“Tina Turner is the queen of rock and roll, she has a voice of a thousand watts and dazzlingly long legs”, Oprah Winfrey described singer Tina Turner. However, this is not just about exceptional vocal abilities, but also about the overall performance and energy with which this amazing singer radiated every time she stepped on the stage. She saw, suffered and experienced everything – from the lowest bottom to the highest peaks.
With 200 million albums sold, she is considered one of the most successful female rock performers of all time, and despite that, she modestly claims that she has never seen herself as a star. She has been on the scene for more than fifty years, and she started her career in the 1960s with her husband Ike, who abused her for years. They have not spoken for more than 30 years, and Tina did not comment on his death eight years ago. However, the legendary queen of rock, who will soon turn 76, gave an example to many women how even in the most difficult life situations, it is possible to win all battles by force of will. And not only that, it is also possible to climb to the stars…
She became famous as Tina Turner, and was born as Anna May Bullock, on November 26, 1939, in the small rural community of Nat bush, in the western part of the American state of Tennessee. She was the second child of Zelma Priscilla, a factory worker, and Floyd Richard Bullock, a Baptist priest. After the start of World War II, the family moved to the city of Knoxville, where they worked in war defense. It was here that Anna gained her first singing experience at Spring Hill Baptist Church.
When she turned 11, her parents divorced, and Zelma moved to St. Louis to escape the hard life and domestic violence she had suffered for years from her husband Floyd. Two years later, Floyd remarried, abandoned the children, and moved to Detroit. Anna and her sister Eileen were left alone, but were adopted by an aunt from Brownsville who raised them until her death. Tina later stated in her memoirs that because of her difficult childhood and the way her parents abandoned her, she often felt like an unwanted child.
“I felt like an unloved child. I don’t think my mother wanted me, and after I confronted her and asked if that was the case, she told me the whole story. When I was born, I felt trapped in my father’s trap from which she could not escape. I did not blame her, but I felt sorry for myself, “the memoirs state.
Ana was a mischievous but friendly child. In her teens, she joined a team of cheerleaders and then a women’s basketball team at a local high school. She did not miss any opportunity to socialize with her peers. Although young, it was the first time she had entered into an emotional relationship with Harry Taylor, a boy from a nearby school. The relationship did not last long, since Ana, after seeing him with another girl, cut off all contact with him. Betrayal, she says, broke her heart then. Harry was her first love and first sexual experience, but despite everything, she claims that she never repented for it.
“You know what often happens to children whose parents are divorced – school can be very cruel. They teased me, and that reflected on my learning. However, I managed to deal with it and I finally fell in love. Why. “My love was so strong? Without enough love in the family, the moment you fall in love, all those feelings come to the surface,” Turner said in a 2005 interview, noting that faith gave her strength at all times.
After the death of her aunt, sixteen-year-old Ana went with her sister to her mother in St. Louis.
After finishing school, in 1958, she started working in the hospital as an auxiliary worker, hoping to become a nurse. During that period, she and her sister start visiting nightclubs in the city, where the future star meets a man who opened the door to success and fame for her, but also brought her great suffering. Although she was not impressed by his appearance, Ana was fascinated by the talent of the singer of the then popular band “The Kings of Rhythm”, Ike Turner, which is why she was a frequent guest at their performances in clubs in St. Louis.
Noticing that Ike and the members of his band choose the girls from the audience during the performance and invite them on stage to sing with them, Ana wanted to try her hand at singing. So one evening at the famous Manhattan Club in St. Louis, the drummer of the band “The Kings of Rhythm”, Gene Washington, approached the table where Anna and her sister were sitting and gave them a microphone. Eileen shied away from the microphone, and Ana reluctantly accepted the offer and sang, not realizing that this was her real big step towards the world of music. Initially skeptical, after a great performance of one of B. B. King’s songs, Turner invited Ana to join their band, so at the age of eighteen Anas as a backing vocalist became a member of Ike Turner’s group under the stage name “Little Anna”.
At the same time, in 1958, after an affair with saxophonist Raymond Hill, one of the band’s musicians, he had his first child. Since she did not accept the fact that Ana decided to take such a step at such a young age, her mother kicked her out of the house and she and her son Craig went to Ike’s home, and her relationship with her mother never improved. After a very short time, she became the main star and the first vocalist of the then very popular group. Ike and Ana together achieve significant success and as performers with the best stage and television performances, they gain popularity around the world. Together they recorded a large number of songs, many of which were at the very top of the charts.
However,, with the successful professional cooperation, the relationship between Ana and Ajk began to take on other dimensions. After two years, Ana and Ike, eight years older, decide to get married and soon become parents to little Ronaldo, who is Ike’s third child, since he had two sons in a previous marriage – Michael and Ike Junior. At that time, he suggests that Ana change her name to Tina, which rhymes with the name of his favorite TV star Shina. Ike cited his fear that she would run away and continue her solo career with the name Little Anna, which made her famous, as the reason for that. Under the name Ike and Tina Turner, they became very famous and acclaimed musicians. However, when they started collaborating with producer Phil Spector, they changed their musical direction and in the late sixties and early seventies, they found themselves among the leading stars of pop / soul music.
At the time, they performed as a front band at some Rolling Stones celebrity concerts, and “Proud Mary” and “Nutbush City Limits” were hits that marked that period and that kind of music. In 1968, Tina became pregnant again, but after the dramatic knowledge that their friend Anne Thomas was also expecting Ike’s child, she terminated the pregnancy. In the mid-seventies, success and Ike’s rude behavior began to affect the relationship between the famous couple. The relationship melted, and Ike’s disdain for his wife became public and more frequent, because alcohol and cocaine took over his mind. While Tina and Ike were magnificent on stage, outside, she suffered severe violence.
I enjoyed a reputation in the city and many offered me a better job, but I remained loyal to Ajk… I’m just like that. He would start by asking if I wanted to hurt him like everyone else, but the more I repeated, “No,” he was more and more sure of his claims. Later, such a conversation would follow a pattern and as soon as it started, I knew there would be beatings. He inflicted injuries on my face, ribs and always tried to make a bruise on my eye – he wanted to make the consequences of his violence visible, and that was humiliating, “Tina said honestly and poignantly in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
One night, as they were traveling to Dallas as part of a joint tour, Ike beat her to death. Tortured and beaten, she waited for him to fall asleep, and then, in order to cover her wounds and bruises, she put on her glasses and ran away with only 36 cents in her pocket. She found refuge in a nearby motel, after which, with the help of a lawyer and his friends who came to help, she flew to Los Angeles.
“I went through so many humiliating situations, moments when even make-up couldn’t help cover up the injuries, because my whole face was swollen. Many times, while he was sleeping, I reached for the gun, but I gave up at the last minute. And despite to all, I did a lot to make him happy. I was his Cinderella, “Tina said honestly.
She finally found the strength to accuse him of years of physical harassment and abuse, and as she fell into a severe mental condition, she tried to commit suicide by swallowing 50 tablets of Valium.
In her biography “I, Tina” later translated into a film that was symbolically named after one of her most famous hits “What’s Love Got to Do with It” ?, Tina accused Ajk of marital violence, which he did until the publication of his autobiography 2001, denied for years, but then admitted the harsh truth.
“I slapped Tina … for no reason and sent her to the ground with my fist. But I didn’t beat her exactly as much as she talks,” he finally and publicly apologized to his ex-wife for everything he hurt her, adding that he could not change the past. During the divorce process, Ike sent all the children to live with Tina, who was then trying to start from the beginning and fight for her place among the stars on her own.
He accused her of wanting to reject the children, claiming that she even sent his son Michael to a mental hospital after he allegedly tried to reconcile her with his father, which she later denied. Since she was left with nothing after the divorce, she had to clean the apartments for a while in order to support herself. Fortunately, she soon received an offer to star with the group “Who” in the rock opera “Tommy” directed by the famous Ken Russell. The film, in which Tina played the rock queen and sang a few songs, failed to bring her to the forefront as a solo singer, but it certainly contributed to the development of her future career.
The first major success
Success on the British charts followed soon after she recorded the famous song by Ala Green “Let’s Stay Together”, with which she broke through among the 10 most listened to in Great Britain. At the same time, the accompanying album called “Private Dancer” sold more than 11 million copies, and it also included the song “What’s Love Got To Do With It”. In 1985, Tina accepted a role in the film “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”, and the song from this production, “We Don’t Need Another Hero”, became an all-time hit. That same year, she performed in a duet with Mick Jagger at the “Live Aid” concert and the single “We Are The World” made a significant contribution to the charity action of the United States. Tina lived in Zurich at the time, and in 1985, at a party of a publishing house, she met her current husband, a German music producer and sixteen years younger, Erwin Bach, with whom she began an emotional relationship a year later.
“He’s my everything. I adore him. We’re one. And what do I love most about him? Well, life,” said the legendary singer, who married Ervin in 2013, a few years ago.
The dark-skinned queen of rock and roll achieved her greatest musical success in the late eighties with the albums “Break Every Rule” and “Foreign Affair”, from which numerous songs became world hits, and one of the biggest, which is still listened to is “Simply the Best”. From her rich repertoire, the song “Golden eye” from the film of the same name about James Bond, made in 1995, stands out.
When she turned sixty, Tina announced that the next tour would be her last. She decided to retire and enjoy a peaceful life with her longtime partner Erwin Bach. Then she said goodbye to the audience, believing that the end of her music career had come, although her friends, Oprah Winfrey and Sofia Loren, with the words: “Back to work, you were born with a gift, it is your duty” !, managed to persuade her to returns to the stage a few more times. That same year, in 2007, she was left without a mother with whom she never managed to smooth relations. Tina’s ex-husband, Ike, suffered from a disease of the cardiovascular system for a long time, and after an overdose of cocaine, he passed away in 2007, at the age of 76.
Tina describes herself as a strong woman who survived divorce, separation from family and all kinds of hell, but she did not allow it all to break and she persevered despite all the catastrophes of her life. She never smoked, consumed alcohol in moderation, and categorically refused the drug every time someone offered it to her.
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