As the world pays tribute to the ‘Queen of Rock-and-Roll’, Tina Turner, who died on the 24 May, aged 83, Rebecca Hunter-Kelm remembers the life of the woman who didn’t give up
Many of us grew up dancing around our kitchens with our mums, sisters, friends and aunties to the irresistibly moving melodies of Rock-n-Roll Queen, Tina Turner, who died on Wednesday.
She sang in her famous deep raspy voice, ‘What’s love got to do with it?’ and ‘Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken.’ She was searching for a love that perhaps she once knew as a girl, growing up in the church.
Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock. She was raised in the small town of Nutbush, Tennessee where she used to sing in her church choir. In her teenage years she took her passion for singing up a notch when she met her soon-to-be co-star, husband and abuser Ike Turner (who later gave her the stage name Tina).
Ike had initially refused Tina’s interest in joining his group, the Kings of Rhythm, so one night, during one of their shows in Louisville, Tina decided to take matters into her own hands and grabbed the mic. After wowing the audience (and Ike) with her incredible vocals during BB King’s You Know I Love You, Ike gave Anna Mae the stage name Tina and the two of them shot to fame with ‘A Fool in Love’ as the Ike & Tina Turner duo in 1961. The pair then tied the knot a year later in Tijuana, Mexico in 1962.
Tina’s soulful voice and electrifying shows enthralled millions during her successful career. She knew how to show up as her full feminine and sensual self and always performed with exhilarating passion. She was an incredible trailblazer for African-American female artists, and her stubborn perseverance in her career and her fierce passion for music is an inspiration.
Her stubborn perseverance in her career and her fierce passion for music is an inspiration.
Behind the scenes, however, Tina was a victim of abuse for over 16 years. She holds nothing back in sharing what she went through in her memoir ‘I, Tina’ (1986), which inspired the film about her life, What’s Love Got to Do with It starring Angela Bassett, and then in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical on Broadway and the West End.
No way Out
Ike trademarked Tina’s new stage name, Tina Turner, to control her from the very get-go. A reign of physical abuse and infidelity followed, including black eyes, broken ribs, and even a broken jaw. Like many suffering from domestic abuse, Tina had ’nowhere to run and nowhere to hide’ with Ike controlling her every move and holding the purse strings on her finances and her career until she simply couldn’t take it anymore. She said, ’My advice is to make up your mind and don’t go back. I was prepared to go through whatever I had to go through with Ike Turner, even if it was death because I would never go back.’
After finally divorcing Ike in 1978, Tina came away with little more than two cars and the rights to her stage name. It wasn’t easy for her to continue her solo career, but if we can learn one thing from Tina’s legacy, she didn’t give up. She enjoyed success with her 5th album, Private Dancer, and released three more albums until she announced her retirement in 2000.
If we can learn one thing from Tina’s legacy, she didn’t give up
Searching for peace and happiness
Despite her impressive stage persona, she told the New York Times: ‘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.’
Tina was raised in the church and said she always believed in God. She converted to Buddhism in the 80s and claimed it gave her the strength to walk away from her abusive marriage with Ike Turner and helped her find peace and happiness in her life.
An inspiration to generations
Tina Turner was just a human searching for peace and happiness. She was never afraid to show up as herself, no matter her age, and as a result, her energy, spirit, and music impacted the hearts of millions. We pray in her final days the faith of her childhood came back to her, and she found the one who is the love, and the answer to her question, ‘What’s love got to do with it?’
If any of these issues have affected you, you can call Premier Lifeline for support. Premier Lifeline is a national, confidential helpline offering a listening ear, emotional and spiritual support from a Christian perspective. If you would like someone to talk with and pray for you, call Premier Lifeline on 0300 111 0101.
For support leaving an abusive relationship click here.