The Queen of Rock n Roll

Tina Turner, the Queen of Rock n Roll, is known for her covers of Honky Tonk Women and Proud Mary, and originals such as What’s Love Got to Do With It. A young girl with a difficult upbringing to her tumultuous marriage to Ike Turner and many health scares, she fought through it all to transform into a world-renowned diva.

Published Categorized as Biography
Tina Turner in concert shows her portrait on the big screen.
"My legacy is that I stayed on course... from the beginning to the end, because I believed in something inside of me." – Tina Turner

A Tina Turner biography

Tina Turner (born 1969) – Singer

My introduction to Tina Turner was at a very young age. I was a late-in-life baby born in 1990 so, I grew up listening to the rock n roll music of the 1960s and the 1970s. My father, named Tommy, showed me to the Who’s rock opera of the same name when I was eight years old. I was terrified by Uncle Ernie and fascinated by The Acid Queen. My dad told me that a famous rock n roll star played The Acid Queen. He then played Proud Mary for me, and it was a song I had heard before. To put a face and a name to a song I have always loved was a life-changing moment. Tina Turner.

Nutbush city limits, little old town in Tennessee, It’s called a quiet, little old community”

– Nutbush City Limits

Believe it or not, Tina Turner’s iconic name is not her real one. She was born on November 11, 1939, in Tennessee. Anna Mae Bullock was the original name of the Rock n Roll Queen. Tina was born in a city that should already be familiar to rock n roll fans, Nutbush, a small town located 20 miles from the Mississippi River. In her hit song “Nutbush City Limits”, Tina described her hometown as having only “a church house, a schoolhouse, a gin house, and an outhouse.”

Her mom never wanted to have another child and Tina felt resentment coming from her. Tina always felt her mother never wanted her. She described her personality as indifferent, not loving, or hateful. Her mom did not care about her at all. When her mother packed her bags and walked out, never to return, Tina was proven right.

Tina’s father was a deacon. He managed black workers for white farm owners. She never had a loving relationship with her father either. There were even rumors that Tina was the child of someone else. Things were not bleak though. She had a close relationship with her grandmother Roxanna and her sister Alline.

Tina envied the loving marriage her maternal grandparents had. Before her mother’s abandonment, Tina’s parents had a tumultuous relationship. In the 1940s, her parents sent her to live with her paternal grandparents. During this time, Tina’s grandmother began taking her to weekly mass and that is where Tina discovered her love of music. Listening to the gospel songs ignited a passion in her.

She was very conscious about her body and loathed her gangly legs. She would roam the green pastures of Tennessee to relax. A young Tina loved to sing. She would even sing for the salesclerks, who would sometimes give her money in exchange for her voice. After going to a ‘sanctified’ mass and dancing until her pants came off, Tina fell even more in love with music and performing.

Tina knew she wanted to be famous ever since she was a child. She would spend a lot of her spare time in the movie theaters. While she was there, she would daydream about one day appearing on the big screen. She eventually began singing in the church choir and her talent would perfect from there.

Her father tried to preserve the family model for his daughters, so he quickly remarried. Three years after her mom abandoned her, her father left her too. After her dad left, she worked for a white family. They treated her like their own child. Tina helped them raise their baby, and she credited this time as a learning experience for when she would become a mom.

Tina grew very close to her cousin Margaret during this time, and one day, her cousin confided in her that she was pregnant and had to find a way to self-abort the baby. Later that evening, Tina received the news that a drunk driving accident had killed Margaret and her other cousin. On that day, Tina learned just how transient life could be.

During high school, Tina was highly self-conscious of her legs. Those long legs benefitted her, though, when she joined the cheerleading team. She met her first love there. He was on the football team of a rival school. After moving back to Nutbush, Tina feared she would never see him again. Fate was on Tina’s side because her new high school was the same her crush attended!

“Steamy windows, zero visibility. Steamy windows, coming from the body heat”

– Steamy Windows

At her new school, Tina joined in on even more activities like performing in the talent show and the school play and track. She began dating her old crush, and soon, she lost her virginity to him in the back seat of his car. Her hit “Steamy Windows” would be reminiscent of this night. However, her relationship with her boyfriend fell apart thereafter. Tina was heartbroken and took off to St. Louis to be with her mother and left Nutbush behind her for good.

While in St Louis one evening, Tina went out with her sister. They went to watch the performance of a popular local band, Ike Turner, and The Kings of Rhythm. The lead singer, Ike Turner, had women flocking around him but Tina decided he was not her type. That was until he performed. Then Ike exuded a sexual charisma that had everyone up and dancing in the club.

Ike would invite women on stage to sing with him. One evening at the club, Tina finally got her chance to sing with him. Ike was so impressed with young Tina’s voice he invited her to sing with them semi-regularly. While performing together, Tina and Ike commiserated over being abandoned and, even though she felt close enough to confide in Ike, she had no desire to be his lady. After all, she saw how he treated the ladies in his life she wanted no part of that.

She gained newfound confidence performing with Ike and eventually moved into his house with the rest of the entourage. During this time, she became pregnant with her first child. The child’s father was a band member of Ike Turner and The Rhythm Kings.  After he broke his ankle and left the band, he packed his bags and left a pregnant Tina alone.

One of Ike’s girlfriends, Lorraine, was very threatened by Tina, and her insecurities became even worse when Tina’s boyfriend left the band. Lorraine began suspecting Tina was pregnant with Ike’s baby and one night threatened to shoot her but instead shot herself through the lungs. She survived. Tina quickly moved back home after that. Her son, Raymond Craig, was born in 1958.

Ike was a talented performer but there were rumors that he also had a violent temper. He was known to fine his performers for missing a note! To keep track of who owed him what, Ike hired Tina to keep track of her books, and soon, she was out of her mother’s house and into his apartment because of the salary Ike was giving her. Single in 1959, Ike set his sights on Tina and began coming on to her. Tina still felt no attraction to him and described their first sexual relationship as almost feeling taboo, like a brother and sister being together in that way. Eventually, those feelings turned romantic.

Tina became pregnant with her and Ike’s child at this time and was very confused about their relationship. Ike could sense this and, in a bid to stop Tina from leaving him, he gave her a name change. Ike and the band referred to her as “Little Ann”. This wasn’t a stage name. Ike was a fan of the fictional character, SHEENA, Queen of the Jungle, and that is where he came up with the name Tina because it rhymed with Sheena.

“Yes, he’s got me smilin’ when I should be ashamed. Got me laughin’ when my heart is in pain. Whoa, now, I must be a fool. But I’ll do anything he wants me to…Now, why?”

– A Fool in Love

In 1960 the song “A Fool in Love” by Ike and Tina was released. It reached No. 27 on the Billboard magazine chart. Tina Turner had made her grand debut. Ike’s band also featured a name change. They now were The Ike and Tina Turner Revue. As great as things were going during this time, Tina was having health issues. She was diagnosed with hepatitis. For six weeks, she had to stay in the hospital. Ike eventually had to break her out of the hospital because he was turning down too many gigs.

On October 3, 1960, Ike and Tina appeared on American Band Stand, an American music program hosted by the late Dick Clark, and later that month, she gave birth to her second son, Ronald Renelle. After the birth of her son, Tina’s star factor continued to rise, but she quickly noticed Ike was living his dreams of being a star through her.

Ike’s first wife came looking for him so that she could claim a stake in his money. To evade her, Ike and Tina went down to Tijuana, Mexico, to marry. This quickie wedding was not the wedding of Tina’s dreams. She felt trapped in her relationship with him. Ike had begun physically abusing Tina even before they were married. Still, she felt he was pushing her to be a star and she thought she couldn’t do this without him.

A close up shot of Ike and Tina Turner on their arrival
Ike & Tina Turner arriving at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in 1971

Ike expected Tina to wait on his every want and need. He would beat her before a show then expect her to get up on stage like everything was okay. Ike was also cheating on Tina with his backup singers. Tina had no issues with him sleeping around. She preferred it, she would rather him be out of her hair. She did a great job of hiding her personal life from her fans. Her bold and sensual stage persona hid that truth.

“Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis. Pumped a lot of tane down in New Orleans, but I never saw the good side of the city, until I hitched a ride on a riverboat queen”

– Proud Mary

Tina developed a habit of taking male-sung rock songs, such as Honky Tonk Woman by The Rolling Stones and making them her own. Tina got ill again. But Ike would not allow her to rest. This time she developed tuberculosis and her lung collapsed. Tina and Ike were down in Florida when Tina recorded what might be her most famous cover, Proud Mary. Before hearing Creedence Clearwater Revival’s version, I thought this was a Tina Turner original. And as much as I love CCR, Proud Mary is Tina’s.

Tina and Ike had two more sons. All four of Tina’s sons were terrified of Ike and would scatter whenever he would come in the door. At this time she was still getting daily beatings from Ike. He tried his hardest to break her confidence during the years they were married.

She discovered Buddhism around this time. While Ike was abusing drugs and having sex, Tina began chanting and allowing positive energy into her life. Inviting in positivity seemed to be working when Tina got an offer to appear in The Who‘s rock opera, Tommy, as The Acid Queen. She gladly accepted.

On July 4, 1976, Ike and Tina had their last blowout fight. This fight left her covered in blood and hiding in a hotel room guarded by security. Shortly after this incident, she filed for divorce. On March 29, 1978, they signed the divorce decree and, Tina decided it was time to embark on a solo career. She toured with famous rock n roll bands.

Tina was on a solo journey of self-love and reflected on her Buddhist practices often. Her confidence was reaching new heights as she thrived in her life without Ike. In 1984 she released her solo album, Private Dancer. Before the release of the album, Tina was performing in hotel lounges and small clubs. She was what they call a “nostalgia act”, that was until Tina recorded a version of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together. Tina’s version of the song reached No. 26 on the Billboard Magazine Charts. The Studio executives were so impressed with her that she was only given two weeks to record the album! One of Tina’s most well-known songs, What’s Love Got to Do With It reached No. 50 on the Billboard Magazine Charts two weeks before the album was even released and won Tina a Grammy for Best Record of the Year.

“You must understand, though the touch of your hand…makes my pulse react.”

– What’s Love Got to Do with It

Tina was also able to achieve her dream of starring in a film when in 1985, she starred alongside Mel Gibson in the post-apocalyptic classic Mad Max Thunderdome. She was over the moon to finally achieve the goal she worked so hard to achieve. Tina became a world traveler during this time as well. She performed all over the globe, including a racially divided South Africa. Later Tina would say she regrets the choice and admits she was ignorant of the political climate during that time.

It was during these travels that Tina met her current husband, Erwin Bach. He is sixteen years her junior. Their relationship was initially platonic but turned into romance and, after a 27-year partnership, the two married in 2013. In 1986 Tina wrote her memoir I, Tina which chronicled her early life through her disastrous marriage to Ike Turner. After touring and traveling, Tina took some time off before the release of her album, Foreign Affair which featured her hit song The Best.

Tina Turner performing along with Eric Clapton on stage
Tina Turner and Eric Clapton at Wembley Arena, June 18, 1987

In 1991 The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame inducted Ike and Tina into its ranks. At the time, Ike was in prison and Tina chose not to attend the ceremony. Phil Spector accepted the award on their behalf. A film was made about Tina’s marriage to Ike Turner in 1993 called, What’s Love Got to Do With It? Angela Basset starred as Tina Turner and Laurence Fishburne starred as Ike Turner. Both were nominated for academy awards.

In 1994 she found herself back in Hollywood but not as an actor. She joined Bono and David Howell Evans, who wrote the song Golden Eye for the James Bond film of the same name, to sing the theme song. Tina sang alongside other divas of her era like Cher and Elton John when she starred in VH1’s Diva’s Live in 1999.

2004 is when Tina released her album, All the Best. This record was her highest-charting album in the United States, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Magazine Charts. One year later, Tina was honored by the Kennedy Center Honors. There she joined many elite entertainers from a variety of industries.

Tina went back on tour after ten years in 2008 called Tina! The 50th Anniversary Tour. She released a Greatest Hits record during this time as well. This tour was not only one of Tina’s best-selling tours of all time, but it was also one of the best-selling tours of all time. Period!

2018 was a big year for Tina – the Grammy’s honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award and she also worked on a musical called Tina which opened in London. 2020 saw her writing another book called, Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good. She also appeared in a documentary Tina which can be found on HBOmax.

Tina started as “Little” Ann. A shy and insecure girl from Nutbush Tennessee, she then became Tina Turner, wife and singing partner of Ike. After that though is when she became Tina. The diva we know and love today.

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