Music Icon And Actor Tina Turner Dies, Aged 83

Tina Turner

by James White |
Published on

Tina Turner, a legend of R&B and pop music who also made memorable movie appearances, has died. She was 83.

Born Anna Mae Bullock in the farming community of Nutbush, Tennessee, she was shuttled alongside older sister Ruby between various relatives as a child and her mother left her abusive father when she was 11. At 16, the girls were reunited with their mother in St. Louis.

Following graduation, she started frequenting St. Louis nightclubs while also working as a nurse’s aide. It was at one of these nightspots that the teen lucked into becoming a member of Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm in 1957. Turner debuted under the name Tina Turner in 1960 with her duet with Ike, 'A Fool in Love.' That kicked off a string of tracks that she’d be forever associated with, even if they didn’t all become hits, including 'It’s Gonna Work out Fine', 'River Deep – Mountain High', 'Nutbush City Limits' (a nod to her upbringing) and, most of all, 'Proud Mary.'

Ike proved to be an abusive, controlling partner in their personal and professional life and the Revue broke up in 1976 when Tina left Ike, detailing their situation in memoirs and interviews. She became an early example of a domestic abuse survivor, putting the topic in the public consciousness.

Struggling and nearly destitute after the split, she rebounded in a big way with the huge success of her fifth solo album, 'Private Dancer' and its lead single 'Let’s Stay Together', which became an international hit.

The album’s second stateside single would give Turner the biggest hit of her career. 'What’s Love Got to Do With It,' spent three weeks at No. 1 in the U.S. It would win Grammys for Record and Song of the Year as well as a Female Pop Vocal award for Turner.

Her musical comeback would also re-launch a film career that had started in 1975 with a one-scene role as the Acid Queen in the Who’s Tommy. Following her 1980s recording success, she was cast as Auntie Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (also performing the memorable theme song 'We Don’t Need Another Hero') and as the mayor in Last Action Hero. Her music also appears on many movie and TV soundtracks.

Also on the film front, she joined an exclusive club, singing the song –– written by U2’s Bono and The Edge –– for a Bond movie, 1995’s GoldenEye.

Her turbulent life story was brought to screens in the 1993 biopic What’s Love Got To Do With It (which starred Angela Bassett as Tina), and in the 2019 Broadway musical Tina – The Tina Turner Musical.

"How do we say farewell to a woman who owned her pain and trauma and used it as a means to help change the world?” Bassett said in a statement to Deadline. "Through her courage in telling her story, her commitment to stay the course in her life, no matter the sacrifice, and her determination to carve out a space in rock and roll for herself and for others who look like her, Tina Turner showed others who lived in fear what a beautiful future filled with love, compassion, and freedom should look like."

Adds Bassett, "Her final words to me — for me — were ‘You never mimicked me. Instead, you reached deep into your soul, found your inner Tina, and showed her to the world.’ I shall hold these words close to my heart for the rest of my days. I am honored to have known Tina Turner. I am humbled to have helped show her to the world. So on today, while we mourn the loss of this iconic voice and presence, she gave us more than we could have ever asked. She gave us her whole self. And Tina Turner is a gift that will always be 'simply the best.' Angels, sing thee to thy rest… Queen."

Turner is survived by husband Erwin Bach and two sons.

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