Tina Turner, the singer and actress known as the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, has died at the age of 83.
Turner passed away following a long illness, her representatives announced on Wednesday, May 24th. “There will be a private funeral ceremony attended by close friends and family,” the statement added. “Please respect the privacy of her family at this difficult time.”
Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26th, 1939 in Brownsville, Tennessee. Growing up during World War II, she had a strained relationship with her parents, and spent the majority of her childhood and teenage years living with her grandparents. A self-described tomboy, she sang in her church choir as a young girl, and went on to join both the cheerleading squad and girls’ basketball team in high school. After graduating in 1958, she worked as a nurse’s aide.
In the mid-1950s, Turner and her sister began regularly attending jazz clubs in the St. Louis area, where they would occasionally see Ike Turner performing with his bands the Kings of Rhythm. At a Kings of Rhythm show one night in 1957, she grabbed a microphone during intermission and sang B.B. King’s blues ballad “You Know I Love You.” Almost instantly, she became a regular performer with the band.
After label president Juggy Murray convinced Ike to make Tina the “star of the show,” he bestowed her with the name Tina Turner, creating her stage persona around comic book heroines like Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Tina Turner’s first release under her stage name was Ike and Tina Turner’s 1960 song “A Fool In Love,” which reached No. 2 on the Hot R&B Sides chart and No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Over the next decade, Ike and Tina Turner put out a number of hit singles, making fans out of legends like David Bowie, Janis Joplin, James Brown, and Elvis Presley. They opened for The Rolling Stones on their 1969 US tour, and performed on TV shows like The Ed Sullivan Show. In the late ’60s, they began working more rock songs into their repertoire, including covers of Beatles hits like “Come Together” and “Get Back.” In 1971, Ike and Tina Turner made their biggest hit with their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.”
Ike’s heavy cocaine use began putting a strain on his relationship with Tina. They had married in 1963, and Tina later revealed that their relationship was much more tumultuous than it seemed. She said Ike was abusive throughout their marriage, leading to her 1968 suicide attempt. In 1976, Tina abruptly left Ike, and their divorce was finalized two years later.
In 1977, Tina Turner was reintroduced with a sexier image, and began headlining cabaret shows at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. She launched her first solo tour around this time, boosting her career from a nostalgia act to an artist who defined a generation.
On September 1st, 1984, Turner achieved her first and only No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” which later earned her the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Her tenth and final studio album was 1999’s Twenty Four Seven.
Turner amassed numerous accolades: She won a total of 12 Grammys, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. She received the Kennedy Center Honors and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was twice inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Outside of music, she played The Acid Queen in The Who’s Tommy, Aunt Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (for which she won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture), and The Mayor in The Last Action Hero. Turner published a total of four memoirs and appeared in a number of documentaries, including 2021’s Tina.
Turner raised a total of four sons: Two biological, and two adopted from Ike. After 27 years of dating, she married German music executive Erwin Bach in 2013. Check out a selection of some of her most iconic musical moments below.