Tina Turner

 

 

 
 
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Tina Turner's solo career famously ignited over 15 years ago, but we all know the epic tale that had already spun out before Private Dancer came to be. When you look at the dates, you might think your calculator is on the blink. That voracious passion for baring her soul in the studio and on stage has now been on public record for more than 45 years. In her seminal soul tome Nowhere To Run, writer Gerri Hirshey talks of the vocal performance at a 1953 session by a barely teenage Tina as sounding like "a starving child singing for its supper," and the better part of half a century later she still has that same appetite.


Born in Brownsville, Tennessee and raised nearby in the "li'l ol' town" of Nutbush just like the song says, Anna Mae Bullock and her older sister Alline relocated to St.Louis in 1956. She knew rejection only too well even then, the sisters having been deserted by their mother and later their father, and when Annie first asked the leader of local club favourites the Kings of Rhythm if she could sing with them, the answer from Ike Turner was another firm no.

Persistence, as we know, paid off. Ike and Tina, as she now was, were married in 1958 and Tina began regular work as the band's singer, but their first historic single together still only happened by one of those fateful chances that the record industry seems to specialize in.

In the autumn of 1960, the session singer booked to record Ike's A Fool In Love didn't show. Tina stepped in, an R&B smash and US Top 30 pop crossover ensued, and soon the band was going by a new name: the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. The group began touring continuously and recorded a few more R&B hits. Tina had a second son by Ike and adopted the two sons from his first marriage; they married in Mexico in 1961. As the band became more and more successful, Ike's domineering, explosive personality came to the fore as he began to control every aspect of the group on and off stage, as well as subjecting Tina to physical and mental abuse.

The duo's track record in the '60s and early '70s, both on cast-iron anthems like River Deep, Mountain High and Nutbush City Limits and lesser-feted soul classics like I Can't Believe What You Say, is the stuff of legend, as, sadly, is the violent disintegration of the Turners' marriage. But, emboldened by her newly-found Buddhist faith and big-screen solo success as the Acid Queen in The Who's Tommy, Tina struck out on her own in the summer of 1976.

As the Revue's popularity began to decline, Ike and Tina's marriage hit bottom. Just before the start of the Revue's next tour, they got into a brutal fight in a Dallas limo; when Ike passed out at their hotel later that night, July 4, 1976, Tina left him for good, escaping with only the clothes on her back and 36 cents in her pocket. Broke, Turner traveled from place to place and fended off lawsuits from Ike. The couple formally divorced in early 1978, with Tina agreeing to let Ike keep everything earned during their marriage in return for dismissal of lawsuits filed against her.

At first, she stood at the bottom of what seemed an impossible mountain of debts and disinterest from the industry. While other soul divas made good in a world that she had inspired them to enter, Tina was living for a time on food stamps. Her name still got her onto TV game shows and then the supper club circuit in Las Vegas, then in 1979, Tina met Roger Davies, a young Australian manager who'd recently relocated to Los Angeles and took the challenge of redefining one of the great lost vocalists and performers of the age.

With Davies' help, Turner refound the rock 'n' roll raunch of her best records, infused it with her intuitive soulfulness, and started again. A 1981 support slot on the Rolling Stones' US tour led to an invitation from Heaven 17's Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware for Tina to take part on their multi-artist Music Of Quality And Distinction Volume 1 album. Before the end of 1982, she had a new solo deal with Capitol Records.

Turner's early singles charted in Europe, leading to a U.S. album called Private Dancer, recorded in London in less than two weeks. That album spawned the 1984 No. 1 single "What's Love Got to Do With It?" which renewed Turner's status as a U.S. star; the album went on to sell 10 million copies worldwide. Also that year Turner appeared as Aunty Entity alongside Mel Gibson in the film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, whose soundtrack spawned the hit single, "We Don't Need Another Hero." Turner won three Grammys and embarked on a world tour.

After an appearing at Live Aid, Turner returned in 1986 with Break Every Rule. While not as successful as Private Dancer, the album was a top seller. That same year Turner began dating German record excutive Erwin Bach, with whom she continues to live. Turner's subsequent albums, 1989's Foreign Affair, 1991's Simply the Best, and 1996's Wildest Dreams maintained her status as an international superstar. Her autobiography, I, Tina, inspired the 1993 Oscar-nominated movie What's Love Got to Do with It.

What's Love Got To Do With It; record and concert dates with avowed Turner fans like Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, Elton John, David Bowie, Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler; and record-breaking concert tours including sellout shows in such singular locations as the Maracana Stadium in Rio and England's Woburn Abbey;her U2 penned smash hit from the Bond movie Goldeneye and her stadium tour of Europe in 96/96 saw her smash box office records in ten countries playing to over 3 million people.

While popular in the U.S., Turner is bigger overseas, especially in Britain. At one point she held the world record for largest paying audience attending a solo performance, playing to over 180,000 people in Brazil in 1988. Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and to date has sold over 50 million albums worldwide. Her latest album, Twenty Four Seven, was released in 2000.

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