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‘Simply the best’: Stirring soul singer and rock’n’roll legend Tina Turner dead at 83

A Blue Yeti USB Microphone is a popular microphone used to record clear audio at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Phifer)

She was simply the best. Tina Turner, the stiletto-wearing gravel-voiced diva who heroically escaped the creative clutches of one of the most notorious domestic abusers to strike out on her own and become an international music superstar, died at her home in Switzerland after a long illness. She was 83.

TMZ was among the first to report the news, via a rep, who did not specify the nature of the illness.

Proud Mary personified, Turner’s glorious career had two musical acts. First, she gained fame as the soul-stirring singer to the innovative guitar-playing band leader Ike Turner as part of the wildly popular Ike and Tina Turner Review.

Later, she became an inspirational icon, rebounding from domestic abuse to build her own brand of musical dominance with such runaway hits as “Simply the Best,” “Private Dancer,” “I Don’t Wanna Fight” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”

In recent years, after decades of dancing on stage in high-heeled shoes, short, glittering dresses and shoulder-length wigs, Turner suffered a mix of health challenges including a stroke, kidney replacement surgery, cancer and years of post-traumatic stress syndrome from her turbulent marriage to mentor and partner Ike Turner.

The later-in-life struggle was detailed in a farewell tour documentary “Tina,” in which the once high-stepping hit-maker reflected on a life filled with glorious highs and rock-bottom lows.

“I had an abusive life,” Turner told the camera. “There’s no other way to tell the story. It’s a reality. It’s a truth. That’s what you’ve got, so you have to accept it.

“Some people say the life that I lived and the performances that I gave, the appreciation, is blasting with the people. And yeah, I should be proud of that. I am. But when do you stop being proud? I mean, when do you, how do you bow out slowly? Just go away?”

In the documentary, Turner revealed that the abuse didn’t start with Turner. Even before she became his punching bag — disturbingly detailed in the limousine fight scene from the “What’s Love Got to Do With It” biopic — she was cruelly abandoned by her parents as a child.

When she finally reconnected with her mother as an adult, the reunion was filled with pain.

“Mom was not kind,” Turner said in the doc. ” When I became a star, of course back then she was happy because I bought her a house. I did all kinds of things for her, she was my mother. I was trying to make her comfortable because she didn’t have a husband, she was alone, but she still didn’t like me.”

That early mother-daughter rift could explain why the teenage singer left home to tour with a traveling band.

Anna Mae Bullock was born on Nov. 26, 1939, in Nutbush, Tennessee. Her parents, Floyd and Zelma Bullock, were poor sharecroppers who split up and left Turner and her sister to be raised by their grandmother.

When her grandmother died in the early 1950s, Turner moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to be with her mother again.

A fan of R&B music, young Anna immersed herself in the local club scene. Among her favorite haunts was a spot called the Club Manhattan.

It was there, in 1956, that she met rock-and-roll pioneer Ike Turner, who often played at the club with his band, the Kings of Rhythm. Soon the young singer was performing with the group, and she quickly became the highlight of their show.

After their recording, “A Fool in Love,” was a hit on the charts, Anna Mae Bullock was rebranded as Tina Turner. In 1962, Ike and Tina Turner were married in Tijuana, Mexico.

Turner’s powerful voice and stage presence made the review a must-see act, whether on the Ed Sullivan Show or as an opening act for the Rolling Stones.

Success also included a string of hip-shaking hits, including “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” “Darlin’, You Know I Love You,” “I Smell Trouble’’ and the ode to Anna Mae’s hometown, “Nutbush City Limits.”

But no song was bigger for the Ike and Tina Turner Review than their slow-to-fast interpretation of the Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” with Ike singing the bass line and strumming the guitar before Tina and her hair-flipping backup singers, the Ikettes, twirled across the stage like spinning tops.

But behind the scenes there was turmoil. After years of Ike’s physical abuse, drug addiction and philandering, Turner left the act and the marriage in 1975 with “36 cents and a gas station credit card.”

The only thing she wanted to keep from the union was her stage name — Tina Turner.

But solo success did not come easily. Turner made guest appearances and low-budget tours in the years after the divorce was finalized in 1978, but was largely considered a nostalgia act.

That all changed in 1983. At age 44, Turner scored with a remake of a classic Al Green tune, “Let’s Stay Together.”

That was followed by her chart-topping “Private Dancer,” which included the song, “What’s Love Got to Do With I.” The song later lended its title to a movie about her life adapted from her autobiography, “I, Tina.”

Turner was a popular attraction for much of the next decade, even starring opposite Mel Gibson in the film “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” to which she contributed the No. 2 pop song “We Don’t Need Another Hero.”

In 1991, Ike and Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But Ike was unable to attend the ceremony. He was serving time in prison for drug possession. In 2007, he died at age 76 of an accidental drug overdose.

“As an old person, I have forgiven him, but it would not work with him,” she told an interviewer not long after Ike Turner’s death. “He asked for one more tour with me, and I said, ‘No, absolutely not.’ Ike wasn’t someone you could forgive and allow him back in.”

Turner did remarry. In 2013, she married her longtime partner, German record executive Erwin Bach in Zurich, Switzerland, only months after Turner had gained her Swiss citizenship.

Five years later, she was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Turner was preceded in death by her son Craig, 59, who died by suicide in 2018, as well as her son Ronnie, who died of colon cancer in December 2022.

Turner is survived by her sons Ike Jr. and Michael.


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