Tina Turner Dies: Legendary Rock & Soul Singer Was 83
Tina Turner, known as the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll for her blistering performances and powerfully gritty vocals, died today after a long illness at her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland. She was 83.
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“With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model,” her UK spokesperson, Bernard Doherty, said in a statement.
Turner was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016 and underwent a kidney transplant in 2017.
Born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Nutbush, TN, Turner became famous in the late 1960s as the singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. After leaving husband Ike Turner in 1976 after years of physical and emotional abuse, she staged what remains one of the greatest comebacks in pop music history, scoring massive hits in the 1980s such as “What’s Love Got To Do With it”, “Private Dancer” and “The Best,, with an estimated 180 million albums sold worldwide, 12 Grammy Awards won and sold-out stadium tours around the world.
Beloved and widely influential, Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021 as a solo act, 30 years after being inducted with Ike. Her life story was told in the 1993 smash hit film What’s Love Got to Do with It and in the 2019 Broadway musical Tina – The Tina Turner Musical.
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The biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It, based on her 1986 autobiography I, Tina: My Life Story, starred Angela Bassett as Tina and Laurence Fishburne as Ike in Oscar-nominated performances. The film became a major box office success, earning more than $60 million globally.
Launching her career as a member of Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm in 1957, Turner debuted under the name Tina Turner in 1960 with her duet with Ike titled “A Fool in Love.” Thus began a string of songs that, while not blitzing the charts, would become standards in the singer’s repertoire: “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine”, “River Deep – Mountain High” and “Nutbush City Limits.”
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The group had only moderate U.S. singles success until early 1971, when their raging cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s hit “Proud Mary” made the Top 5, won a Grammy and later was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Their version of Mickey and Sylvia’s “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” had reached No. 14 a decade earlier. The duo’s only other Top 30 pop hit was “Nutbush City Limits” in 1973, though it went Top 10 in the UK.
Their 1966 single “River Deep – Mountain High,” written and Wall of Sound-produced by Phil Spector, also was a smash in the UK but a surprising non-hit stateside. Spector was red-hot, coming off his success with Righteous Brothers, the Ronettes and others, when he signed Ike & Tina Turner to his Philles label that April. The song peaked at No. 88 in the U.S. but was and remains revered by the rock cognescenti. The track ranked No. 37 on Rolling Stone‘s 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
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Watch a rocked-up 1973 performance of “River Deep – Mountain High” on The Midnight Special here:
The Revue scored back-to-back Top 25 LPs with Workin’ Together in 1970 and Live at Carnegie Hall/What You Hear Is What You Get the following year, both of which featured “Proud Mary.” Songwriter and ex-Creedence frontman John Fogerty tweeted today: “So deeply sad to hear about Tina Turner’s passing… I loved her version of Proud Mary! It was different and fantastic. I was also so happy because she chose my song and it was her breakthrough record.”
Watch her sing the hell out of “Proud Mary” with the Revue on The Ed Sullivan Show in early 1970:
The Revue broke up in 1976 when Tina left Ike for reasons that she’d detail in memoirs and interviews. She became an early example of a domestic abuse survivor, putting the topic in the public consciousness.
Her split with Ike would leave the singer struggling and nearly destitute until the remarkable success of her fifth solo album Private Dancer, which revitalized her career. Released in the U.S. in May 1984 in the U.S., months after its lead single “Let’s Stay Together” made the UK Top 10 and hit No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The album’s second stateside single would give Turner the biggest hit of her career. “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” featuring her sultry, soulful and impassioned vocal, spent three weeks at No. 1 in the U.S. (and hit No. 3 in the UK). It would score Grammys for Record and Song of the Year as well as a Female Pop Vocal award for Turner, who would earn nine career Grammys — including one with Ike — on 28 nominations. Watch the official video here:
She followed “What’s Love Got to Do With It” with two more Top 10 U.S. hits in “Better Be Good to Me” and the Mark Knopfler-penned “Private Dancer,” which featured Jeff Beck on guitar.
The Private Dancer album also was a smash, spending 11 weeks at No. 3 as Prince’s Purple Rain and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s Born in the U.S.A. ruled the chart. The disc is certified five times platinum in the U.S. for sales of 5 million-plus units.
Turner would score another smash single in 1985 with “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome),” from the Mel Gibson-George Miller threequel Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. She played the ruthless leader of Bartertown in the movie and delivered the memorable line, “Welcome to another edition of Thunderdome!” Another single from the soundtrack, “One of the Living,” reached No. 15.
She returned to the Top 20 later that year with “It’s Only Love,” a duet with Bryan Adams from his Reckless album, and also was part of the global smash “We Are the World.” That 1985 famine-relief single — written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, produced by Quincy Jones and credited to USA for Africa — topped charts around the world and has sold more than 20 million copies globally.
Turner also appeared at the intercontinental charity concert Live Aid that summer, performing a raucous, sexually charged duet with Mick Jagger in Philadelphia on a medley of his solo single “State of Shock” and the Rolling Stones’ “It’ Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It).” Watch the video here:
Turner’s follow-up album Break Every Rule was released in September 1986 and would spawn another smash single and video in “Typical Male.” It spent three weeks at No. 2 on the Hot 100, and the LP went platinum.
Turner would have mixed chart success for the next several years, with “What You Get Is What You See” and “The Best” – the latter featuring an Edgar Winter sax solo — making the Top 15. “The Best,” was a bigger hit internationally, reaching the Top 10 more than a dozen countries including the UK.
But she had one more big U.S. hit in 1993 with “I Don’t Wanna Fight,” which hailed from the What’s Love Got to Do with It soundtrack. It would become the last of her four platinum studio albums, though the 2005 compilation All the Best sold a million-plus copies and peaked at No. 2 in the U.S.
Her other later-career solo discs were Foreign Affair (1989) and Twenty Four Seven (2000) — both of which went gold — and Wildest Dreams (1996). She also released four solo discs in the 1970s, to little U.S. success.
Turner’s status as a musical pioneer also extended to 1980s television when she became a staple of MTV, an extraordinary achievement at a time when the music video channel was largely the domain of white artists.
Although initially known as a soul and R&B singer, Turner had long been a fan of rock music, appearing at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and two years later welcoming Janis Joplin to the stage at Madison Square Garden during an Ike & Tina Turner performance opening for the Rolling Stones. Joplin returned the praise, saying in a 1969 appearance on The Dick Cavett Show that Turner was not only her favorite singer but “the best chick ever.”
“Ike is her husband and bandleader,” Joplin told Cavett, who had never heard of Turner, “and Tina is the show.”
She performed with both Mick Jagger and David Bowie, appearing on the latter’s 1984 album Tonight and inviting Bowie onstage for a scorching and unforgettable duet during a concert on her 1985 Private Dancer tour.
Turner’s musical comeback also would re-launch a film career that had started in 1975 with her wild one-scene role as the Acid Queen in director Ken Russell’s Tommy. Based on the Who’s seminal 1969 rock opera, it starred the band’s Roger Daltrey as the “deaf, dumb and blind” pinball prodigy, along with Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed and character turns from the likes of Jack Nicholson, Elton John, Eric Clapton and Keith Moon.
Her 1975 album Acid Queen, released around the time she played that character, saw limited chart success.
Along with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, she also appeared opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Last Action Hero (1993).
Turner, a two-time inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a perennial on Greatest Performer lists, was a 2005 recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors. She retired in 2009 following her Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour, which remains one of the highest-grossing tour of the 2000s, though she re-entered the public spotlight with the 2018 West End musical hit Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, starring Adrienne Warren in a career-making performance.
The musical, with Warren reprising her role, moved to Broadway in 2019 but was suspended the following year with the Covid shutdown; Tina resumed performances in 2021 and continued until the following year. The show earned 12 Tony noms but won only for Warren’s lead performance.
RELATED: Ronnie Turner Dies: Tina Turner’s Youngest Son, A Musician Who Was In ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ Was 62
Turner is survived by husband Erwin Bach. She was predeceased by sons Ron Turner and Craig Turner, and sister Alline Bullock.
A private funeral ceremony is expected for family and close friends and family.
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