Tina Turner, the yowling powerhouse who helped pioneer a high-octane brand of R&B as half of the incendiary Ike & Tina Turner duo and belted out soul-rock gems such as “Proud Mary,” “River Deep, Mountain High” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” has died at 83.
Turner’s death was announced by her manager, who said she died Tuesday after a long illness in her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland, according to the Associated Press. Turner became a Swiss citizen a decade ago.
“Even after the countless awards, the 180 million album sales, the record-breaking tours, and unforgettable acting roles, Tina will be remembered most through the sheer joy of her music,” Max Lousada, CEO of recorded music for Warner Music Group,” said in a statement. “So powerful is her extraordinary, universal appeal that there is no doubt she will continue to influence generations to come. She stands as the epitome of artistic self-empowerment.”
The Grammy-winning vocalist overcame an abusive marriage and decades of adversity before being fully embraced as a rock ’n’ roll original who exuded a raw sensuality with her commanding yet soulful voice, million-dollar legs and striking lion’s-mane hair.
“Watching Tina perform is what I call a spiritual experience,” said Oprah Winfrey, who described herself as a superfan. “Each electrifying swing of her miniskirt, every slide of her 3-inch Manolos across the stage, sends a message: I am here. I have triumphed. I will not be broken.”
Though she ignited her own blazing legacy in the recording studio and concert halls around the world, Turner’s personal and professional history are inextricably linked to that of her late ex-husband, Ike Turner. Her transformation into a superstar eventually eclipsed the revered and reviled Ike, who was a highly regarded talent scout, guitarist, pianist and record producer long before he discovered Tina when she was just 18.
“One evening when the drummer gave my sister the mic, I took it,” she recalled in 2005. “I could do B.B. King songs with all the emotion. Ike said, ‘Girl, I didn’t know you could sing,’ and I was so happy, because he was bigger than life. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an entertainer.”
Born Anna Mae Bullock, she changed her name to Tina at Ike’s behest and allowed him to shape her live-wire stage persona — renaming his band the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. They were married in 1962, two years after the birth of their son, Ronald.
The duo rose to fame with their first single, “A Fool in Love,” which reached No. 2 on the R&B charts in 1960. They scored numerous hits in the years to follow, including “Poor Fool,” “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” “Proud Mary,” “I Want to Take You Higher,” “Nutbush City Limits” and “River Deep, Mountain High.”
Tina Turner’s dynamic stage presence became as memorable as their records and took the act far beyond the R&B scene in 1969 when they opened for the Rolling Stones on the rock band’s North American tour, with her often singing duets with Mick Jagger.
When the couple’s tumultuous relationship came to an end — Turner said she walked out on Ike in the 1970s following a vicious limo dispute in Dallas and years of domestic abuse allegations — she launched her solo career but hung onto her husband’s name.
She filed for divorce in 1974 and their marriage officially ended four years later. Ike Turner died in 2007 from a cocaine overdose at 76, but their fractured history continued to make headlines even after his death.
Turner was born in Nutbush, Tenn., in 1939, and her father led a crew of sharecroppers and was a deacon at the church the family attended. She recalled that, though her parents had little formal education, they seemed filled with common sense. Her parents also fought frequently. Her mother left the family when Turner was 10, as did her father three years later.
“I’m a strong person, because I had dealt with problems when my mother and father separated and I went from relative to relative and had problems in school,” she told The Times in 1998. “It was tough all the way, so my skin was already toughened to the life and striving to get through. I didn’t dwell on it, I just kept going.”
Turner said she was stung by the racism she encountered as a youth and later as a performer.
“I am looked down upon because I’m Black,” she told The Times. “It’s forever. It’s like a curse on you.”
Turner often lived with her paternal grandmother and worked as a babysitter for a white family whom she would later credit for pushing her to get a good education. She moved to St. Louis when she was 16 to be with her mother and began singing in talent shows. It was at one of the shows that she came across Ike Turner’s R&B band, Kings of Rhythm. She started dating saxophonist Raymond Hill and the two had a child, Craig, when she was 18.
With the help of producer Phil Spector, the band crossed over to pop in 1966 with the landmark record “River Deep, Mountain High,” built around her soaring vocals and Spector’s symphonic “wall of sound.
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