Well-known for her trademark legs, throaty voice, and boundless stage energy, Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock, 1939) was one of the sexiest and most popular international performers of the 20th century. She first began singing with the Kings of Rhythm, and then formed the Ike and Tina Turner Revue with the leader of that group. Leaving her abusive partner in 1976, she went on to star in her own right into the mid 1980s.
"T ina" was an invention of Ike Turner. The singer was born Anna Mae Bullock in 1939 in rural Tennessee. Her father, Floyd Bullock, was a farm overseer and church deacon who fought perpetually with his "black Indian" wife Zelma. Turner and her older sister, Alline, spent most of their childhood shuttling between the homes of grandparents, father, mother, and a cousin.
Yearned to Sing
For a time during World War II, when Turner's parents were still married, they moved without their children to Knoxville where work was plentiful in the defense industry. The girls were allowed one visit in two years, and it was on this visit that Turner first sang for money. It was in a ladies' dress shop; the saleswomen gave her quarters. She also experienced her first lively, soulful church visit in the Sanctified Church, where self-expression was encouraged, unlike the constrained atmosphere of her grandparents' Baptist church back home.
In 1956 Zelma Bullock was divorced and living in St. Louis when she ended a long separation from her daughters. Zelma brought them to live with her after her own mother, with whom Turner had been living in Tennessee, died. Reunited with the older sister she idolized, Turner began to experience an awakening to the rhythm and blues of East St. Louis, where the Kings of Rhythm were a hot band holding court at Club Manhattan. Ike Turner led the band, and Alline Bullock was dating the drummer. Younger Anna Bullock watched and waited for weeks for a chance to get on stage with the band, and when she finally did, she sang a B.B. King song and impressed Ike Turner so immediately and overwhelmingly that he asked her to perform regularly with them. He gave her the stage name of Little Ann.
The reputation of Ike Turner mirrored the violence of his childhood, during which his father, a Baptist minister, was murdered by the boyfriend of the minister's lover. Ike Turner and Anna Bullock began their relationship as mentor and protégé. Her romantic involvement at the time centered around Raymond Hill, the band's saxophone player and the father of Anna Bullock's first child, born in 1958. Although Ike still lived with his second wife, Anna moved into their home, and soon after that Ike and Anna had a son named Ricky. They married in Mexico, although it was later discovered that Ike had never divorced his previous wife.
Ike and Tina Turner on the Road
In spite of constant personal strains on their relationship, the Turners continued to make music. In late 1959 Anna Mae Bullock filled in for a last-minute no-show singer during a recording session with the Kings of Rhythm. The result was a smash hit in the summer of 1960 called "A Fool in Love" and was released under the names Ike and Tina Turner.
What became the Ike and Tina Turner Revue was a slick package of Ike Turner's shrewd management and song writing, Tina Turner's intensely energetic and sensual lead voice and body, three backup "Ikettes, " and an eight piece band. They traveled the country, their sound a combination of country blues, ghetto rhythm, and gospel passion, and by 1969 they had released 15 albums and 60 singles, including the hit songs "It's Gonna Work Out Fine, " "I Pity the Fool, " "I Idolize You, " "Poor Fool, " and "Tra La La La La."
Stardom for the Ike and Tina Turner Revue came about first in Europe. Legendary pop producer Phil Spector wanted Tina to sing on a record without Ike. The normally autocratic husband agreed to the arrangement thanks to a generous financial offer. Released late in 1966 the song" River Deep, Mountain High" topped the British pop charts for many weeks in 1966.
Ike and Tina Turned toured Europe twice in the 1960s with the Rolling Stones. Tina had taught Mick Jagger, the leader of that group, how to dance on stage. By the time the revue returned to the United States, Ike and Tina Turner had "crossed over" more than the Atlantic. They were wildly popular with mainstream audiences who were stunned by the forceful blend of hard rock and roll and provocative soul. Tina Turner aptly describes their style in her introduction to "Proud Mary" when she says, "we never do anything nice and easy, we always do it nice—and rough." That song won a Grammy Award in 1971 for best rhythm and blues vocal by a group. Albums released by the revue in the 1970s include Working Together (1970), Blues Roots (1972), Nutbush City Limits (1973), and The Gospel According to Ike and Tina (1974).
Although Tina Turner continued to tour and record with the group during the early 1970s, her own identity began to emerge both personally and professionally. She released three solo albums and appeared in the rock opera film Tommy as the "Acid Queen." Years of physical and emotional abuse by Ike Turner became too much for her, and she walked out on him and the group during a concert tour stop in Texas in July 1976. Fleeing with only thirty-six cents and a gas station credit card, Turner worked cleaning friends' houses and even living on food stamps while she began putting her life together.
Nonetheless, Tina Turner savored her freedom. Caring for her children for a while, she eventually sent them off: "I had been their mother, I had been his wife. Now it was time to be me. A solo album called Rough, released in 1978, received little attention from the press and even less from listeners. She continued to tour, however, mostly in Europe and in small American clubs and hotels.
Once again, the Rolling Stones provided a ticket for her success, and her special guest performances on their 1981 sold-out U.S. tour introduced Tina Turner to a new generation of listeners fascinated with her wild, sensual, visceral presence. One music critic, after seeing her in concert, described her as she entered the stage "in mid-scream with both legs pumping, hips grinding, long mane whirling, her mouth wrapped around some of the sexiest sounds ever set to music."
After touring with Lionel Ritchie and Rod Stewart and doing her own record-breaking European tour, Tina Turner's 1984 album Private Dancer sold more than 11 million copies worldwide and earned four Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year for "What's Love Got To Do with It."
Another hit album was released in 1986 called Break Every Rule. In 1985, Turner appeared in the film Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome, from which came the hit song "We Don't Need Another Hero." She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 1991, and her "Foreign Affairs" tour later that year sold out in 19 countries, drawing over three million fans.
Movie Bio and Album a Hit
In her 1986 best-selling autobiography, I, Tina, written with Kurt Loder, she describes how she endured the persecution and torment of Ike Turner, while at the same time laying the foundation for a wildly successful and popular music career. In 1993, Touchstone Pictures released a film version of the book called What's Love Got To Do with It, starring Angela Bassett as Tina and Laurence Fishburne as Ike. The movie was a box-office success. Turner re-recorded several hits for the soundtrack and even appeared at the film's end as herself. In the wake of the film's success, Turner went on tour again. Variety remarked in a review of a 1993 concert that "watching Tina Turner perform is like watching a tornado traverse the landscape as it builds in power and intensity." The Los Angeles Times reviewer called her show "more effective as a sweeping piece of theater than as a concert, " but he admired her "energy and heart."
In 1996, to promote her album Wildest Dreams, Turner went on a hectic yearlong world tour. The still sultry super-star launched the tour with a private performance for the family of the Sultan of Brunei, reputedly the world's richest man. She continued on to South Africa, then began a circuit of European cities. Turner said European audiences seemed to enjoy her more and were more supportive of her work between hit records. "I am as big as Madonna in Europe, " she told Jet magazine. "I am as big, in some places, as the Rolling Stones."
Turner took her "Wildest Dreams" stage show to the U.S. in May 1997 for her first American appearances in four years. The tour kicked off in Houston, Texas, and went on 47 other cities before ending in July at New York's Radio City Music Hall. For two solid nonstop hours, the 57-year old but ageless rock diva gave a an electric performance that encompassed 20 songs as well as a continuous barrage of video and sound wizardry.
"Living My Wildest Dream
Turner made Europe her home from 1986. Her decision was influenced by her relationship with Erwin Bach, a German executive with EMI records, her European label. Turner and Bach met when he picked her up at the London airport in 1986. They hit it off immediately, began dating steadily, and Turner ultimately moved to London to be with Bach. Although Bach was 16 years her junior and earned considerably less money, the relationship persisted through the 1990s. Because of Bach's own career, the two lived first in London, then in Germany, and finally to Zurich.
Meanwhile, from 1990, Turner spent six years overseeing the construction and decoration of her dream house in southern France. Decorated in an eclectic mix of neoclassical, art deco, and rock-and-roll mementos, the lavish villa was perched high in the hills overlooking Nice harbor, Cap Ferrat, and the Mediterranean beyond. There the grandmother born in rural Tennessee two put down roots between tours. She had reached the pinnacle of her profession, found love with a younger man, and enjoyed living in the present. I don't dwell on the past, she told Harper's Bazaar. "That's me—I don't go back."
Further Reading on Tina Turner
Two interesting books on Tina Turner's life and career are I, Tina (1986), her autobiography with Kurt Loder, and Steven Ivory's Tina! (1985). Among the periodicals with additional information are Ebony (January 1992); Rolling Stone (October 15, 1992); a cover story in Vanity Fair (May 1993); TIME (June 21, 1993); and Jet (June 21, 1993). A short biography appears in Notable Black American Women (1992), edited by Jessie Carney Smith.
Other resources include Mills, Bart. Tina (Warner, 1985). Mower, Sarah. "Private Tina, " Harper's Bazaar, December 1996, pages 150-159. (Anonymous) "Living My Wildest Dream, " Ebony (September 1996);