At 80, Tina Turner Finally Puts Her Feet Up

Over the course of 50 years, Tina Turner sang, danced, and fought her way to the top.

Tina Turner’s career spanned over 50 years, during which she took the world by storm as a powerhouse singer and performer and overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, Tina’s childhood was somewhat unstable, but she relied on her own sense of independence to find her way. Originally from Nutbush, Tenn., when she was a teenager, she moved to St Louis with her mother. It was there that she met Ike Turner and her singing career began.

“I became a fan after seeing his show,” Tina says looking back at the origin of her relationship with Ike. “He got on stage and he started and I thought ‘Oh wow, I want to sing with that band.’”

In 1960, the duo released “A Fool In Love,” which became one of the first R & B songs to cross over to the pop charts. While their relationship started as a working one, Ike and Tina got married in 1962 in Tijuana. Together, they had a son and cared for each other’s children from previous relationships.

The pair also continued to make music, including their hit cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” which has become one of Tina Turner’s most recognizable signature songs. Also during this period, Producer Phil Spector desperately wanted Tina to have a hit song and spent an unprecedented amount of money producing “River Deep Mountain High,” which was well-received overseas but ultimately failed to resonate with domestic audiences. On the experience of working with Tina, Phil said, “She could just do anything – she was like working with a perfect instrument.”

Despite their commercial success as a creative pair, Tina suffered years of physical, mental, and emotional violence at the hands of Ike. After years of abuse, Tina eventually escaped her relationship with Ike in 1976 with 36 cents and something more powerful than money: “It’s common knowledge that Ike took everything, but he didn’t. I learned how to survive with Ike. I learned how to perform. I learned how to cover songs, and work without a record…” She also kept the name she had worked so hard to build: Tina Turner.

After her divorce, she connected with Roger Davies, a talent manager hungry to build a star. He booked a three-night run at the Ritz in New York to introduce her as a solo artist and the place was packed. According to Tina, “that was the real beginning of it.”

In 1984, Tina released Private Dancer at the age of 45, which included her biggest hit in America “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” She continued to produce music, tour, and perform until 2009, when she took her final bow at the age of 70.

Now 80 years old, Tina has undergone a kidney transplant, suffered from vertigo, had a stroke, suffered from colon cancer, but despite it all, she is truly happy and healthy: “I had a very hard life, but I didn’t put blame on anything or anyone. I got through it, I lived through it with no blame, and I’m a happy person.”

Tina Turner’s Swiss home has a plaque on the gate that reads: “Do not even think of bothering Tina Turner before noon.” After 50 years of singing, dancing, and touring the world, who can blame her.  

Click the player about to hear more about Tina Turner’s trials and triumphs

Audio Feature by Ann Delisi

Post Written by Meta Stange

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  • Ann Delisi
    Ann Delisi hosts Essential Music, the Essential Conversations podcast series and the Essential Cooking broadcast and podcast. Born and raised in the Motor City, Ann is a broadcaster, interviewer, producer, music host, storyteller and proud Detroiter.
  • Meta Stange
    Meta Stange is the Digital Content and Engagement Manager for 101.9 WDET, overseeing the station's digital editorial content. She enjoys reading, making bad jokes, and hanging out with her dog, Salmon.