Grammy-winning singer Tina Turner dies in Switzerland at age 83
Tina Turner, the iconic American-born singer known as the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” has passed away at the age of 83.
She died peacefully at her home in Küsnacht, near Zurich, Switzerland, after a long illness, according to her representative.
Turner’s remarkable journey began in the 1950s, emerging from a challenging upbringing in a farming community and an abusive relationship to become one of the most influential recording artists of all time.
She rose to fame during the early years of rock and roll and later became an MTV sensation.
In her music video for the chart-topping song “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” Turner epitomized 1980s style, strutting through the streets of New York City with her signature spiky blond hair, wearing a cropped jean jacket, mini skirt, and stiletto heels. Her taste for musical experimentation and candidly honest ballads resonated with the pop landscape of the 1980s, which embraced electronically-produced sounds and rejected the idealism of the hippie era.
Often referred to as the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Turner received six out of her eight Grammy Awards in the 1980s. The decade witnessed her scoring a dozen songs in the Top 40, including hits like “Typical Male,” “The Best,” “Private Dancer,” and “Better Be Good to Me.” Notably, her 1988 concert in Rio de Janeiro drew an astounding crowd of 180,000 people, making it one of the largest audiences ever for a single performer.
By that time, Turner had been free from her tumultuous marriage to guitarist Ike Turner for ten years. She candidly spoke about the abuse she endured during their marital and musical partnership in the 1960s and 1970s, recounting incidents of physical violence that resulted in severe injuries.
Despite her difficult past, Turner’s story was one of triumph rather than victimhood, as acknowledged by singer Janet Jackson in a Rolling Stone feature that ranked Turner as the 63rd greatest artist of all time.
Turner ventured into acting, taking on the role of a ruthless outpost leader in the post-apocalyptic film “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” alongside Mel Gibson.
While most of her hit songs were written by others, Turner’s unique voice, described by New York Times music critic Jon Pareles as a “peculiar instrument in pop,” brought them to life.
Born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Nutbush, a rural community in Tennessee, Turner humorously depicted her hometown in her 1973 song “Nutbush City Limits” as a “quiet little old community, a one-horse town.”
Raised by her father, who worked as a farm overseer, and separated from her mother at a young age, Turner moved to St. Louis as a teenager to reunite with her mother.
At the age of 17, Turner’s path changed dramatically when she caught the attention of Ike Turner, the renowned band leader, during one of his club shows in St. Louis in 1957. Ike recorded the hit song “A Fool In Love” with her and bestowed upon her the stage name Tina Turner.
The couple later married in Tijuana, Mexico, and Tina became the lead vocalist in the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. She collaborated with notable rock figures such as The Who and Phil Spector during the 1960s and 1970s and even graced the cover of the second issue of Rolling Stone magazine in 1967.
While Ike and Tina Turner enjoyed commercial success through their relentless touring, their marriage was plagued by turmoil. In 1976, during a tour stop in Dallas, Tina decided to leave her abusive husband after he violently attacked her during a car ride. In self-defense, she fought back, marking a turning point in her life.
Their divorce was finalized in 1978. In 1991, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted Ike and Tina Turner, recognizing them as one of the most powerful live acts in history. Ike Turner passed away in 2007.
Following her departure from Ike, Tina Turner faced years of struggle as she sought to rebuild her career. She released solo albums and singles that failed to gain traction, and she performed at corporate conferences to make ends meet. It wasn’t until 1980 that her fortunes changed when she crossed paths with Roger Davies, an Australian music executive who became her manager for the next three decades.
Under Davies’ guidance, Turner achieved her first solo number one hit with “What’s Love Got to Do With It” in 1984. The success continued with her album “Private Dancer,” released the same year, which topped the charts and became her most successful album to date.
“Private Dancer” marked the pinnacle of Turner’s career, with sales exceeding 200 million records worldwide. In 1985, she met German music executive Erwin Bach, who became her long-term partner. In 1988, Turner relocated to London, commencing a residency in Europe that lasted for decades. Throughout the 1990s, she released two successful studio albums, particularly well-received in Europe. She also recorded the theme song for the 1995 James Bond film “GoldenEye” and embarked on a triumphant world tour in 2008 and 2009.
Following the tour, Turner retired from the music industry. She married Erwin Bach, relinquished her U.S. citizenship, and became a citizen of Switzerland. In her later years, she faced various health issues, and in 2018, she experienced a personal tragedy when her oldest son, Craig, took his own life at the age of 59 in Los Angeles. Her younger son, Ronnie, passed away in December 2022.
Despite her retirement, Tina Turner’s name continued to resonate with audiences. The musical stage production “TINA: The Tina Turner Musical,” featuring Adrienne Warren portraying Turner’s life story, became a sensation in London’s West End in 2018 and later on Broadway, where it is still running. In 2021, HBO released a documentary titled “Tina,” which delved into the remarkable journey of her life.
Tina Turner leaves behind Erwin Bach and her two adopted sons from her marriage to Ike Turner. Her legacy as a trailblazing performer, survivor, and symbol of female empowerment will forever be remembered in the annals of music history.