Tina Turner

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Tina Turner Ed Sullivan - Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

American singer and songwriter Tina Turner was born Annie Mae Bullock on 26 November 1939 in Brownsville, Tennessee. She was the youngest daughter of Floyd Richard Bullock and his wife Zelma Priscilla (née Currie).The family lived in the rural unincorporated community of Nutbush, Tennessee, where Bullock’s father worked as an overseer of the sharecroppers at Poindexter Farm on Highway 180.

A self-professed tomboy, Bullock joined both the cheerleading squad and the female basketball team at Carver High School in Brownsville, and “socialized every chance she got”

She sang in the tiny town’s church choir, and as a teenager talked – or rather, sang – her way into Ike Turner’s band in St Louis: he had declined her request to join until he heard her seize the microphone during a Kings of Rhythm performance for a rendition of BB King’s ‘You Know I Love You’.

After high school, she began working as a nurse’s aide in hopes of entering that profession. Frequently, Turner and her sister would head to nightclubs in St. Louis and East St. Louis, where she first saw Ike Turner perform as the bandleader of Kings of Rhythm. The 18-year-old became enamoured with the guitarist eight years her senior and his group’s music.

Ike Turner was a prolific session guitarist and piano player and also worked as a talent scout and producer for Sun Records and Modern Records.
Ike Turner was married fourteen times.

After her vocal talents became apparent, Ike gave her the name Tina Turner – and trademarked it in case she left him and he wanted to replace her in his act. He quickly became abusive: when Turner tried to leave the group early on after having got a sense of his mercurial character, he hit her with a wooden shoe stretcher.

Bullock’s first recording was in 1958 under the name Little Ann on the single ‘Boxtop’. She is credited as a vocalist on the record alongside Ike and fellow Kings of Rhythm singer Carlson Oliver.

Bullock was introduced to the public as Tina Turner with the single ‘A Fool in Love’ in July 1960. It reached No. 2 on the Hot R&B Sides chart and No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100.

With Ike & Tina Turner she had the 1966 UK No.3 single ‘River Deep Mountain High’, 1971 US No.4 single ‘Proud Mary’, and 1973 ‘Nutbush City Limits.

In the second half of the 60s, the duo were courted by many of rock’s biggest names. Phil Spector produced the 1966 single River Deep – Mountain High; they supported the Rolling Stones in the UK and later the US, and stars including David Bowie, Sly Stone, Cher, Elvis Presley and Elton John came to their Las Vegas residency.

In 1966, the Turners partook in a now-legendary rock TV show, The TNT Show, whose musical director was producer Phil Spector. Turner recorded her vocal on the Spector produced ‘River Deep Mountain High’. It went on to make No.3 in the UK but only No.88 on the US chart.

Spector was well aware of Ike Turner’s controlling attitude in the studio and therefore he drafted an unusual contract. The River Deep – Mountain High album and single would be credited to Ike & Tina Turner, but Ike was paid $20,000 to stay away from the studio, and only Tina Turner’s vocals would be used on the record. Session musicians who played on the track included Leon Russell (keyboards), Glen Campbell (guitar), and Hal Blaine (drums).

In 1976, Turner filed for divorce from her husband Ike, ending their violent 16-year marriage and successful musical partnership. In the divorce, finalised in 1978, Turner was left with just two cars and the rights to her stage name. “Ike fought a little bit because he knew what I would do with it,” she said in the documentary Tina.

Turner credited Buddhism and particularly the practice of chanting with positively affecting her life in the 1980s.

She gave a riveting performance as the Acid Queen in Ken Russell’s film version of “Tommy,” The Who’s rock opera.

Turner had her first solo No.1 single in the US in 1984 with ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’. This song was originally written for Cliff Richard, however the song was rejected. It was then offered to Donna Summer, who has stated she sat with it for a couple of years but never recorded it.

Turner took part in Live Aid on 13 Jul 1985 when she sang a duet with Mick Jagger. The worldwide event, raised over £ 40 million. TV pictures beamed to over 1.5 billion people in 160 countries making it the biggest live broadcast ever known.

Outside music, she starred in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome opposite Mel Gibson in 1985. She published her first memoir, the global bestseller I, Tina, in 1986, which was later adapted into the 1993 film What’s Love Got to Do With It? starring Angela Bassett as Turner. In 1995, she sang the theme tune to the James Bond film GoldenEye.

On 16 Jan 1988, Tina Turner gave herself a place in the record books when she performed in front of 182,000 people in Rio De Janeiro. The largest audience ever for a single artist.

In 2002, Tina Turner’s hometown, made famous in her song ‘Nutbush City Limits,’ named a stretch of State Highway 19 the ‘Tina Turner Highway.’ Turner lived in Nutbush, a small town about 50 miles northeast of Memphis until she was 17.

Ike Turner died 12 Dec 2007 at the age of 76 at his home near San Diego, California.

In 2020, a remix of her 1984 hit ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ by the Norwegian producer Kygo made Turner the first artist to have a UK Top 40 hit in seven consecutive decades.

In 2021, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist, 30 years after Ike and Tina Turner’s induction.

Turner died on 24 May 2023 at the age of 83. She had suffered several health issues in recent years including cancer, a stroke and kidney failure.

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