something in."

Biggest hits and mega-fame

One of Ike and Tina's biggest hits was a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary," which earned the duo their first Grammy in 1972 for best R&B vocal performance by a group.

Another track, "River Deep — Mountain High," wasn't popular in America at the time of its release but has come to be another significant song associated with the pair.

"It wasn't R&B enough for the Black market and it wasn't poppy enough for the white market," she told The Times in 2018.

After a hiatus, Tina made a career comeback with her 1984 solo album "Private Dancer," which featured hits like "What's Love Got to Do With It" and "Better Be Good to Me."

The album also led Tina to earn three Grammys in 1985. Speaking to Gayle King in 2018, Tina revealed that she was actually hesitant to record "What's Love Got to Do With It," which Australian producer Roger Davies encouraged her to sing.

"The day of recording, from what Roger said, 'Tina, I think the song is gonna hit,' so I said, 'OK, I can sing it.' I said, 'But I don't like it, Rog.' So, I went in the studio, and I applied my voice," she told King.

Tina dabbled into acting, too. Her first film role was the Acid Queen in the 1975 movie "Tommy." She later starred in "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" alongside Mel Gibson. Tina told Rolling Stone that she turned down a role in "The Color Purple" because the movie "was too close" to the real-life abuse that she endured.

Her 1986 autobiography titled "I, Tina" was also given the Hollywood treatment with a 1993 movie adaptation that starred Angela Bassett as the iconic singer. Speaking to Winfrey in 2018, Tina said that she didn't finish watching the movie because it altered details about her life.

Her life also inspired a Broadway musical, "Tina — The Tina Turner Musical," which opened in November 2019. She surprised the cast and audience by appearing on stage during the curtain call on the opening night and delivering a speech.

"This musical is my life but it's like poison that turned to medicine," she said. "I can never be as happy as I am now."

HBO also released a documentary titled "Tina" in 2021, based on her life and career.

Later life and a new love

In 1985, Tina met German record executive Erwin Bach. She was 46 at the time, and he was 30, but the age difference never bothered her.

"I didn't think I was old," she told King in 2018. "At that moment, I just felt love."

"The day I first met Erwin, at an airport in Germany, I should have been too tired from my flight, too preoccupied with thoughts of my concert tour," she wrote in her 2020 memoir, "Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good."

"But I did notice him, and I instantly felt an emotional connection," she said.

Tina added: "I left my comfort zone and made it a priority to get to know Erwin. That simple first meeting led to a long, beautiful relationship — and my one true marriage."

Tina went on to live in Switzerland for years before gaining citizenship. In 2013, she and Bach tied the knot in Northern Switzerland.

In her second autobiography, titled "My Love Story" (released in October 2018), Tina revealed that in 2016, her kidneys were at "20% and plunging rapidly" and she underwent a kidney transplant that was made possible by Bach donating his organ. Prior to that, the singer also had a stroke and intestinal cancer.

"When the doctors said, 'Both kidneys are out,' I said, 'I guess it's my time to go,'" Tina told Winfrey in 2018. "I was in my 70s. In my thinking, I'd lived long enough, and I didn't want to be on a machine for the rest of my life. My mother and sister were both gone. But then Erwin chimed in, very emotional, and said, 'I don't want another partner.' He was 150% ready to give me his kidney."

In a 2020 interview with Variety, Tina told the publication that the pandemic had been "a challenge" for her.

"My age and health require that I stay close to home," she said.

The musician expressed optimism though, saying, "I also believe this crisis can be a reminder to appreciate the treasure of everyday life. I'm praying for the good health of my family, friends, fans, and all humankind, and I look forward to seeing everyone again when we come out of this ordeal."

Tina also said that her days of performing were long behind her.

"I'm happy watching others perform now," she said. "There's a time and place for everything, and this is my wonderful retirement time. I wouldn't change it for anything."

Tina Turner is survived by her husband Erwin Bach.