Tina Turner, one of the best soul singers of all time who mixed genres and pushed plenty of boundaries, died on Tuesday, May 23, 2023. Her manager confirmed that she died at her home after a long illness. Turner was 83 years old.
Turner was a powerful, electric performer who wowed fans through expressing deep emotion in her songs and her magnetic sex appeal. Beginning as a singing duo in the ’60s with her then-husband, to divulging intimate struggles with abuse, to making it on her own, she also had one of the most compelling comeback stories in music.
Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Nutbush, Tennessee and spent much of her childhood in St. Louis. During her early teens she became deeply involved in the St. Louis R&B music scene where she met Ike Turner in 1956. She started performing with him and the Kings of Rhythm and soon they had a recording of “A Fool in Love” and renamed themselves the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Next, they released the singles “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” “Poor Fool,” and “Tra La La La La.”
In 1965 they appeared in Phil Spector’s concert movie, The Big TNT Show, and achieved a new level of success when they recorded River Deep, Mountain High. In ’71 they released Workin’ Together with the celebrated slow to fast cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Proud Mary” which went to No. 4 in the US and won their first Grammy.
Then they had a Top 5 UK hit in 1973 with “Nutbush City Limits,” the genre bending rock-soul-country song written by Turner, infused with autobiographical details. Two years later Turner appeared in her first film, playing the Acid Queen in The Who’s Tommy, and released the solo album named for her character.
Though they were successful as a musical duo, Tina and Ike’s marriage was volatile. Tina would later reveal that Ike had routinely been physically abusive. In ’76 she left Ike, both personally and professionally, following a physical altercation in Dallas in which Tina fought back. They were officially divorced in 1978 with Tina citing Ike’s habitual infidelities and drug and alcohol use, along with the abuse.
She recorded two unsuccessful albums in the late ’70s that were dominated by covers, then she joined the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart on their tours. In 1983, her solo career really got going when she recorded the cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”
A year later her popularity exploded with her much-anticipated album Private Dancer, which went to No. 3. Singles were led by the anthem “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” a No. 1 hit that earned Grammys for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year. The title track went to No. 7 and “Better Be Good to Me” went to No. 5 and earned a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance.
In ’85, she starred in the post-apocalyptic Mad Max sequel, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome with Mel Gibson. For the movie, she recorded the No. 2 pop track “We Don’t Need Another Hero” and the No. 15 “One of the Living,” which won Best Female Rock Performance at the Grammys. Also that year she released the live duet “It’s Only Love” with Bryan Adams and did a duet with Mick Jagger at Live Aid.
Turner published her autobiography, I, Tina, in ’86, detailing the abuse during her marriage and a suicide attempt in 1968. It was adapted into a film in ’93 titled What’s Love Got to Do with It, starring Angela Bassett as Tina and Laurence Fishburne as Ike. Turner redid classic songs for the soundtrack with the No. 9 hit “I Don’t Wanna Fight” going double platinum.
That year also saw the release of Break Every Rule with the singles “Typical Male,” “Two People,” and “What You Get is What You See.” The album reached No. 4, went platinum, and earned a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for “Back Where You Started.”
Foreign Affair came out a year later, featuring “The Best” and in 1990 she and Rod Stewart remade the Marvin Gaye-Tammi Terrell duet “It Takes Two.” Turner joined the James Bond legacy by recording “GoldenEye” for the film of the same name.
In ’96 she released Wildest Dreams with the cover of John Waite’s “Missing You,” plus “Something Beautiful Remains” and the title track. Then her album Twenty Four Seven entered charts at No. 21, marking her highest chart debut.
She went on the “Tina! 50th Anniversary Tour” in 2008-2009, then she collaborated with spiritual musicians Regula Curti and Dechen Shak-Dagsay on Beyond: Buddhist and Christian Prayers, plus follow-ups Children Beyond in 2011 and Love Within in 2014.
In 1991 she and Ike were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2021 she was inducted as a solo act. She received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2005 and in 2020, Private Dancer was entered in to the National Recording Registry for preservation.
Editor’s note: This text appeared in different form in The Overstreet Guide to Collecting Concert Posters.