Tina Turner, the unstoppable superstar whose hits included “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” has died at the age of 83

Tina Turner has died at the age of 83.

(Hermann J. Knippertz | The Associated Press) Tina Turner performs in Cologne, Germany, January 14, 2009. Turner, the unstoppable singer and stage performer, died Tuesday after a long illness at her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland, according to her manager. She was 83.

New York • Tina Turner, the relentless singer and performer who enjoyed a dynamic string of hit records and live shows with husband Ike Turner in the 1960s and ’70s, survived her dreadful marriage to star in middle age with chart-topping What’s Love Got “To Triumph to Do With It” has died at the age of 83.

Turner died Tuesday after a long illness at her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland, according to her manager. She became a Swiss citizen a decade ago.

Few stars have traveled before — she was born Anna Mae Bullock in a segregated hospital in Tennessee and spent her final years in a 25,000-square-foot estate on Lake Zurich — and overcame so much. Physically battered, emotionally devastated, and financially ruined by her 20-year relationship with Ike Turner, she became a superstar in her own right in her forties, at a time when most of her peers were on the way down, and remained a top Concert magnet years later.

With admirers from Beyoncé to Mick Jagger, Turner was one of the world’s most successful entertainers, known for a core of pop, rock and rhythm and blues favorites: “Proud Mary”, “Nutbush City Limits”, “River Deep, Mountain High”. “And the hits she had in the ’80s, including What’s Love Got to Do With It, We Don’t Need Another Hero, and a cover of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together.”

Her trademarks were her snarling contralto voice, her bold smile and strong cheekbones, her range of wigs and muscular, fast legs, which she was not afraid to display. She has sold more than 150 million records worldwide, won 12 Grammys, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with Ike in 1991 (and in 2021 alone), and was honored at the Kennedy Center in 2005 along with Beyoncé and Oprah Winfrey among those who honored her praised. Her life became the basis for a 2021 film, a Broadway musical, and an HBO documentary, which she credited as her public goodbye.

Until she left her husband and revealed her background, she was known as the insatiable stage contrast to the insatiable Ike, the leading lady of the Ike and Tina Turner revue. Ike was billed first and directed the show, choosing the material, arrangements and backing singers. They were constantly touring for years, partly because Ike was often tight on cash and didn’t want to miss a concert. Tina Turner had to carry on with bronchitis, pneumonia and a collapsed right lung.

In other cases, Ike himself was the cause of their misfortune.

As she recounted in her memoir, Me, Tina, Ike began hitting her shortly after they met her in the mid-1950s and only got more vicious. Provoked by everything and everyone, he threw hot coffee in her face, choked or beat her until her eyes swelled shut, and then raped her. Before a show he broke her jaw and she walked on stage with her mouth full of blood.

Fearful of both being with Ike and being without him, she credited her emerging Buddhist beliefs in the mid-1970s with giving her a sense of strength and self-worth, eventually leaving in early July 1976. Ike and Tina Turner’s revue was set to open a tour celebrating the country’s 200th anniversary when Tina snuck out of her Dallas hotel room with just a mobile credit card and 36 cents while Ike slept. She hurried down a nearby freeway, narrowly dodging a speeding truck, and found another hotel to stay the night.

“I looked at him (Ike) and I was like, ‘You just hit me for the last time, you idiot,'” she recalls in her memoir.

Turner was among the first celebrities to speak openly about domestic violence, becoming a hero for battered women and a symbol of resilience for all. Ike Turner didn’t deny that he abused her, although he tried to blame Tina for her problems. When he died in 2007, a representative for his ex-wife simply said, “Tina knows Ike died.”

The many Ike and Tina fans didn’t notice much of that. A hot act for most of the 1960s and ’70s, the Turners went from bluesy ballads like “A Fool in Love” and “It’s Going to Work Out Fine” to flashy covers of “Proud Mary” and “Come Together.” ‘ and other rock songs that brought them crossover success.

They opened for the Rolling Stones in 1966 and 1969 and performed a lusty version of Otis Redding’s I’ve Been Loving You Too Long in the 1970 Stones documentary Gimme Shelter. Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett gave Oscar-nominated performances as Ike and Tina in the 1993 film based on I, Tina, What’s Love Got to Do With It, but she’d say it was so painful for her, her years to relive with Ike couldn’t bring himself to watch the film).

Ike and Tina’s reworking of “Proud Mary,” originally a tight mid-tempo hit for Creedence Clearwater Revival, helped define their confident, sexual image. Against a backdrop of funky guitar and Ike’s singing baritone, Tina began with a few spoken words about how some people want to hear songs that are “beautiful and simple.”

Justin Scaccy

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