Tina Turner Biography

Anna Mae Bullock, 26 November 1939, Brownsville, Tennessee, USA. A singer while in her early teens, this enduring artist was a regular performer in St. Louis’ nightclubs when she was discovered in 1956 by guitarist Ike Turner. She joined his group as a backing singer, but quickly became the co-star and featured vocalist, a relationship sealed two years later with their marriage. Ike And Tina Turner was a highly successful act on the R&B circuit, before expanding their audience through a controversial liaison with producer Phil Spector on the 1966 single ‘River Deep - Mountain High’. They emerged as a leading pop/soul act during the late 60s/early 70s with tours in support of the Rolling Stones and hits with ‘Proud Mary’ (1971) and ‘Nutbush City Limits’ (1973). However, the relationship between husband and wife grew increasingly strained as Ike’s behaviour became irrational. Tina walked out of their professional and personal relationship during a 1975 tour, incurring the wrath of concert promoters who remained unsympathetic when the singer attempted a solo act. During this time the singer appeared in Ken Russell’s film of the Who’s rock opera Tommy, offering an outrageous portrayal of the Acid Queen; however, this acclaimed cameo failed to successfully launch Turner as a solo artist, and her late 70s recording were misguided attempts to cash in on the booming disco market.

Turner’s career was rejuvenated in 1983 when British act Heaven 17 invited her to participate in an offshoot project dubbed BEF. She contributed a suitably raucous cover version of the Temptations ‘Ball Of Confusion’ which, in turn, engendered a recording contract with Capitol Records. Turner’s reading of Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’ reached the UK Top 10, while an attendant album, Private Dancer, hurriedly completed in its wake, spawned another major hit in ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’. This melodramatic ballad topped the US chart, reached number 3 in England, and won two Grammys as Record Of The Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. ‘Better Be Good To Me’ and the title track, written by Mark Knopfler, were also transatlantic hits, with the former earning another Grammy Award in the Best Female Rock Vocal Performance category. The album has sold over 10 million copies since its release, confirming the astonishing success of Turner’s mid-80s comeback.

Turner enhanced her popularity worldwide through a series of punishing tours, yet her energy remained undiminished. In 1985, she accepted a role in the movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, the theme from which, ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)’, was another international hit. The same year she duetted with Mick Jagger at the Live Aid concert and contributed to the US charity single ‘We Are The World’. She also enjoyed a US Top 20 hit in partnership with Bryan Adams on the duet ‘It’s Only Love’. Turner enjoyed further transatlantic success in the late 80s with the albums Break Every Rule (1986) and Foreign Affair (1989). The former spawned the US number 2 single ‘Typical Male’ in addition to further hits with ‘Two People’, ‘What You Get Is What You See’ and ‘Break Every Rule’. The latter featured one of her more enduring hits with a cover version of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘The Best’, which went on to become a staple on rock radio and at sporting events. The album also included the UK hits ‘I Don’t Wanna Lose You’ and ‘Steamy Windows’ (originally recorded by Tony Joe White).

Turner enjoyed a number of further UK hits in the early 90s, including a duet with Rod Stewart on ‘It Takes Two’ and a reworking of ‘Nutbush City Limits’. Her 1985 autobiography was filmed in 1993 as What’s Love Got To Do With It, which also gave its title to a bestselling album and an extensive worldwide tour. The single from the soundtrack, a version of the Lulu track ‘I Don’t Wanna Fight’, reached both the US and UK Top 10. Turner released the title track from the James Bond movie Goldeneye in October 1995. The Bono/Edge composition had Turner sounding uncannily like Shirley Bassey (the vocalist on ‘Goldfinger’). The Trevor Horn-produced Wildest Dreams (1996) was a solid rock album, further laying the singer’s strong R&B roots to rest. Turner returned to the UK Top 10 in October 1999, days short of her sixtieth birthday, with ‘When The Heartache Is Over’. This preceded the disappointing Twenty Four Seven, following which Turner announced she was retiring from live performance.

Although commentators have criticised Turner’s one-dimensional approach, she enjoys massive popularity. She is truly happy with her present life and talks articulately about her difficult past. Making it clear that the voluptuous image was utilised only on stage, a quieter Turner has continued to enjoy the fruits of her considerable success. She was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1991 and remained discreetly silent when Ike Turner died in 2007.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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