Whether it’s her enduringly poignant hit “What’s Love Got to Do with It?,” the subtle-not-so-subtle sense of raw sexuality and power mingling in “Private Dancer”, or the vulnerably joyful tone of her timeless classic “Simply the Best”, Tina Turner is best known for her strong and scintillating solo music career of the 1980s.
Often dubbed the bonafide Queen of Rock ‘n Roll, Tina celebrated her 80th birthday, prompting a look back through the 8 (count them) decades of struggle, badassery, and success that make up her life thus far– including a career spanning 6 decades.
If there’s anything we can learn from the inimitable Tina Turner, it is that in spite of numerous personal tragedies, she has always bounced back stronger.
Tina’s life changed when she left Ike
Born Anna Mae Bullock, Tina Turner was the daughter of a Tennessee farm worker. She moved around a lot in the early days, and eventually found herself in St. Louis where she met bandleader Ike Turner in 1957 and entered into a musical duo– an long-infamous 16-year-long abusive marriage– with him.
Many of us will remember the very disturbing 1993 Tina Turner biopic What’s Love Got to Do with It, which documented her rise to fame under the constant threat of Ike Turner’s rage. The film was adapted from her 1987 memoir, I, Tina, in which she revealed in brutal detail the years of abuse, humiliation, and manipulation she went through during her marriage, including public beatings, infidelity, and a suicide attempt.
When Tina was finally able to walk away, she barely had a cent to her name
Still, she managed to work her way back up, and launch an incredibly successful solo career in the 80s— even though she was a good 20 years older than most artists in the pop world. She rose to stardom in her 40s and 50s— as a woman, and an African American to boot, I might add.
Talk about beating the odds, to hell and back!
One might say that Tina’s relationship with Ike was the original hurdle she had to contend with to get to where she is today.
She was finally able to shine
The strength she had to leave an abusive relationship—in spite of the financial hardship and struggle that followed—remains a testament to her inspiring vitality.
And hey, unfortunately her story is still very relevant to women struggling to leave abusive partners, of which there are many.
Today, Tina says she no longer thinks much about Ike, who died of a drug overdose in 2007.
Tina’s true love helped heal her
If Tina’s an inspiration to those who believe they’re too old to rise into their true power, let her also be an inspiration to those who think it’s too late to find love.
She married her long-term love, German producer Erwin Bach (over 16 years her junior) in 2013 at the age of 74—which she details in her 2018 memoir My Love Story.
They had been romantically involved for 27 years before marrying. But, just three weeks after the wedding, she suffered a stroke and had to relearn how to walk. And that’s not all. She also got intestinal cancer, followed by kidney disease.
Through it all, she’s found comfort in her Buddhist beliefs. That’s right, Tina’s been a blooming Buddhist since 1973. “In Buddhism you accept the life and the death. I was ready, I just thought it was my time,” she’s said.
But, it totally wasn’t, because her husband Bach donated one of his kidneys, and the transplant saved her life. Now, she’s not just alive, but thriving. How’s that for transcendent romance?
Her struggles weren’t over
Turner had two biological sons, Craig, who she gave birth to when she was only 18 (his biological father was Kings of Rhythm saxophonist Raymond Hill), and Ronnie (son of Ike Turner). She also adopted two of Ike Turner’s children, Ike Turner Jr. and Michael Turner, raising all 4 as her own.
If all that already seems like a lot, consider Tina Turner’s most recent personal tragedy: her eldest son Craig took his own life just last year at the age of 59.
Taking to Twitter after it happened, Tina called it her “saddest moment as a mother.”
I still don’t know what took him to the edge.
Tina to the BBC in 2018
Turner told the BBC that his passing came as a total shock given that he’d just fallen in love and started a new job.
A poison that turned into medicine
These days, Tina Turner lives in Switzerland with her husband, and is currently enjoying her 10th year of retirement.
Back in 2000 she launched a farewell tour, but ended up taking to the stage again in 2008 at the age of 69 to celebrate her 50th anniversary in music. She gave it the type of energy that would have depleted someone half her age, and got through 90 shows. Her last performance took place in 2009 in front of a very lucky British audience.
If you don’t feel you’ll ever get enough Tina though, save your stress. Tina, The Tina Turner Musical is currently on Broadway. At the opening of the show, she told the crowd:
It’s like poison that turned to medicine… I can never be as happy as I am now.
“People think my life has been tough, but I think it’s been a wonderful journey,” she explained in 2018. “The older you get, the more you realize it’s not what happened, it’s how you deal with it.”
Ageing has been a blessing
On her very recent 80th birthday, Tina rightfully took to social media to celebrate her day.
“Yes, I’m 80″ she said. “How did I think I would be at 80? Not like this. How is this? Well, I look great, I feel good, I’ve gone through some very serious sicknesses that I’m overcoming.”
It’s like having a second chance at life. I’m happy to be an 80-year-old woman.
While another Tina tour seems hard to imagine at this point, with all she’s survived, it’s impossible to fully rule out the idea. I mean, if Tina Turner can keep following her life’s dream at age 80, we can do the same thing with the passion in our own lives.
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