The trailblazing singer, who has played a pivotal role in the history of rock and soul music, has suffered from a litany of health issues in recent years.
JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:
Tina Turner died after a long illness at her home near Zurich, Switzerland. She was 83 years old. The multi-platinum pop, rock and R&B singer has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice. NPR’s Eric Deggans says his triumphant life story has often inspired his fans, but it has remained difficult for Turner to talk about.
(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “THE BEST”)
TINA TURNER: (Singing) You’re just the best, better than all the others…
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Tina Turner’s star power has always been immediate and gripping. Armed with an intense stage presence, she had dance moves and choreography that inspired everyone from Mick Jagger to Beyonce. His eye for showmanship led to stunning costumes and a skin-tight backing band. And his voice – bold as a Mack truck, steeped in gospel, R&B and rock undertones – made stereotypical pop songs sound like classics and added power to old favorites like his rendition of ‘I Can’. t Stand The Rain” by Ann Peebles. “
(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “I CAN’T STAND THE RAIN”)
TURNER: (singing) Yeah, I know you have good memories, but there’s a sound I can’t stand. I can’t stand the rain…
DEGGANS: Beyond her performing skills, Turner had a life story that inspired millions and made her a legend. She survived the abuse of her first husband, bandleader Ike Turner, divorced her, then built a successful solo career that eclipsed her earlier work. It was a story that spawned several bestselling books, a musical, and an Oscar-nominated movie. 1993’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It” featured Angela Bassett as Turner, including a scene where she leaves Ike, running beaten and bruised towards a hotel.
(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE FILM, “WHAT’S LOVE HAVE TO DO WITH IT?”)
ANGELA BASSETT: (As Tina Turner) I’m Tina Turner. My husband and I just had a fight. I have 36 cents and a Mobil card. But if you give me a room, I swear I’ll pay you back.
DEGGANS: Turner was celebrated for speaking out against abuse at a time when few people were doing so. However, the singer has often said that recounting her past abuse was traumatic. She hoped to end the discussion when she wrote about it in her 1986 memoir “Me, Tina.” Turner even made the point during a press conference, as seen in this clip from the 2021 HBO documentary “Tina.”
(SOUND EXCERPT FROM DOCUMENTARY, “TINA”)
TURNER: I’m not so thrilled to think about the past. The story was actually written so that I didn’t have to discuss the matter anymore. I don’t like it being talked about all the time, you see.
DEGGANS: Born Anna Mae Bullock in 1939, Turner grew up in the small town of Nutbush, Tennessee, before moving to St. Louis. It was there that she met Ike Turner and eventually started singing with his band. Ike wrote the song “A Fool In Love” for another singer, but when she sang it in 1960, it became a rare crossover hit, scoring on the black-centric R&B charts and the pop-centric music charts. on the whites.
(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “UN FOU EN LOVE”)
IKE AND TINA TURNER: (Singing) You’re a fool, you know you’re in love. What you say? You have to face it to live in this world. You take the good with the bad…
DEGGANS: Even though their musical partnership was successful, Ike Turner became controlling and abusive. He chose the stage name Tina Turner for the singer without her knowledge. She discovered it when she saw the cover of the single “A Fool In Love’s”. And he remained paranoid that she would leave him. She spoke about those days with CBS anchor Gayle King in 2013.
(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TURNER: He was cruel because he depended on me. He didn’t like depending on me. And I didn’t want to start a fight because it was always a black eye, a broken nose, a broken lip.
DEGGANS: Tina Turner divorced Ike in 1978. Playing small shows in casinos, Turner initially resisted her manager’s suggestion that she record a song she hated.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “WHAT LOVE HAS TO DO WITH IT”)
TURNER: (Singing) What’s love got to do with it? What is love if not a second-hand emotion? What does love have to do…
DEGGANS: This single, released in 1984, became his first No. 1 hit and sparked a career revival that led to Grammy Awards, massive concert tours and a role opposite Mel Gibson in ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” from 1985 playing an iron-fisted ruler rebuilding a city after an apocalypse.
(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE MOVIE, “MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME”)
TURNER: (As the Auntie Entity) I built all of this. Where there was desert, there is now a city. Where there has been theft, there is commerce. Where there was despair, there is now hope. Civilization – I will do anything to protect her.
DEGGANS: She’s been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice — in 1991 with Ike Turner and in 2021 as a solo artist. She retired from the stage in 2009 and faced a series of health issues in her later years, including stroke, bowel cancer and kidney failure – treated with a kidney. donated by her second husband and partner of over 30 years, Erwin Bach. Through it all, Turner remained a symbol of talent triumphing over adversity, becoming widely celebrated as the queen of rock ‘n’ roll.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “BETTER BE GOOD TO ME”)
TURNER: (Singing) Oh, you better be good to me…
DEGGANS: I’m Eric Deggans.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “BETTER BE GOOD TO ME”)
TURNER: (Singing) That’s how it’s supposed to be…
NPR transcripts are created in peak time by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative recording of NPR’s programming is the audio recording.
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