Tina Turner, the magnetic, extraordinary, powerful soul singer known affectionately and appropriately as the Queen of Rock’ n’ Roll, died Wednesday, May 24, at her home in Küsnacht, Switzerland, near Zurich. She was 83.
Bernard Doherty, Turner’s publicist, announced her passing in a statement but did not provide a cause of death. Turner’s death was also cited on her verified Facebook page.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Tina Turner,” the statement said on Facebook. “With her music and boundless passion for life, she enchanted millions of fans worldwide and inspired the stars of tomorrow. Today we say goodbye to a dear friend who leaves us all her greatest work: her music All our heartfelt compassion goes out to her family Tina, we will miss you dearly.”
Turner was also known for her physical beauty and shapely dancer legs epitomizing the saying, “Black don’t crack.” The news of Turner’s passing for a community that loved and respected her resilience, raspy, powerful vocals, and thrilling live concert performances felt like the passing of a beloved family member – we thought that we knew her.
Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock in 1939 near Nutbush, Tennessee, a rural town north of Memphis. She would shine a light on Nutbush with her autobiographical song, “Nutbush City Limits.”
Turner would move to East St. Louis, Ill., and begin her career as a high schooler in the 1950s. In 1956, she met Ike Turner and began singing with his band, the Kings of Rhythm. Anna Mae Bullock began to perform under her new stage name, Tina Turner.
Together, Ike and Tina would record the hits “A Fool in Love,” It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” “I Idolize You,” and “River Deep – Mountain High.” They would have a son, Ronnie, and marry two years after his birth in Mexico in 1962.
Their band, renamed the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, became one of the sought-after touring R&B acts during the 1960s. The British rock group, the Rolling Stones, invited Ike and Tina to open their British and American tour, exposing their sound and incredible live performances of Tina to a new fan base that would remain with Tina throughout her life.
In 1971, Ike and Tina released Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” and it became an instant hit. They followed that release with “Nutbush City Limits,” another chart-topper for the group. Turner would release two solo albums while a member of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, “Tina Turns the Country On!” in 1974 and “Acid Queen” in 1975.
While the Revue was a musical success, it was later revealed that their marriage was filled with unspeakable violence and infidelity. Turner would recall about her pain, writing, “There was violence because he had this fear that I was going to leave him,” she said.
“When I left, I was living a life of death,” she told People in 1981. “I didn’t exist. I didn’t fear him killing me when I left because I was already dead. When I walked out, I didn’t look back.” The volatility of her marriage would also be seen in the movie about her life, “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” starring actress Angela Bassett portraying Tina.
Turner would leave the marriage in 1976 with “36 cents and a Mobil gasoline card” in her pockets. They divorced in 1978, and Ike Turner died of a cocaine overdose in 2007. Turner embarked on rebuilding her life and career. A practicing Buddhist, “the light that guided her way,” Tina Turner would return better than ever.
In 1984, she released “Private Dancer,” an album that delivered three hit songs: “Private Dancer,” the title song, “Better Be Good to Me,” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” In 1985, Turner won three Grammy Awards for “What’s Love Got to Do With It” – Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
The album would sell over five million copies, and she would break a record for the largest paying concert audience in Rio de Janeiro, 180,000 people at Maracana Stadium.
Turner would not only find success in music, but love would flourish in her life. In 1985, she began a relationship with Erwin Bach, whom she married in 2013. Turner would not only find love for Bach but also the country of Switzerland, becoming a Swiss citizen. Bach survives her.
Creatively, Turner would flourish with a best-selling memoir. Speaking engagements worldwide, she and Bach were executive producers of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” a stage show based on her life and incorporating many of her hits, which opened in London in 2018 and in Hamburg and on Broadway in 2019. The musical earned 12 Tony Award nominations.
Turner was preceded in death by her only child with Ike Turner, Ron, who died of colon cancer in 2022. Her sister, Alline Bullock, died in 2010. Another son, Craig, from a previous relationship, died by suicide in 2018.
As the world hears the news of her death, Tina Turner, a beloved icon, mother, and wife, impacted the world, and we are better for it. Turner said it best, and we wholeheartedly agree that she was simply the best.