Tina Turner, known for her soul classics and popular songs such as The Best and What’s Love Got to Do With It, has died at the age of 83. Despite coming from a difficult farming community and enduring an abusive relationship, she rose to become one of the most successful recording artists in history. She passed away peacefully after a long illness at her residence in Küsnacht, Switzerland.

By Staff Reporters

After a long battle with illness, Tina Turner, a rock and roll pioneer who became a pop superstar in the 1980s, has passed away at the age of 83.

In 2016, she was diagnosed with colon cancer, and the following year, she underwent a kidney transplant.

Turner boldly declared and magnified the pivotal role of Black women in the evolution of rock’n’roll, moulding the genre with such energy that even the legendary Mick Jagger couldn’t resist drawing inspiration from her electrifying and vibrant stage presence to enhance his performance flair.

Without any doubt, she was a giant of her era, known for her iconic sky-high hairstyles and electrifying performances. Her commanding presence, sultry allure, raspy voice, and boundless energy were her hallmarks, evoking the same ecstatic frenzy that defines the true essence of rock and roll.

She worked with her abusive ex-husband, Ike Turner, for twenty years before deciding to pursue a solo career. Despite some initial setbacks, she eventually became a prominent pop icon of the 1980s thanks to her album Private Dancer.

During the mid-80s, while enjoying her second coming as a solo artist, she was also making history. She blazed a trail as a middle-aged African American woman in showbiz who had overcome immense challenges, personal and professional, to reign supreme.

Writing in theguardian.com in 2018 Daphne A Brooks said about Turner: “Her singularity as an artist is undeniable. Turner merged sound and movement at a critical turning point in rock history, navigating and reflecting the technological innovations of a new pop-music era in the 60s and 70s.

“She catapulted herself to the forefront of a musical revolution that had long marginalised and overlooked the pioneering contributions of African American women and then remade herself again at an age when most pop musicians were hitting the oldies circuit.

“Turner’s musical character has always been a charged combination of mystery as well as light, melancholy mixed with a ferocious vitality that often flirted with danger.”

Tina Turner, originally named Anna Mae Bullock, was born on November 26, 1939, and grew up in Nutbush, Tennessee. During her childhood, she helped her family pick cotton and sang in the church choir of her small town.

As a teenager, she convinced Ike to let her join his band in St. Louis by showcasing her singing abilities. Although he had initially rejected her request, he changed his mind after hearing her perform You Know I Love You by BB King during a Kings of Rhythm show.

Ike bestowed upon her the name Tina Turner as he acknowledged her singing talent and trademarked the name to protect it in case she left his band. However, when she attempted to leave the group due to Ike’s unpredictable and abusive behaviour, he turned violent and struck her with a wooden shoe stretcher.

“My relationship with Ike was doomed from the day he figured out I was going to be his money-maker. He needed to control me economically and psychologically so that I could never leave him,” she wrote in her 2018 autobiography, My Love Story.

In July 1960, under the name Tina Turner with Ike and Tina Turner,  she released her debut single Fool in Love, which achieved significant success by breaking into the US Top 30 and initiating a series of commendable chart performances. However, it was their live performances that truly propelled them to stardom.

The Ike and Tina Turner Revue embarked on an aggressive tour of the Chitlin’ Circuit, performing in front of integrated audiences, a testament to their commercial influence. In 1964, they secured a contract with Warner Bros imprint Loma Records, which released their first charting album, Live! The Ike & Tina Turner Show.

In the 1970s, Ike and Tina were a successful duo who produced hit songs and won Grammy awards. However, their partnership ended in 1976 when Tina left Ike due to his frequent infidelity and violent behaviour.

Tina’s final song with the group was Baby, Get It On, which was featured in the 1975 film adaptation of the rock opera Tommy. In the film, Tina played the role of Acid Queen, which was also the title of her second solo album.

In 1978, Turner’s divorce decree was sealed with a mere two cars and the ownership of her stage moniker. As recounted in the riveting documentary Tina, her ex-husband, Ike, put up a bit of a fuss, for he was well aware of the grand plans she had in store for her newfound independence.

“Ike fought a little bit because he knew what I would do with it,” she explained in the documentary.

Turner, an experienced musician who had released two albums on her own, persisted in her pursuit of a solo career. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until her fifth album, Private Dancer in 1984, that she was able to abandon her previous image as a gyrating rockstar and avoid being confined to performing for older audiences. Instead, she emerged as a powerful presence, dressed in leather and sporting a bold mullet, solidifying her position as a timeless pop icon.

In the documentary Tina, she referred to Private Dancer as her debut album. She said she did not view it as a return, but rather as her initial arrival.

“I don’t consider it a comeback…Tina had never arrived.”

In 2000, Turner declared her retirement after releasing her last album, Twenty-Four-Seven. Nevertheless, she returned in 2008, taking part in the Grammy Awards with Beyoncé and embarking on a final tour to celebrate her 50-year career.

That was conclusively the end. “I was just tired of singing and making everybody happy,” she told the New York Times in 2019. “That’s all I’d ever done in my life.”

Turner told The Guardian in 2020 that although she had faced significant health issues, the past decade of her life had fulfilled her desired concept of happiness: “True and lasting happiness comes from having an unshakeable, hopeful spirit that can shine, no matter what,” she said. “That’s what I’ve achieved, and it is my greatest wish to help others become truly happy as well.”

Force of nature

Turner’s manager of 30 years, Roger Davies, said in a statement that “Tina was a unique and remarkable force of nature with her strength, incredible energy and immense talent.”

“From the first day I met her in 1980, she believed in herself completely when few others did at that time… I will miss her deeply,” he added.

American singer Gloria Gaynor, who also rose to fame in the 1960s, said Turner “paved the way for so many women in rock music, black and white”.

There were also tributes from Supermodel Naomi Campbell, Basketball legend Magic Johnson and singers Kelly Rowland, Ciara and Blondie’s Debbie Harry.

On Instagram, The Rolling Stones frontman Sir Mick Jagger said Turner was “inspiring, warm, funny and generous” and helped him when he was young.

Sir Elton John, who in his autobiography wrote about the heated arguments the pair had while trying to work together in 1997, said she was one of the world’s “most exciting and electric performers”.

Actress Viola Davis praised Turner as “our first symbol of excellence and unbridled ownership of sexuality!!”

The legendary Turner leaves behind her devoted partner, the German music mogul Erwin Bach, with whom she spent a blissful 27 years before tying the knot in a picturesque Swiss ceremony in July 2013. In a bold move, Turner also relinquished her American citizenship that same year to embrace her new Swiss identity.

With additional reporting by theguardian.com and bbc.com

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