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Artist Profile: Tina Turner

Tina Turner

Born Anna Mae Bullock, Tina Turner is the iconic singer, songwriter, and actress who was responsible for the hit songs such as Proud Mary, River Deep – Mountain High, A Fool in Love, and What’s Love Got To Do With It. Throughout her career, Tina Turner sold over 200 million records all across the globe and won 12 Grammy Awards including three Grammy Hall of Fame Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Tina Turner is known for her powerful vocals, energetic stage presence, and her leg dance. In this article, we are going to know more about Tina Turner and her contributions to the music industry.

Early Life

Born in Nutbush, Tennessee as Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, Tina Turner was the daughter of Floyd Richard Bullock and Zelma Priscilla. When she was a child, she remembered picking cotton with her family because his father worked at a farm as an overseer of the sharecroppers. When she was just eleven years old, her mother left them and ran off without warning because she had an abusive relationship with her father. And this forced Tina worked as a domestic helper for the Henderson family to be able to provide for her own family. in 1958, Tina graduated from Sumner High School and after she finished high school, she worked as a nurse’s aide at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital

Ike and Turner

Tina and her sister were frequent visitors at nightclubs in St. Louis and East St. Louis. It was where she first saw Ike Turner perform together with his band called Kings of Rhythm. She was immediately impressed by Ike’s talent and she even recalled that she almost fainted when she watched him play. But aside from being astounded by Ike’s talent, Tina also felt that she wanted to perform and sing with Ike’s band even if she knew the fact that few women had ever sung with him. But on one lucky night, Kings of Rhythm’s drummer, Eugene Washington decided to give Tina the microphone during an intermission and Tina sand a B.B King blues song entitled You Know I Love You. When they heard her amazing voice, the band asked her if she knew more songs and let her sang for the rest of the night. She eventually became a featured vocalist for the band while Ike taught her some tricks for vocal control and performance.

In 1960, Ike composed the song A Fool In Love for another singer named Art Lassiter and Ike scheduled Tina to be the background vocals for the song, however, Lassiter didn’t show up for the recording session. Not wanting to lose what they paid for the studio time, Tina suggested that she should just sing the song. That’s why Ike used her to record a demo tape to edit out her vocals and add Lassiter’s voice at a later date. But a local DJ convinced Ike to send the tape to the president of Sue Records, Juggy Murray. Murray was immediately impressed by Tina’s voice when he heard the song that’s why he bought the track and paid Ike a whopping 25,000 dollars advance for the publishing and recording rights. Murray also told Ike to make Tina the star of the show that’s why he thought of changing her name from Anna Mae to Tina and added his last name to make it sound more catchy.

A Fool In Love received immediate success when it was released on July 1960. It peaked at the second spot of the Hot R&B Sides chart and the 27th spot on the Billboard Hot 11. The following year, Ike and Tina released another single called It’s Gonna Work Out Fine which peaked at the 14th spot of the Hot 100 charts and earned them a Grammy Award nomination in the category Best Rock and Roll Performance.

After this success, Ike decided to create the Ike and Tina Revue which also included the Kings of Rhythm members as its musicians. Ike then booked them through a demanding touring schedule of the United States where they had to perform for 90 days straight in different venues across the country. After some time, the Ike and Tina Revue has earned a reputation for being one of the most durable, and the most explosive R&B groups during that time. All the shows they’ve done earned the band financial success and they even managed to perform in front of a diverse crowd in the American South because of the money they made. Ike made sure that he supplied the band with enough original material to perform and he was mostly responsible for the band’s many early successes.

Aside from their unbelievable chemistry when it comes to music, Ike and Tina also started to develop a close friendship which eventually turned into a romantic relationship. And in 1960, Tina Turner became pregnant with their first child and they got married. 

In 1964, the band left Sue Records and signed a record deal with Kent Records and spent the next few years issuing materials on additional labels such as Modern Records and Loma Records. Two years later, Ike and Tina Turner worked with the iconic producer Phil Spector who was impressed by Tina’s voice and suggested that he would produce their album on a massive-scale because he knew that the Tina would be his greatest masterpiece. Before the duo started, Ike was known to have a reputation for demanding control but when Spector entered the scene, he made sure that his conditions were met accordingly. He said that even if the songs would be fully credited to Ike and Tina Turner, Ike is not allowed to enter the studio or meddle with the finished recordings and its return, Spector paid him extra. The song River Deep- Mountain High was probably the centerpiece of Spector’s partnership with Tina because the song alone cost about 22,000 dollars to produce. Knowing that he invested a lot of money in the single, Spector expected it to be a hit. The song managed to reach the top five of the British charts and gained Tina Turner popularity in the U.K but the single flopped in the United States because, during that time, the mixture of black and white musical aesthetics was a little too ahead of its time. The result disappointed Spector that’s why not long after, he decided to retreat from the music business. But even if some critics say that River Deep – Mountain High was an overly produced single, some still consider it as one of rock’s greatest song. George Harrison even described the song as the perfect record from start to finish.

After their success in the United Kingdom, Ike and Tina Turner was given the chance to be the opening act for the Rolling Stones on their 1966 UK Tour. Since then, they began to book bigger venues in the U.S and performed several exclusive deals to help increase their funds. But as their careers started to rise, Ike and Tina’s romantic relationship began to deteriorate and it reached a point where Tina attempted suicide before a show in 1968.

In 1968, Ike and Tina landed a record deal with Blue Thumb Records and on the following year, they released their album called Outta Season which featured their cover of an Otis Redding’s song entitled I’ve Been Loving You Too Long. The album reached the 43rd spot of the Billboard R&B chart and the song peaked at the 23rd spot on the U.S R&B charts.

In 1969, Ike and Tina began headlining shows at casinos and resorts in Las Vegas. It is also where Ike began using cocaine. His addiction with the drug was mixed with severe addictions to alcohol and this resulted to Ike being more controlling and abusive towards Tina. Some reports say that his anger sometimes resulted in severe beatings and burns which is the reason why Tina Turner attempted suicide in 1968. According to Tina Turner’s biography, she tolerated Ike’s dominance and abuse through the early ‘70s. And it took some time before she finally walked out on Ike where she filed for divorce and declined to pursue claims for financial reimbursement from all the work they’ve done together. And after a long time of enduring the pain and struggle, their divorce was finalized in 1978. Tina re-emerged successfully in the ‘80s as a solo act while Ike dealt with his worsening drug problems and several arrests.

Solo Career

In 1977, Tina Turner returned onstage and she started performing at smaller venues to be able to earn the money she lost because of her divorce with Ike. To further increase her income, Tina also appeared on different shows such as The Sonny and Cher Show, The Hollywood Squares, The Brady Bunch Hour, and Donny and Marie. Later that year, she embarked on her first solo concert tour in Australia. The following year, she released her album entitled Rough under United Artists. However, that album and her 1979 follow-up album called Love Explosion failed to reach the charts and achieve commercial success. Tina Turner then decided to leave the record label.

In 1980, Roger Davies agreed to manage Tina Turner’s career. The first step they made was to release a cover of The Temptations’ song, Ball of Confusion which became a hit song in the European dance clubs in 1982.

In 1983, Tina Turner released her cover of the Al Green song entitle Let’s Stay Together under Capitol Records. it immediately became a hit song and entered the top ten spot in the U.K charts. The song was also Tina Turner’s first solo entry on the United States charts. The following year, Tina Turner released her album entitled Private Dancer which featured the hit singles What’s Love Got to Do with It, Private Dancer, and Better Be Good to Me. The album managed to achieve commercial success and entered the top ten of the Billboard 200 charts. But what made her comeback so successful was when she won four Grammy Awards for her the song What’s Love Got to Do With It.

Her success continued when she starred in the post-apocalyptic movie with Mel Gibson entitled Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The movie was her first acting role in over ten years. Aside from starring in the film, Tina Turner also recorded two songs namely One of the Living and We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) which won her a Grammy Award in the category Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

In 1986, Tina Turner released her album entitled Break Every Rule which featured the hit singles What You Get is What You See, Typical Male, and Two People. Break Every Rule managed to sell over a million copies in the United States alone. In 1989, she released her album called Foreign Affair which included the single entitled The Best.

In 1996, Tina Turner released her album called Wildest Dreams which was supported by a very successful tour. in 1999, just before she celebrated her birthday, she released the dance-infused song entitled When the Heartache is Over which was included on their tenth and final album called Twenty Four Seven which was released the same year. Tina Turner embarked on the Twenty Four Seven Tour to further promote her album. The tour became one of her most successful tour which grossed over 100 million dollars. And the end of her tour on July 2000 in Switzerland, Tina Turner announced that she would retire in the music industry after the tour.

To mark her 50th year in the music industry, Tina Turner released a greatest hits compilation album and embarked on the Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour in 2008 which became a huge success. in 2018, Tina Turner received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the musical Tina, which was based on her life story opened in London on April 2018. That same year, it was announced that the musical would also be open on Broadway in the fall of 2019.

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