When Anna Mae Bullock met Ike Turner in 1956, history would be made. The world would come to know them as Ike and Tina Turner, and together would become one of the most successful Rock and Roll duos of their time. They were known for their electrifying stage performances; Tina Turner was the persona of raw feminine power and sexuality. But off stage, their life and marriage were an entirely different story.
By the time Ike and Tina were married in 1962, they’d already had a string of hits that landed them on both the r&b and pop charts. They toured with the Rolling Stones in 1969 as the opening act, but it was their remake of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s classic “Proud Mary” in 1971 that would ultimately become their hugest success and bedrock of their legacy. Tina Turner’s live performance was as iconic as her vocal performance, and the world would take notice.
But what the world didn’t know was about the private hell that Tina endured at the hands of Ike Turner. Ike was addicted to alcohol and drugs and a frequent adulterer. Throughout the majority of Ike and Tina’s relationship, he was both physically and vocally abusive.
In the mid- 70’s, after years of abuse, Tina finally fought back following a vicious dispute before a show in Dallas that left them both bloodied and bruised. Tina’s eye was swollen nearly shut. When she left Ike, all she had was 36 cents, a gas station credit card, and her name- the name that Ike Turner originally owned in order to own her. The woman who once toured the world and captivated audiences was living off food stamps, cleaning houses, and performing in small venues to support herself and her children.
Tina struggled to make a name for herself as a solo artist, but in 1984, after the release of Private Dancer, Tina Turner would once again rise to the top. Private Dancer was Tina’s strongest vocal performance, garnering hits like “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “Private Dancer,” a remake of Al Green’s classic “Let’s Stay Together,” and a remake of Spider’s “Better Be Good to Me.” The album would go on to win Tina four Grammys including both Song of the Year and Record of the Year for “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” Certified Platinum several times over across the globe, the world once again took notice of Tina Turner.
The 1993 biographical movie What’s Love Got to Do With It starring Angela Bassett as Tina Turner and Laurence Fishburne as Ike Turner, was a hit. It earned critical claim as well as Academy Award nominations and the Golden Globe win for Angela Bassett’s performance.
Tina’s story is the ultimate comeback story, the epitome of the phoenix that rose from the ashes. She overcame a tumultuous relationship and years of abuse. But she wasn’t a victim; she was a survivor. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey on “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” Tina explained how she persevered. “Endurance. I endured hardship all the way [but] stayed focused –- never smoking, never drinking, never doing drugs. I stayed on course from the beginning to the end because I believed in something inside of me that told me that it can get better.”
Domestic abuse is an epidemic that afflicts millions of women and men every year, destroying families and claiming lives. Tina did something that so many people enduring physical abuse feel like they can’t do — she walked away. She walked away with nothing and in turn gained everything. Tina Turner is a hero to so many because of her strength, her spirit, and her willingness to fight back. She never gave up on herself, and with the odds stacked against her she found success and captivated the world once again. She triumphed and established herself as an icon many times over. But more importantly, she reclaimed her life and legacy that will continue to influence lives for ages to come.