Rock legend, Tina Turner, the growling songstress who electrified audiences from the 1960s and went on to release hit records across five decades, has died at the age of 83, a statement announced Wednesday.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Tina Turner,” read the statement on the official Instagram page of the eight-time Grammy winner.
Often referred to as “The Queen of Rock and Roll”, Turner is considered one of the greatest singers of all time. She was noted for her “swagger, sensuality, gravelly vocals and unstoppable energy”, along with her career longevity and her famous legs.
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Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Brownsville, Tennessee. She was the youngest daughter of Floyd Richard Bullock and his wife Zelma Priscilla (née Currie).
The family lived in the nearby rural unincorporated community of Nutbush, Tennessee, where her father worked as an overseer of the sharecroppers at Poindexter Farm on Highway 180; she later recalled picking cotton with her family at an early age.
When she participated in the PBS series African American Lives 2 with Henry Louis Gates Jr., he shared her genealogical DNA test estimates, which were predominantly African, approximately 33% European and only 1% Native American. Previously, she believed she had a significant amount of Native American ancestry.
Ike and Tina Turner
Bullock first saw Ike Turner perform with his band the Kings of Rhythm at the Manhattan Club in East St. Louis. She asked Turner to let her sing in his band despite the fact that few women had ever sung with him. Turner said he’d call her but never did. One night in 1957, she got hold of the microphone from Kings of Rhythm drummer Eugene Washington during an intermission and she sang the B.B. King blues ballad, “You Know I Love You”. Upon hearing her sing, Turner asked her if she knew more songs. She sang the rest of the night and became a featured vocalist with his band.
In 1960, Turner wrote “A Fool in Love” for singer Art Lassiter. Bullock was to sing background with Lassiter’s backing vocalists, the Artettes. Lassiter failed to show up for the recording session at Technisonic Studios. Since Turner had already paid for the studio time, Bullock suggested singing lead. He decided to use her to record a demo with the intention of erasing her vocals and adding Lassiter’s at a later date. Local St. Louis disc jockey Dave Dixon convinced Turner to send the tape to Juggy Murray, president of the R&B label Sue Records. Upon hearing the song, Murray was impressed with Bullock’s vocals, later stating that “Tina sounded like screaming dirt. It was a funky sound.” Murray bought the track and paid Turner a $25,000 advance for the recording and publishing rights. Murray also convinced Turner to make Bullock “the star of the show”. Turner responded by renaming her “Tina” because it rhymed with Sheena. Turner added his last name and trademarked the name as a form of protection so that if Bullock left him as his previous singers had, he could replace her with another “Tina Turner”.
In 1974, the duo released the Grammy-nominated album The Gospel According to Ike & Tina, which was nominated for Best Soul Gospel Performance. Ike also received a solo nomination for his single “Father Alone” from the album. Turner’s first solo album, Tina Turns the Country On!, earned her a nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female.
She filed for divorce on July 27, and it was finalized on March 29, 1978.
In 1978, Turner released her third solo album, Rough, on United Artists with distribution in North America and Europe on EMI. That album, along with its 1979 follow-up, Love Explosion, which included a brief diversion to disco music, failed to chart, so United Artists Records and Turner parted ways.
During her second stint at the Ritz, she signed with Capitol Records in 1983. In November 1983, she released her cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” which was produced by B.E.F. It reached several European charts, including No. 6 in the UK. In the US, the song peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 1 on the Hot Dance Club Songs, and No. 3 Hot Black Singles.
Following the single’s surprise success, Capitol Records greenlit a studio album. Turner had two weeks to record her Private Dancer album, which was released in May 1984. It reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 in the United Kingdom. Private Dancer was certified 5× Platinum in the United States, and sold 10 million copies worldwide, becoming her most successful album.
On September 1, 1984, Turner achieved her first and only No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “What’s Love Got to Do with It”. The follow-up singles “Better Be Good to Me” and “Private Dancer” were both U.S. top 10 hits.
Turner culminated her comeback when she won three Grammys at the 27th Annual Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Award for Record of the Year for “What’s Love Got to Do with It”.
In 1986, Turner released her sixth solo album, Break Every Rule, which reached No. 1 in four countries and sold over five million copies worldwide within its first year of release. The album sold more than a million copies in the United States and Germany alone.
In January 1988, Turner performed in front of approximately 180,000 at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, setting a Guinness World Record at the time for the largest paying concert attendance for a solo artist.
Turner released the Tina Live in Europe album in April 1988, which won a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. After taking time off following the end of the tour, she emerged with the Foreign Affair album in 1989. It reached No. 1 in eight countries, including in the UK (5× Platinum), her first number-one album there. The album sold over six million copies worldwide and included the international hit single “The Best “.
In 1990, Turner embarked on her Foreign Affair European Tour, which drew in nearly four million spectators — breaking the record for a European tour that was previously set by the Rolling Stones.
In 1991, Ike & Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Turner released the dance-infused song “When the Heartache Is Over” in September 1999 as the leading single from her tenth and final solo album, Twenty-Four Seven. The success of the single and the following tour helped the album become certified Gold by the RIAA. The Twenty-Four Seven Tour was the highest-grossing tour of 2000, grossing over $120 million.
In November 2004, Turner released All the Best, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart in 2005, her highest charting album in the United States. The album went platinum in the U.S. three months after its release and reached platinum status in seven other countries, including the UK.
In April 2010, mainly due to an online campaign by fans of Rangers Football Club, Turner’s 1989 hit, “The Best”, returned to the UK singles chart, peaking at No. 9. This made Turner the first female recording artist in the UK chart history to score top 40 hits in six consecutive decades (1960s–2010s).
Turner received the 2018 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and her second memoir, My Love Story, was released in October 2018. In 2020, she came out of retirement to collaborate with Norwegian producer Kygo on a remix of “What’s Love Got to Do with It”. With this release, she became the first artist to have a top 40 hit in seven consecutive decades in the UK.
In October 2021, Turner sold her music rights to BMG Rights Management for an estimated $50 million, with Warner Music still handling the distribution of her music. Later that month, Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist accepting her award via satellite from her home near Zurich, Switzerland.
Turner had two biological sons: one with Raymond Hill, named Raymond Craig, born on August 20, 1958, and the other with Ike Turner, Ronald “Ronnie” Renelle Turner, born on October 27, 1960.
She also adopted two of Ike Turner’s children, raising them as her own.
Religion and citizenship
Turner sometimes referred to herself as a “Buddhist–Baptist”, alluding to her upbringing in the Baptist church where her father was a deacon and her later conversion to Buddhism as an adult.
On April 22, 2013, she became a citizen of Switzerland and was issued a Swiss passport.
Turner signed the paperwork to relinquish her American citizenship at the U.S. embassy in Bern on October 24, 2013.
Turner revealed in her 2018 memoir My Love Story that she had suffered multiple life-threatening illnesses.
In 2013, three weeks after her wedding to Erwin Bach, she suffered a stroke and had to learn to walk again.
In 2016, she was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. Turner opted for homeopathic remedies to treat her high blood pressure. Her hypertension resulted in damage to her kidneys and eventual kidney failure.
On May 24, 2023, Turner died at her home in Küsnacht, Switzerland, aged 83, following a long illness.