Born Anna Mae Bullock in 1939, the woman who would become known as Tina Turner had a rough family life. Her parents were poor sharecroppers, who split up and left Turner and her sister to be raised by their grandmother. As a teen, Tina immersed herself in St. Louis' R&B music scene.
While at local nightclub Club Manhattan, Tina crossed paths with Ike Turner, the leader of Kings of Rhythm, who are credited as one of the first groups to introduce rock and roll the world with their song “Rocket 88.” Tina, who was in her teens, was not particularly drawn to Ike romantically upon first sight and in fact, found him unattractive. (But she did admit that she was drawn to his voice.) She got up to sing his version of B.B. King’s “You Know I Love You," and their musical bond was instantly formed. With Ike taking to her powerful voice, they soon became the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. The act scored their first R&B hit in 1960 with “A Fool in Love,” reaching No. 2. The couple had also become intimately entangled, and with Tina having a child from a previous relationship with his bandmate Raymond Hill, the two would have a son of their own and reportedly married in 1962 in Tijuana, Mexico. Tina would be a mother figure to Ike’s other two sons as well.
The pair had a string of top 10 hits all while Ike was abusing Tina
Backed by a band and the singers/dancers dubbed the Ikettes, the couple had more top 10 R&B hits with “I Idolize You,” “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” “Poor Fool” and “Tra La La La La.” In the mid-1960s, Tina worked with Phil Spector to create the track “River Deep, Mountain High,” which didn’t do well in the United States but flew to the top five in the U.K.
Ike and Tina didn’t break into the upper echelons of the domestic pop charts until 1971 with their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” which also earned the act a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group. Tina would later pen a bouncing, up-tempo ode to her roots, 1973’s “Nutbush City Limits,” that hit both the pop and R&B charts and became a long-time favorite.
“Proud Mary” was a cornerstone of the act’s live shows, with a spoken intro that Tina made up on the spot when Ike first introduced the song into the band’s repertoire. And the high energy, intricate dance moves — high kicks, twirls and spins, deep diving, and swimming motions — displayed by the wigged out Tina and the Ikettes further cemented the revue’s reputation for serving up legendary, must-see performances.
Tina tried to take her own life
Though there was a certain amount of success that the act had, music observers and Tina herself lamented that the band wasn’t able to reach even bigger milestones due to Ike’s self-sabotaging and violent behavior, with Tina often the focal point. With Ike having survived deep trauma from his childhood, Tina lived through regular physical and emotional abuse from her spouse for years, sometimes forcing herself to sing and dance after being battered. The domestic situation was relentlessly permeated with fear and pain as Ike abused drugs and openly paraded around mistresses. Tina later recounted in her 2018 memoir, My Love Story, that sexual encounters with her then-husband were “an expression of hostility — a kind of rape — especially when it began or ended with a beating.”
Tina attempted to kill herself in 1968. After she recovered, she increasingly became aware of her strength, with a vision to survive and eventually escape the marriage.
Tina eventually left Ike and began a fresh start
Arriving in Dallas during the summer of 1976, Tina fled from Ike after a fight and managed to get to safety at a Ramada Inn with practically no money and in bloodied clothes. Despite routine intimidation, Tina eventually divorced her husband, taking no other assets besides her performance name and two cars.
Using her Buddhist practice to help center herself, Tina steadily performed in smaller venues while also finding herself in debt. Making some key networking moves and signing with manager Roger Davies, she joined Capitol/EMI Records. In her mid-40s, Tina staged a pop music comeback with her 1984 Private Dancer album and a host of singles that included the title track, a remake of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” “Better Be Good to Me,” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” The Grammy-winning “What’s Love Got to Do With It” reached No. 1 in the U.S. and is seen by many as Tina’s trademark song. The studio albums Break Every Rule and Foreign Affair followed, as well as a starring role in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome that featured the anthemic “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” She also penned a 1986 memoir, I, Tina, with journalist Kurt Loder that was turned into the 1993 film What’s Love Got to Do With It, starring Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne. (Tina has said that she’s never watched the film in its entirety.)
Tina found love again and Ike's life was cut short due to drugs
In My Love Story, Tina has talked about her deep affection for her long-term partner, Erwin Bach, whom she wed in 2013, and the contours of their relationship, contrasting what she has experienced and learned from her second marriage in contrast to her first. The couple has settled in Switzerland, where Tina obtained citizenship. She has also faced a number of health issues, including high blood pressure, a stroke, cancer and kidney failure, with her second husband donating his own kidney for a transplant. Nonetheless, in 2017, Tina was able to give her blessings to a high-profile musical depicting her life story, which debuted the following year in London starring Adrienne Warren. Sadly, in summer 2018, her eldest biological son Craig committed suicide.
Having served time in prison for drug possession, Ike released his own autobiography, Takin’ Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner, in 1999. He earned another Grammy in the category of Best Traditional Blues Album for his 2006 set Risin’ With the Blues, having worked with the alternative pop act Gorillaz the previous year. He died from a cocaine overdose in December 2007.