Turning poison to medicine: Amazing how Tina Turner turned near destruction at the hands of Ike to stardom

Ike Turner created Tina Turner as an artiste but nearly destroy the life and creativity of Anna Mae Bullock through his lifelong addiction to drugs, insecurity and jealousy

Ade Ishola

When Tina Turner, the Queen of Rock, died last week at the age of 83 years, she died as a contented music star and legend. But her nearly six decades musical career was almost cut short by an abusive relationship with her ex-husband, Ike Turner.

Turner, during her solo music career, became one of the best-selling music artistes of all time selling over 200 million records worldwide. She won 12 Grammy Awards, including eight competitive awards, three Grammy Hall of Fame awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

She amazed a fortune estimated to be worth $250million including valuable properties around the world, which included a 16-acre estate in Zurich, Switzerland, a 5-acre estate in Küsnacht, Switzerland, a home in Los Angeles, California, and a home in Monte Carlo.

But this glorious achievement was threatened in the sixties and early seventies by her tumultuous relationship with Ike Turner, who helped created her famous musical identity – Tina Turner.

Born Anna Mae Bullock on Nov. 26, 1939, Tina, who started singing in the church choir, meet Ike at age 17 when the 25-year-old aspiring music star was performing with his band, Kings of Rhythm in a St Louis night club. Her sister worked at that club and Tina made several unsuccessful requests to Ike for her to join the band. But one the teenager seized the microphone to join in a song by the band: BB King’s “You Know I Love You” during one of the band’s performances. Her striking voice caught Ike’s attention and she was asked to join the band.

She later had an affair with Raymond Hill, the band’s sax player, which resulted in her first son, Craig, being born in 1958.

Initially, she never found Ike physically attractive. Writing in her 2018 memoir, “My Love Story”, she described Ike as being ‘ugly.’

Ike wasn’t conventionally handsome.

“Actually, he wasn’t handsome at all — and he certainly wasn’t my type. I was used to high school boys who were clean-cut, athletic, and dressed in denim, so Ike’s processed hair, diamond ring, and skinny body looked old to me, even though he was only 25. I couldn’t help thinking, ‘God, he’s ugly.’,” she wrote.

But when her affairs with Hill ended, she found herself in an affair with Ike. Over the years, it became a hellish one for her leaving her physically and emotionally drained.

Right from the beginning of the affair, it was obvious that Ike was in it for economic gains.  This was fuelled by the success the band gained with its first studio recording with Tina, which made Ike about $25,000.

“My relationship with Ike was doomed the day he figured out I was going to be his money-maker.

“He needed to control me, economically and psychologically, so I could never leave him,” Tina later wrote.

And smart Ike moved for the kill. He gave Tina (then Anna Bullock) a stage name – Tina Turner. The name “Tina”, inspired by a character in a favourite television show, was given to imply they were married and to assert his control over her life.

The couple had a son, Ronnie, born in 1960 and tied the knot in a quick ceremony in Tijuana, Mexico in 1962.

But the marriage didn’t give Tina the romantic comfort she craved in the hands of her partner and husband.

“Our life together was a mockery of a ‘normal’ relationship: defined by abuse and fear, not love, or even affection,” she wrote.

Right from the beginning Tina suffered a life of abuse and terror from Ike even though he employed fears to keep his ‘pay cheque’ to himself. His numerous beatings and abuses led to her suffering many broken bones- nose and jaw, multiple black eyes and even third-degree burns, when he poured burning hot coffee on her face.

The devastating psychological abuse includes Ike forcing her to visit a brothel on their wedding night. She described it as ‘disturbing,’ and she over the years tried to ‘suppress’ the memory of it.

‘The experience was so disturbing that I suppressed it, scratched it out, and created a different scenario, a fantasy of romantic elopement,’ she said in a media interview.

Ike would also get stoned and have rough sex with her, which she said felt more like rape.

As she got drowned in her misery, Tina tried suicide in an attempt to end it. She tricked her doctor to prescribe sleeping pills. One day, she took 50 at once. But she survived the suicide attempt.

“At my lowest, I convinced myself that death was my only way out. I actually tried to kill myself.

“But I came out of the darkness believing I was meant to survive,” she wrote.

But despite her marital troubles, Tina managed to make some great hits with the band. These include “A Fool in Love”, a 1960 hit, which reached No. 2 on the Hot R&B Sides chart and No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100; “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” (which earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock and Roll Performance); “I Idolize You” and “I Can’t Believe What You Say.”

Even when there were no hits, the band under the Ike & Tina Turner Revue banner, started a gruesome series of tours, shows and appearances on rock ‘n’ roll television shows and concert films. These attracted many fans, especially some industry’s big actors. This led to a new recording deal and the band, Rolling Stones, making the Revue the opening act of its tour. All these led to bigger shows and TV appearances.

Then in 1974, the band made “Proud Mary,” a funked-up cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s track. It was a hit and became one of Turner’s signature songs.

However, the musical success did not stop the abuse, jealousy and insane control from Ike. It got worse as his appetite for drug use increased and he openly cheated on Tina.

“There was violence because he had this fear that I was going to leave him,” Turner said in 2018.

She believed that Ike’s extramarital affairs were fueled by the fact that his mistresses are willing to endure sexual pains.

“The other women, because I didn’t love him that way… the other women weren’t so bad, but it was the constant, constant ill-treatment,” she said.

By 1976, Tina had had enough and in a bold move walked out on the relationship. While on tour in Texas, Tina sneaked out of the hotel the band was staying with only a Mobil card and 36 cents in her purse.

“I just took a chance. ’The way out is through the door’ and while he was on one of his sleeping times, I just left the hotel, went out the kitchen way and down to the freeway.

“I walked out without anything and had to make it on my own for my family and everyone so I just went back to work for myself,” she said.

But Ike refused to let go. Goons were sent after her to roughened her and make her more vulnerable. In one incident, she alleged that Ike’s thugs shot bullets into the place she was staying, resulting in her getting so frightened that she would sleep in her closet.

“It was very difficult and dangerous because Ike was a violent person and at that point, he was on drugs and very insecure. I had no money. I had no place to go,” she said.

During the divorce case, she stood toe–to–toe with Ike as she battled to gain the copyrights of the name, ‘Tina Turner’ from Ike Turner as well as gain the custody of her children. She and her lawyers emotionally narrated her ordeals in the hands of Ike and why she must control her destiny by owning her stage name and having custody of the four children- her two biological sons and Ike’s two other sons from an earlier marriage, who she had adopted. She was willing to let go of all the profits she had made while in the group.

“I told the judge, ‘It’s only blood money. I want nothing.

“I did have one request. I wanted to continue using the name ‘Tina Turner,’ which Ike owned. I walked out of that courtroom with the name Tina Turner and my two Jaguars, one from Sammy Davis, Jr. and one from Ike, and that’s it. It seems so funny now — no money for food or rent, but two Jaguars! Considering my age, 39, my gender, my colour, and the times we lived in, everything was strong winds against me,” she said.

After the divorce, she never spoke with Ike again. Ike died on December 12, 2007, from a cocaine overdose but before his death, he tacitly admitted the abuse in a media interview later citing his hot temper as an excuse.

“It is years ago that I had a temper. I don’t regret nothing I have ever done, absolutely nothing. Yeah, I hit her, but I didn’t hit her more than the average guy beats his wife,” he said.

With no money, Tina struggled to rebuild her career amidst physical threats and a bitter legal battle with Ike. She started doing solo shows, something she has not done in decades. She was homeless and penniless, living more on food stamps and with little income from the small shows she can get. The divorce was finalised in 1978, with Tina getting just two cars but what she wanted most – rights to her stage name and the children.

“Ike fought a little bit because he knew what I would do with it,” she said in the documentary Tina.

She gradually came back stronger than ever. As the ‘80s raced by she took advantage of the emerging opportunities including music videos to use the emerging MTV as a launch pad. In 1983, she was signed to Capitol Records and that year she released a cover of AI Green’s Let’s Stay Together, which peaked at number 26 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1984, her album, “Private Dancer” was released. It earned her four Grammy Awards and eventually sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. The platinum contained the hit song “What’s Love Got to Do with It”, which won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

With musical hits like “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” “The Best,” and “Private Dancer”; and good videos on MTV, she gradually became one of the highest-selling female musical artistes in the world.

The ’90s was no different as she had more success on the musical scene. Her captivating stage performances and powerful vocals entranced audiences across the globe as she earned superstar status.

She got some movie soundtracks, including for the James Bond film, “GoldenEye”, just as she got the ultimate recognition, being inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. She was also the oldest female solo artist to top the Hot 100. Some of her hits include “Better Be Good to Me”, “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)”, “Typical Male” and “I Don’t Wanna Fight”.

Her 1988 Break Every Rule World Tour set a then-Guinness World Record for the largest paying audience (180,000) for a solo performer.

After the divorce, Tina also settled down to exploit her other creative talents, including writing and acting. She acted in the films like Tommy (1975) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).

Turner, in 2009, retired after completing her Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour, which is the 15th-highest-grossing tour of the 2000s. She began to focus more on her private life.

Tina Turner’s romantic relationship with Ike Turner was a litany of heartache and abuse but in 1986 she met German actor and music producer Erwin Bach and love sweeten her life for the first time, 10 years after walking out on Ike. Since 1994 she had been living in Switzerland, and in she renounced her American citizenship to become a Swiss citizen in 2013. She also married Bach the same year.

Even though she had some serious health problems in the later years of her life with some personal disaster she had been comforted up to her last days by the love of Bach.

She lost her first biological son, Craig to suicide in 2018 and her second son, whom she had with Ike, Ronnie, died of cancer in 2012.

In 2016, she was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016 and the disease led to kidney failure. She had to undergo a kidney transplant in 2017, with the organ donated by Bach. The transplant was a success. She was eternally grateful to Bach.

“I lived through a hellish marriage that almost destroyed me, but I went on. I know that my medical adventure is far from over. But I’m still here — we’re still here, closer than we ever imagined,’ she gushed in a 2018 interview.

“I can look back and understand why my karma was the way it was. Good came out of bad. Joy came out of pain. And I have never been so completely happy as I am today,” she said.

She said the experience with Ike made her stronger and credited Buddhism, especially chanting with positively affecting her life in the 1980s.

“I am strong. I lived through a divorce, separation from my family. I never let it break me down.

‘I’m not an alcoholic. I have never smoked, I have never done drugs. I have floated through the disaster of my past clean. I arrived here undamaged,” she said on the Oprah Show.

In 2018, during one of her last public appearances at the premiere of the London musical based on her life story, Tina, she described her musical career as wonderful.

“I’ve been blessed with a wonderful career,” she wrote in the show’s program, “and after more than 50 years of performing I don’t need a musical, I don’t need another show. But I get so many cards and letters — I still can’t believe how people feel about me on stage and the legacy they say I left. People tell me I gave them hope. It meant so much to people I feel I have to pass it on, and I hope this show serves what the people need, as a reminder of my work.”

With the death of her only two biological sons before hers, it is believed that the bulk of her over $250 million estate will be inherited by her husband, Erwin Bach, and Ike Turner’s two biological sons, Ike Turner Jr and Michael Turner, whom she adopted.

“True and lasting happiness comes from having an unshakeable, hopeful spirit that can shine, no matter what,” she told The Guardian of London in an interview.

“That’s what I’ve achieved, and it is my greatest wish to help others become truly happy as well.”


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