Tina Turner, whose gritty vocals and fierce, sizzling performances powered two iconic music careers —as one-half of husband-and-wife duo Ike & Tina Turner and later internationally revered solo star — has died, her rep confirmed to Billboard on Wednesday (May 24). The eight-time Grammy Award winner was 83.
A statement announcing her death was also posted to her Instagram account. “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Tina Turner. With her music and her boundless passion for life, she enchanted millions of fans around the world and inspired the stars of tomorrow,” read the caption. “Today we say goodbye to a dear friend who leaves us all her greatest work: her music. All our heartfelt compassion goes out to her family. Tina, we will miss you dearly.”
Warner Music also issued a statement immediately following the news of her death. “All of us at Warner Music are deeply saddened by the passing of the one and only Tina Turner. A global icon and trailblazer, instantly recognizable by her incredible voice and inimitable style, she was one of the greatest stars of all time,” Max Lousada, CEO, recorded music of Warner Music Group, said in a statement. “Even after the countless awards, the 180 million album sales, the record-breaking tours, and unforgettable acting roles, Tina will be remembered most through the sheer joy of her music. So powerful is her extraordinary, universal appeal that there is no doubt she will continue to influence generations to come. She stands as the epitome of artistic self-empowerment.”
By the time her last compilation album, Love Songs, was released in 2014, Turner had retired from music. But not before triumphing over a hard-fought journey that spanned more than 50 years, culminating in a legacy that’s influenced a diverse range of singers from Janis Joplin to Beyoncé and beyond. Her transformation from soul singer to survivor to pop superstar yielded three Grammy Hall of Fame entries: “River Deep — Mountain High,” “Proud Mary” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Kennedy Center honoree, Turner also played memorable roles as the Acid Queen in the rock musical Tommy and as Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome with Mel Gibson.
She became a best-selling author with 1986’s I, Tina. Written with Kurt Loder, the autobiography detailed Turner’s childhood, early success with musician husband Ike, his domestic abuse and her adoption of Buddhism. Its highlight is Turner’s 1984 resurrection as a star in her own right with the album Private Dancer and its runaway Hot 100 No. 1 ,“What’s Love Got to Do With It.” Capping one of music’s most dramatic comebacks, the song rewarded Turner with three of her eight Grammys including record and song of the year. Eight years later, the track doubled as the title of the Turner biopic starring Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne.
Turner’s journey began in Nutbush, Tenn. Born Anna Mae Bullock on Nov. 26, 1939, the youngest of the family’s two daughters, she picked cotton on the farm where her father was caretaker and sang in the local Baptist church. Relocating to St. Louis as a teenager to live with her divorced mother, Bullock met future husband Ike when the guitarist and his band the Kings of Rhythm were playing the city’s Club Manhattan. Taking advantage of an impromptu moment to sing one night with the band, Bullock sparked her metamorphosis into Tina Turner.
With backing vocalists the Ikettes in tow, the Ike & Tina Turner Revue began drawing raves for its dynamic stage performances — as well as the first of several top 10 R&B chart hits beginning in 1960 with “A Fool in Love.” An appearance in the 1966 rock film The Big T.N.T. Show captured the attention of the film’s musical director Phil Spector. The famed “Wall of Sound” producer tapped Tina to sing the lead that same year for what has since gained status as a sonic classic, “River Deep, Mountain High.” By this time, the revue had been headlining shows in Las Vegas that brought out such music celebrities as David Bowie (whom she called “a passionate supporter of my career” in a tweet upon his death), Cher, James Brown and Elvis Presley.
Following a succession of signings with various labels plus high-profile gigs opening for the Rolling Stones, the Turners covered Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.” Tina’s sultry vocals start the song off slowly. Then the track’s pace revs up (“we never do nothing nice and into an energetic funk-rock romp. Not only did the song net the pair its biggest pop hit in 1971 (No. 4), it also won a Grammy for best R&B vocal performance by a group. The pair’s last major hit together was the Tina-penned “Nutbush City Limits” in 1973. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, Ike & Turner notched 20 hits from 1960 through 1975.
A fight en route to a show in Dallas the following year prompted Turner to leave Ike and file for divorce — setting the stage for Turner’s second act as a solo artist. Maintaining the rigorous touring schedule she began with Ike, Turner performed in a series of cabaret shows around the country in the late ‘70s before signing with veteran manager Roger Davies in 1980.
Aligning her gritty vocals with a harder rock style, Turner notched the first step in her comeback with a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” Reaching No. 3 R&B and No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100, the song gave the new Capitol Records signee her first solo U.S. hit.. Soon thereafter, the label released the singer’s career-defining album, Private Dancer. The 1984 set spun off the subsequent Grammy-winning singles “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and “Better Be Good to Me” plus the title track before peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard 200.
In the Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Turner recounted that she hated British songwriter Terry Britten’s demo of “What’s Love Got to Do With It” when she first heard it. “He said for me that he needed to make it a bit rougher, a bit more sharp around the edges,” she recalled. “All of a sudden, just siting there with him in the studio, the song became mine.”
With her famous mini-skirted legs sashaying energetically across the stage, black high heels flashing and wild mane of hair whipping back and forth, Turner crisscrossed the world in a series of top-grossing tours. Her last road trip, the 90-show Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour, was the No. 9 top-grossing tour in 2009, according to Billboard Boxscore.
Between recording and touring, Turner pursued acting. Cast as the Acid Queen in the Who’s rock musical Tommy, Turner waited 10 years before her next acting role as Aunty Entity with co-star Mel Gibson in 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. That was followed by a cameo in the 1993 film Last Action Hero. She sang the U2-penned “GoldenEye” for the same-tilted 1995 James Bond Film.
Turner charted a total of 17 solo hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome),” “One of the Living,” “Typical Male” and “I Don’t Wanna Fight.” Among her other top-selling solo albums: Break Every Rule and Foreign Affair as well as the compilation album All the Best. Her last studio album was 1999’s Twenty Four Seven.
Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé, Melissa Etheridge and Al Green saluted her in 2005 at the Kennedy Center Honors. Beyoncé reprised her then-performance of “Proud Mary” once more in 2008 — this time singing and dancing with the indefatigable Turner at the Grammy Awards. And proving that age is nothing but a number, Turner graced the cover of the German issue of Vogue in 2013. At 73, she was the oldest person to do so.
Turner married longtime beau Erwin Bach in July 2013, the same year she became a Swiss citizen. She had two sons, Raymond Craig from an earlier relationship, and Ronald, her only child with Ike.