‘Simply the best’: Singer Tina Turner dies at 83

Tina Turner, the American-born singer who left a farming community and an abusive relationship to become one of the top recording artists of all time, has died at the age of 83.

She died peacefully on Wednesday after a long illness in her home in Kusnacht near Zurich, Switzerland, her representative said.

Turner began her career in the 1950s, during the early years of rock and roll and evolved into an MTV phenomenon.

In the video for her chart-topping song, What’s Love Got to Do with It, in which she called love a “second-hand emotion”, Turner epitomised 1980s style as she strutted through New York City streets with her spiky blond hair, wearing a cropped jean jacket, mini-skirt, and stiletto heels.

With her taste for musical experimentation and bluntly worded ballads, Turner gelled perfectly with a 1980s pop landscape in which music fans valued electronically produced sounds and scorned hippie-era idealism.

Nicknamed the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, Turner won six of her eight Grammy Awards in the 1980s.
The decade saw her land a dozen songs on the Top 40, including, Typical Male, The Best, Private Dancer, and, Better Be Good to Me. Her 1988 show in Rio de Janeiro drew 180,000 people, which remains one of the largest concert audiences for any single performer.

By then, Turner had been free from her marriage to guitarist Ike Turner for a decadeThe superstar was forthcoming about the abuse she suffered from her former husband during their marital and musical partnership in the 1960s and 1970s. She described bruised eyes, busted lips, a broken jaw and other injuries that repeatedly sent her to the emergency room.

“Tina’s story is not one of victimhood but one of incredible triumph,” singer Janet Jackson wrote about Turner, in a Rolling Stone issue that placed Turner at number 63 on a list of the top 100 artists of all time.“She’s transformed herself into an international sensation – an elegant powerhouse,” Jackson said.

In 1985, Turner gave a fictional turn to her reputation as a survivor. She played the ruthless leader of an outpost in a nuclear wasteland, acting opposite Mel Gibson in the third instalment in the Mad Max franchise, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

Most of Turner’s hit songs were written by others, but she enlivened them with a voice that New York Times music critic Jon Pareles called “one of the more peculiar instruments in pop”.

“It’s three-tiered, with a nasal low register, a yowling, cutting middle range and a high register so startlingly clear it sounds like a falsetto,” Pareles wrote in a 1987 concert review.

She was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in the rural Tennessee community of Nutbush, which she described in her 1973 song, Nutbush City Limits, as a “quiet little old community, a one-horse town”.

Her father worked as an overseer on a farm and her mother left the family when the singer was 11 years old, according to the singer’s 2018 memoir, My Love Story. As a teenager, she moved to St Louis to rejoin her mom.Ike Turner, whose 1951 song, Rocket 88, has often been called the first rock-and-roll record, discovered her at age 17 when she grabbed the mic to sing at his club show in St Louis.

The band leader later recorded a hit song, A Fool In Love, with his protege and gave her the stage name Tina Turner, before the two married in Tijuana, Mexico.

Turner left her husband Ike one night in 1976 on a tour stop in Dallas, after he pummelled her during a car ride and she struck back, according to her memoir. Their divorce was finalised in 1978.
After leaving her husband, Turner spent years struggling to regain the limelight, releasing solo albums and singles that flopped and gigging at corporate conferences.

In 1980, she met her new manager, Roger Davies – an Australian music executive who went on to manage her for three decades. That led to a solo number 1 – What’s Love Got to Do With It – and then in 1984 her album, Private Dancer, landed her at the top of the charts.

Private Dancer, went on to become Turner’s biggest album, the capstone of a career that saw her sell more than 200 million records in total.

In 1985, Turner met German music executive Erwin Bach who became her long-term partner and in 1988, she moved to London, beginning a decades-long residency in Europe. She released two studio albums in the 1990s that sold well, especially in Europe, recorded the theme song for the 1995 James Bond movie, GoldenEye, and staged a successful world tour in 2008 and 2009.

After that, she retired from show business. She married Bach, relinquishing her US citizenship and becoming a citizen of Switzerland.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted Ike and Tina Turner in 1991, calling them “one of the most formidable live acts in history.” Ike Turner died in 2007.

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