One of the strongest candidates for Feminist Friday must be the singer and actress Tina Turner (no relation, ha ha!).
Tina was born Anna Mae Bullock to poor sharecroppers Floyd and Zelma Bullock on November 26th 1939 in Nutbush, Tennessee. When her parents split up, Tina and her sister were raised by their grandmother, but when their grandmother died in the early 1950’s, Tina moved back to St. Louis, Missouri, to live with her mother.
Tina quickly immersed herself in St. Louis’s R&B scene, spending much of her time at Club Manhattan. It was there, in 1956, that she met rock-and-roll pioneer Ike Turner, who often played at the club with the Kings of Rhythm. It wasn’t long before Tina was performing with the group, and she quickly became the highlight of their show. With their popularity growing, Ike and Tina were married in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1962. Two years later their son, Ronnie, was born (they had four sons in all, one from an earlier relationship of Tina’s, and two from an earlier relationship of Ike’s).
In 1966, Tina and Ike’s success reached new heights when they recorded the album River Deep, Mountain High with superstar record producer Phil Spector. The title track was unsuccessful in the United States, but became a massive hit in Europe and brought the duo new fame. In 1969, they toured as the opening act for the Rolling Stones, winning themselves still more fans. Their popularity continued well into the 1970s, charting with tracks such as “Proud Mary” and “Nutbush City Limits.” In 1975, Tina also appeared in her first film, playing the Acid Queen in the Who’s Tommy.
Despite their success as a musical duo, by the mid-1970s, Tina and Ike’s marriage was in shambles. In 1976, the couple separated both personally and professionally, and in 1978, they were officially divorced, with Tina citing Ike’s physically abusive behaviour, frequent infidelities and increasing drug and alcohol use.
In the years following her divorce, Tina’s solo career got off to a slow start. According to Tina, when she left Ike, she had “36 cents and a gas station credit card.” To make ends meet and to care for her children, she used food stamps and even worked cleaning houses. But she also continued to perform, only in lower-profile venues, and made guest appearances on other artists’ records, though without achieving any notable success.
In 1983, however, Tina’s solo career finally gained steam when she recorded a remake of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” The following year, she exploded back into the record industry when her much-anticipated solo album, Private Dancer, was released to overwhelming critical and popular success. It went on to win four Grammy Awards and eventually sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. By this time, Tina had become known for her uniquely energetic performance style and raspy singing style, as well as for her signature look—typically performing in short skirts that exposed her famous legs, and with voluminously styled hair.
In 1985 she returned to the screen, starring opposite Mel Gibson in the film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (to which she contributed the song “We Don’t Need Another Hero”), and in 1986, she published her autobiography, I, Tina, which would later be adapted as the film What’s Love Got to Do with It? In her autobiography she wrote of Ike’s abuse, stating that he once forced her to eat cake by shoving it into her face, and then assaulted an employee who came to help her.
The year 1986 also saw the release of Tina’s second solo album, Break Every Rule. Tina Live in Europe followed in 1988 and won the Grammy for Female Rock Vocal Performance, and Foreign Affair (1989), which included the hit single “The Best,” outdid Private Dancer in worldwide sales.
The following decade, Tina released Wildest Dreams (1996) and Twenty Four Seven (1999). She also made several recordings for film soundtracks, including “Goldeneye” and “He Lives in You.” In 1991, Ike and Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ike was unable to attend the ceremony, however, as he was serving time for drug possession (he eventually died of an overdose in 2007).
Tina is now retired. In 2013, at the age of 73, Tina became engaged to her longtime partner, German record executive Erwin Bach. In July 2013, they were married in Zurich, Switzerland, only months after she had gained her Swiss citizenship.
I expect everybody has a favourite Tina Turner song. I have two; ‘Nutbush City Limits’. (it reminds me of my disco dancing days in the 1970’s) and ‘Simply the Best’.