If you like the story of human triumph, you almost have to love the story of Tina Turner. Well, that’s not true. You really have to love her story. This is a woman who was born in Brownsville, Tennessee. She basically had everything working against her. She was born Anna Mae Bullock. Unfortunately, she grew up in an abusive household. Her mother left when she was 11. Although she sang in church, she didn’t seem driven to become a great performer early in her life.
While living in East St. Louis, she saw Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm band. She was transformed. It seems that Tina went to see them play night after night and finally got an opportunity to sing with the band, and she impressed Ike Turner. In 1960, as with many great things in life, things just seem to fall into place for Tina. A Full In Love was written for another singer. He did not show. She ended up singing the part. The tape was sent to the president of Sue Records (Juggy Murray). It was Murray who convinced Turner to make Tina the star of the show.
I’m not can review all of Tina Turner’s biography. It is long; it is well documented. She is one of the few superstars that has a book chronicling her life, as well as a movie, as well as a Broadway show.
She enjoyed wonderful success as the lead singer for Ike and Tina Turner’s revue. They had a string of hits. Tina insisted on leaning heavily into rock ‘n’ roll. This was incredibly unusual at the time. This is exactly what helped set up her later success. In 1966, Ike and Tina Turner signed with Phil Spector (Wall of Sound) and produced River Deep – Mountain High. This was a huge hit in England. It led to Ike and Tina opening for the Rolling Stones.
In 1971, they release Proud Mary. That becomes their best-selling single, peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Tina begins to write more of their songs. Their 1973 hit NutBush City Limits recalls her time in Nutbush, Tn.
In spite of their success, or maybe because of it, Tina Turner filed for divorce in 1976. I would be remiss if I did not mention that this was an abusive relationship she had with Ike Turner. The divorce was finalized in 1978. I think it’s fair to say that from 1978 through 1983 Tina is looking for her voice.
At age 44, Tina Turner releases the album, Private Dancer (1984). What’s Love Got to Do with It is the lead single off of the album. It becomes her only number-one hit. It was the second biggest song of 1984. This launched Tina Turner’s second career. Multiple successful albums follow. Huge world tours. (Oh, you really can’t miss her 60 minutes interview with Mike Wallace.)
She overcame the odds. This is one of the reasons we all love her so much.
Tina Turner had a presence on stage that was strong, powerful, and energetic. Her vocals had that same power which was combined with remarkable phrasing. She was the Queen of Rock and Roll. Rest in peace.