Tina Turner (born Nov. 26, 1939) is an American soul-pop singer who first rose to prominence through her musical partnership with husband/bandleader Ike Turner, joining his Kings of Rhythm in 1957. Between 1959 and 1975, the Ike & Tina Turner Revue toured non-stop and made numerous recordings and TV appearances, scoring R&B hits with “A Fool in Love,” “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” “River Deep – Mountain High,” “Proud Mary,” and “Nutbush City Limits.”
Turner launched her solo career with the 1978 soul-funk album Rough, followed by the 1979 disco-fied release Love Explosion, both on United Artists. After her 1983 chart-comeback with the BEF-produced single “Let’s Stay Together,” she achieved newfound stardom with the 1984 Capitol release Private Dancer, which spawned the hits “Better Be Good to Me,” “Private Dancer,” and the chart-topping “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”
In 1985, she had another mega-hit with “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome),” the theme song to the popstapoclyptic action film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, in which she co-starred with Mel Gibson. After scoring further hits with “Typical Male,” “Two People,” and “The Best,” her 1986 autobiography I, Tina became the basis for the 1993 biographical drama What’s Love Got to Do with It, starring Angela Bassett as Turner.
Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Brownsville, Tenn., the youngest child of Zelma Priscilla (née Currie) and sharecropper Floyd Richard Bullock. She had an older sister, Ruby Alline Bullock (1936–2010), and a maternal half-sister, Evelyn Juanita Currie.
As a child, Bullock sang in her church choir at Nutbush’s Spring Hill Baptist Church. In 1950, Zelma abandoned the family. The girls went to live with their maternal grandmother after Floyd remarried in 1952. Around this time, Currie died in an auto accident with two cousins.
Bullock was a socially active teenager who partook in cheerleading and girl’s basketball. At 16, her grandmother died, so she moved to live with her mother in St.Louis. Here, Bullock and Ruby Alline started hitting the local nightclubs. In late 1956, they caught the act of Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm at the Manhattan Club in East St. Louis. Transfixed, Bullock volunteered to be his singer, but Turner dismissed the offer.
Meanwhile, Ruby Alline started a relationship with Kings of Rhythm drummer Eugene Washington. One night in 1957 during an intermission, Washington handed a mic to Bullock, who belted out the B.B. King ballad “You Know I Love You.” Impressed, Turner asked if she knew their setlist. She sang straight through their entire set that night and became their featured vocalist.
Ike & Tina Turner
Bullock made her recording debut as a co-vocalist on the single “Boxtop,” credited to Ike Turner, Carlson Oliver, and Little Ann (Bullock) and released in 1958 on Tune Town. She bore her first child, Craig, around this time to Kings of Rhythm saxophonist Raymond Hill.
In 1960, she sang her first recorded lead on Turner’s “A Fool in Love.” Now convinced of her star potential, he renamed her Tina Turner. “Tina” because it rhymed with the name of fictional jungle heroin Sheena, the archetype for Bullock’s stage persona. Issued in July 1960 on Sue Records as the inaugural release by Ike & Tina Turner, “A Fool In Love” was a hit on Billboard (Hot 100 #27, R&B #1) and Cashbox (#19).
By now, the two were romantically involved and she gave birth to Ronnie, their only child together, in October 1960. They assembled the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, touring nonstop across the US with the Ikettes, a revolving-door trio of female singer/dancers. Their explosive live performances drew favorable comparisons to the James Brown Revue.
Over the next four years, they scored further hits on Sue, including “I Idolize You,” “Poor Fool,” “Tra La La La La,” and “You Can’t Miss Nothing That You Never Had.” The first record billed solely to Tina was “Too Many Ties That Bind” (b/w “We Need an Understanding”), released in 1964 on Ike’s Sonja Records label.
In 1965, they charted with the Warner release Live! The Ike & Tina Turner Show and issued singles on assorted soul labels, including “Tell Her I’m Not Home” (Loma) and “Good Bye, So Long” (Modern), both Billboard R&B hits. Impressed with their stage act, producer Phil Spector got them to appear in his 1966 concert film The Big T.N.T. Show. He produced what became their signature song, “River Deep – Mountain High.” Released in May 1966 on Spector’s Philles label (US) and London (abroad), it was a Top 10 smash in Western Europe (UK #3, Spain #1).
The duo signed to Blue Thumb for the 1968/69 albums Outta Season and The Hunter, then moved to Liberty for the 1970/71 albums Come Together, Workin’ Together, and Live In Paris. During this period, they covered songs by Otis Redding (“I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”), Sly & the Family Stone (“I Want to Take You Higher”), The Beatles (“Get Back”), and The Rolling Stones (“Honky Tonk Woman”). In 1971, their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” became their biggest US hit (#4).
Tina’s involvement as a songwriter increased when they moved to United Artists for their 1972 release Let Me Touch Your Mind, which features three of her compositions: “I Had a Notion,” “Popcorn,” and “Help Him.” She wrote five songs on their 1973 album Nutbush City Limits, including the fuzz-laden title-track (Austria #1, UK #4). Their 1974 release, Sweet Rhode Island Red, features seven of her songs, including the hits “Sexy Ida” and the title-track.
First Solo Album, Acting, Split from Ike
In September 1974, Turner released her debut solo album, Tina Turns the Country On!, an all-covers set comprised of songs composed by Dolly Parton (“There’ll Always Be Music”), James Taylor (“Don’t Talk Now”), Kris Kristofferson (“Help Me Make It Through the Night”), and Bob Dylan (“Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”). It was produced for UA by Tom Thacker at Inglewood’s Bolic Sound with no involvement from Ike. Backing players on the album include saxophonist Tom Scott (L.A. Express) and singers Clydie King, Merry Clayton, and Pat Hodges (Hodges, James & Smith).
In 1975, Turner made her acting debut in Ken Russell’s Tommy, based on the 1969 rock opera by The Who. She plays the role of a drug-addled prostitute named the Acid Queen. Her performance of the namesake number, included on the Polydor-issued soundtrack, became the title-track of her second solo album, released that August.
In addition to the movie number, Acid Queen features covers of songs by Led Zeppelin (“Whole Lotta Love“), The Rolling Stones (“Under My Thumb,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together“), and a further Who cover (“I Can See for Miles“). Ike produced and wrote three numbers on side two: “Bootsy Whitelaw,” “Pick Me Tonight,” and “Rockin’ and Rollin’.” The Ike/Tina co-write “Baby, Get It On” would be their last charting song together.
By this time, Ike was struggling with cocaine addiction, which made him prone to erratic mood swings, a problem further exacerbated by his (later diagnosed) bipolar disorder. On July 1, 1976, as the couple headed to Dallas for a booked revue at the Statler Hilton, he flew into a rage. Shortly after their arrival, she fled their hotel and hid at a friend’s house. Later that month, she filed for divorce.
During her first year alone, Turner supported herself with appearances on television (The Hollywood Squares, Donny & Marie, The Sonny & Cher Show, The Brady Bunch Hour) and a cabaret show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. In late 1977, she flew to Australia for her first solo tour. Her divorce from Ike was finalized in March 1978.
(More to come…)
- Tina Turns the Country On! (1974)
- Acid Queen (1975)
- Rough (1978)
- Love Explosion (1979)
- Private Dancer (1984)
- Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (OST, 1985 • Maurice Jarre)
- Stand by Your Man [archival] (1985)
- Break Every Rule (1986)
- Foreign Affair (1989)
- What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993)
- Wildest Dreams (1996)
- Twenty Four Seven (2000)
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