April 22, 2024

Tina Turner

Legend has it that when Tina Turner (born Anna Marie Bullock) left her abusive husband Ike (and the Ike & Tina Revue), her life and career immediately turned around.  Not so.

Her first two albums since divorcing Ike, “Rough” (‘78) and ‘Love Explosion” (‘79), failed to make an impression.  To earn income, Tina earned income by appearing on game shows, variety shows and sitcoms.

With debts continuing to mount from lawsuits related to canceled Ike & Tina Turner shows Tina returned to touring.

Her career started to turn around in ’81 when Rod Stewart saw Tina’s show at the Ritz in New York City and invited her to sing “Hot Legs” with him on Saturday Night Live.

At this point, Tina was seen as a nostalgia act based solely on her incredible run as the lead vocalist for the Ike & Tina Revue.

Ike and Tina met in 1957.  Ike was an established guitarist and band leader.  Tina was a nobody… with a hell of a lot of talent.  Through the late ’50s and early ’60s the Ike & Tina Revue scored several R&B hits and logged countless tour miles.

Though the band, under Ike’s direction, was tight and produced a driving groove, the main attraction was always Tina. Her powerful and emotional vocals augmented by energetic and highly choregraphed routines, fronting the Ikettes (usually three dancers who also provided backing vocals), ruled.

Hooking up with ‘wall of sound’ producer Phil Spector looked like the big pop break they were looking for. But “River Deep, Mountain High” with Spector’s over the top production stiffed in the U.S.  It later became a major hit in the U.K.

A couple of years later, they became an inspired covers act reworking Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” and the Beatles’ “Come Together.” Tina’s sassy intro on “Proud Mary” stands as one of the highlights. Tina’s own “Nutbush City Limits” was another stunning track with hard-edged vocals giving the lyrics bite.

Ike & Tina went on tour with the Rolling Stones in ’69, which gave them some well-deserved exposure. But by the mid-70s everything went off the rails as Ike’s increased drug abuse exacerbated his violent nature.

During a second stint at the Ritz Tina signed with Capitol Records and released a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”  The song did well on both the Dance and Black Singles charts and convinced Capitol to have Tina record an album. The result was “Private Dancer.”  The ’84 set contained the #1 mid-tempo hit “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and went 5x platinum in the U.S. selling 10-million copies worldwide.

Follow up singles “Better Be Good To Me” and “Private Dancer” Top 10 hits.

Ironically, as Tina’s career rose, Ike’s sank. Long standing drug problems bought Ike a prison stint. Shortly after his release Ike suggested in an interview that his ex-wife should make him the opening act on her extensive tour. Ike strongly implied that it was the least she could do after all he’d done for her. Didn’t happen.

Though the ’86 album, “Break Every Rule,” didn’t have “Private Dancer’s” impact it held the #2 hit “Typical Male plus two other Top 20 entries – “Two People” and “What You Get Is What You See.”  That same year, Tina received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“Foreign Affair,” dropping in ’89, was best remembered for “The Best.”  Not surprisingly, the album did far better in the U.K. than in the U.S.

Tina retired after completing her “Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour” in ’09. But the accolades kept coming.  In ’21, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Just two years later, Turner died (5/24/23) at her home in Küsnacht, Switzerland, at the age of 83 from natural causes after years of illnesses.