The Best: Honoring Music Icon Tina Turner 

The ‘Queen of Rock n’ Roll’ passed away at 83 in her home in Kusnacht, Switzerland, leaving behind a legacy of memorable tunes that have stood the test of time. 

Those who lived to see the boom of legendary music icons in the 70s and 80s know Tina Turner as the singular talent behind numerous rock and R&B hits like What’s Love Got To Do With It, The Best, and Private Dancer.

Her soulful and powerful voice is instantly recognizable, and has even inspired other music legends like Mick Jagger. Turner is also known for bolstering the significant contributions of Black women in the rock n’ roll scene. 

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Tina Turner
Tina Turner/Photo by Peter Lindbergh via Instagram @tinaturner

On May 25, the singer’s family released a statement announcing her passing through official social media accounts. 

“With her music and her boundless passion for life, she enchanted millions of fans around the world and inspired the stars of tomorrow,” the Instagram statement wrote. “Today we say goodbye to a dear friend who leaves us all her greatest work: her music. All our heartfelt compassion goes out to her family. Tina, we will miss you dearly.”

Tumultuous Early Years

In 1939, Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee. Her parents were sharecroppers; while the singer shared that they weren’t in poverty, as there was food on the table, they had no means to buy other things beyond the basic necessities. 

After her parents split, Turner would spend the rest of her early years living with her grandmother until her passing in the 1950s. Turner then moved to Missouri to live with her mother and sister Ruby.

The singer spent this period frequenting clubs in the area, and met musician Ike Turner in one of these visits. The man saw her talent and recruited her to sing for his band when she was just 17. 

A photo of a young Turner and her ex-husband Ike Turner for "The Midnight Special" in February 1974
A photo of a young Turner and her ex-husband Ike Turner for “The Midnight Special” in February 1974/Photo by McFadden, Strauss, Irwin via Wikimedia Commons

The pair would form Ike & Tina Turner Revue in 1960, touring around the country and meeting great success with hits like A Fool In Love, Nutbush City Limits, and Proud Mary

Ike and Tina married in 1962 and had four children: Craig Raymond Turner (who passed in 2018), Ronnie Turner (who passed in 2022), Ike Turner Jr., and Michael Turner (the last two being Ike’s children from previous relationships, whom Tina adopted). 

While the couple experienced a fruitful musical career—even being inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1991—their marriage was a tumultuous one. Ike was prone to changing moods and had a temper. 

He was physically and psychologically abusive to Turner from the start, even going as far as leaving bruises and scars on her. However, the singer hesitated abandoning her husband and feared he would hunt her down if she did, so she endured his abhorrent behavior for more than a decade. 

The turning point came during a particularly violent fight in 1976, where Ike repeatedly hit her inside their car. The singer left her husband that night, still injured, with only 36 cents to her name. 

Reclaiming Her Voice

Turner’s journey back to the spotlight was challenging, but nothing could stop her talent. 

After a long legal battle following her 1978 divorce with Ike, the singer was left with just her stage name and two cars. Her husband retained most of their earnings and assets, while Turner was left to care for their four children. 

Still, she pushed on, trying her best to reclaim her voice. Thankfully, she did just that with the help of Australian manager Roger Davies in 1979. 

The inimitable Tina Turner in costume
The inimitable Tina Turner in costume/Photo by Lynn Goldsmith via Instagram @lynngoldsmith

She had a series of successful performances with other stars like Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart, and even starred alongside Mel Gibson in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, scoring the movie’s hit We Don’t Need Another Hero

Turner performing in 1985's LiveAid concert with Mick Jagger
Turner performing in 1985’s LiveAid concert with Mick Jagger/Photo by Lynn Goldsmith via Instagram @tinaturner

Turner would cement her status as a music icon through the release of her fifth solo album, Private Dancer in 1984. The album sold more than 10 million copies and gave way to three Top 10 hits and three Grammys.

At 44, she released the catchy No. 1 hit What’s Love Got To Do With It, making her the oldest female artist to achieve the feat. 

Tina Turner
Photo by Lynn Goldsmith via Instagram @lynngoldsmith

Her popularity continued well into the 80s and 90s, especially in countries like England. She later released a best-selling memoir entitled I, Tina, which was later adapted into a critically-acclaimed 1993 film What’s Love Got To Do With It starring Angela Bassett. A Broadway musical on her life, Tina, was also released in 2018.

Turner holding her Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame award in 2021
Turner holding her Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame award in 2021/Photo via Instagram @tinaturner

Turner was once again inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2021, but this time as a solo artist. 

In the 1990s, she began dating German music executive Erwin Bach. After 27 years together, they married in 2013, and Turner became a Swiss citizen. The singer eventually purchased a $76 million estate on Lake Zurich in 2022. 

A Life Well-Lived

Turner retired from the music scene in 2000. Save for a 2008 performance with Beyoncé and a final 50th anniversary tour, she lived a quiet life in Switzerland with Bach. 

In recent years, she had experienced a series of health problems, including a stroke, intestinal cancer, and kidney failure (which required a transplant). That said, it was revealed that she passed peacefully at the age of 83 in her home in Kusnacht, Switzerland (just a little off Zurich). 

Tina and her husband, Erwin Bach
Tina and her husband , Erwin Bach/Photo via Instagram @tinaturner

Despite her illnesses, the singer told The Guardian in 2020 that “the last 10 years of her life had embodied her ideal vision of happiness.”

In a 2019 interview with the New York Times, she said: “I don’t necessarily want to be a ‘strong’ person. I had a terrible life. I just kept going. You just keep going, and you hope that something will come.”

So perhaps Tina’s story is more about a person’s capacity to heal and love. Despite all the hurt she experienced in her life, she remained kind and down to earth—and that, besides her amazing voice, is how many of her fans, loved ones, and collaborators will choose to remember her for. 

Banner photo via Instagram @tinaturner.

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