Tina Turner: Taking Care of Business

Tina Turner: Taking Care of Business

Image credit: Helge Øverås (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Nutbush, Tennessee, to sharecropper parents, Floyd and Zelma Bullock. Turner lived with her maternal grandmother for a time before her parents eventually split up. Her grandmother was “strict—the kind who starched and ironed dresses. I had to sit more than I played,” Turner said about her in a May 2005 interview with Oprah Winfrey. After her grandmother died, Tina moved to St. Louis to live with her mother. She soon met Ike Turner, who heard her sing, and they, along with his bandmates, formed the Ike and Tina Turner Revue.

She became pregnant by Raymond Hill, a saxophone player in the band, and had a son, Raymond Craig, in 1958. In 1962 she married Ike, but the marriage was volatile. When she separated from him in 1976 because of his physical abuse and infidelity, she had no more than “36 cents and a gas station credit card,” she’s said. She also had kids: two sons—Raymond and Ronnie (a son she had with Ike in 1964), as well as two of Ike’s boys. For Tina, breaking from Ike meant going it alone musically for the first time. To make ends meet for herself and the kids as she built a solo career, she cleaned houses and used food stamps.

In 1984, her album Private Dancer burst onto the scene, and Tina finally could provide a comfortable life for her family. Her 1986 bestselling memoir, I, Tina, was the basis for the 1993 movie about her life, What’s Love Got to Do with It, starring Laurance Fishburne and Angela Bassett in the roles of Ike and Tina, respectively. At the time, movie critic Roger Ebert wrote this about the movie: “What’s Love Got to Do with It ranks as one of the most harrowing, uncompromising showbiz biographies I’ve ever seen.”

Now remarried and living in Switzerland, where she has lived for many years with longtime partner Erwin Bach, Tina shared with the Croatian magazine Gloria in 2007 that when she visits the United States, she enjoys seeing her four boys, now grown men, and grandchildren. “For anyone who’s in an abusive relationship, I say this: ‘Go,’” she once told Oprah Winfrey. “You have to take care of yourself first—and then you take care of your children. They will understand later.”

Tina, who is nearing 80, doesn’t appear to be slowing down too much. In April 2018, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, which she and Bach executive produced, opened at the Aldwych Theatre in London. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the production is “a rollicking rollercoaster ride, delivered with stylistic verve and fireball energy by a high-caliber cast and crew.” She also has written another memoir, the forthcoming Tina Turner: My Love Story (due from Simon & Schuster in October 2018), described on the publisher’s website as “an explosive and inspiring story of a woman who dared to break any barriers put in her way.”

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