Tina Turner is hotter than ever at 81, with a new HBO documentary called “Tina,” a biography of the Queen of Rock and Roll. Recently, she was nominated as a solo artist for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021.
Over 50 years, she remained a “symbol of Rock’ n’ Roll stamina,” beginning at 17 years old with Ike Turner. She spent 16 years of her life with him, enduring physical and psychological violence. At no point did she ever reveal the full extent of his abuse.
“I think I’m ashamed,” she said. “I feel I told enough.”
Over the years, she suffered reliving the nightmare when asked about it by journalists and the media. In 1976, she escaped Ike at age 37, leaving him with only 36 cents in her pocket and in debt.
The Revenge of Success
Success is the best revenge, as they say. Soon, after a 1978 divorce, she would rise like a phoenix, wearing “revenge fashion” as she promoted her first solo album, “Private Dancer,” at age 44.
Eloise Moran, a Los Angeles-based British writer, posts a picture of Tina Turner in a cutaway leather Alaïa mini dress, the ultimate “revenge look.”
On television appearances, she wore miniskirts, fishnets, and high heels. When performing, she became known for her shag wig, bold, sexy look, and often wore fashions by famous costume designer Bob Mackie.
Today, her fashion choices and those of another icon, Princess Diana, are “back in the zeitgeist” as vaccines mean people can leave the pandemic behind.
According to the Wall Street Journal, retail analysts predict post-pandemic retail therapy focused on body-conscious looks for going out on the town. For inspiration, they suggest Tina Turner and Princess Diana’s style will be an inspiration in 2021.
Below, she performed Proud Mary with Beyoncé at the 2008 Grammys.
Don’t Call it a Comeback
When Turner released her fifth album, Private Dancer, people widely called it a comeback. However, Turner didn’t see it that way.
“I don’t consider it a comeback album. Tina had never arrived,” Turner says in a new HBO documentary about her life and career. “It was Tina’s debut.”
In the new documentary, she reminds us that the stage name given to her by Ike Turner was the only thing she wanted to keep from her marriage.
However, Ike came up with the name without even consulting her. She told Oprah that he gave her the name so that he could own her.
Later, she realized she could keep the name and become the star she always wanted to be.
“That’s when I realized I could use Tina to become a business,” Turner recalls.
See more from Grunge:
How Buddhism Saved Her
One way that Turner was able to learn the courage to leave Ike was through practicing Buddhism.
“Buddhism was a way out,” she said.
Turner began chanting the mantra “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.”
Through practicing Buddhism, she realized that to find peace, she needed to make a big change. And, she had all she needed within to do so.
Once, she hid her Buddhist prayer cabinet in a spare room so Ike wouldn’t find it. However, he found it and ordered it out of the house.
Nevertheless, she continued to meditate for change, and one day she left him behind for good.
“Chanting helped me to go within myself and open deep sources of happiness and wisdom in my own heart and mind,” she revealed. “Soon, I realized that I already had within my everything I needed to change my circumstances and create a truly happy life. We all have that, and I want everyone to know it.”
Happiness Becomes You
This year, she released her latest memoir, “Happiness Becomes You,” a guide to life using Buddhist principles.
“It’s improved my life in so many ways, I filled a whole book about it! I’m happier now than at any other time in my life, and it’s not because of success or money or fame. It’s because of what’s inside of me. The wisdom I found in Buddhism means more to me than an inspirational philosophy. It actually saved my life. The most valuable lessons I’ve learned are how to transform any negative situation into a positive one, and even how to change things that feel unchangeable,” she said.
Below she discusses practicing Buddhism from Proud Nutbush:
On Finding Happiness
For those who seek happiness, she offers her wisdom:
“Remember that happiness is an inside job. Just think about how your ego knows exactly where your weak spots are and how to tempt you into dwelling on them.
To find happiness, it’s up to you.
On the other hand, your inner wisdom knows how to connect you to the joy that resides within you. The bottom line is that becoming happy is up to you. No one else can make you happy. And true happiness can never be built at the expense of others.”
In an interview with Gayle King, she said she’d found total serenity and happiness herself.
“I have everything. When I sit at the Lake Zurich in the house that I have, I am so serene. No problems. I had a very hard life, but I didn’t put blame on anything or anyone. I got through it, I lived through it with no blame, and I’m a happy person.”
Surviving an Abusive Childhood
Although Tina rose to become a rock legend, she grew up Anna Mae Bullock in humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee. During that time, her family picked cotton until both her parents abandoned the family. Her father had been violent against her mother.
In her early life, she experienced “tons of hearbreak,” she recalled.
“I’m a girl from a cotton field that pulled myself above what was not taught to me,” she said in an interview.
Despite a lack of love, she survived and started to thrive.
“I have not received love almost ever in my life. I did not have it with my mother and my father from the beginning of birth, and I survived,” she told Kurt Loder. “Why did I get so far without love … I have had not one love affair that was genuine and sustained itself. Not one.”
More recently, in 2019, she revealed that her key to overcoming her past was simply refusing to stop.
“I don’t necessarily want to be a ‘strong’ person,” she said. “I had a terrible life – I just kept going. You just keep going, and you hope that something will come.” Gesturing to her lavish home in Switzerland, she said, “This came.”
Turner kept going, and as her success grew, she said,
“My dream is to be the first black Rock’ n’ Roll singer to pack places like the Stones.”
As the world can attest, her dreams came true. Astonishingly, she sold over 200 million albums worldwide and won eight Grammy awards.
Finding Love at Last
In 2013, Tuner married German former record executive, Erwin Bach, finding real love after a lifetime of searching. She considered it her first true marriage. When they met, he was an A & R man for her record company, EMI.
One night at a business dinner in 1986, a smitten Turner, then 46, turned to Bach, then 30, and made her intentions clear:
“When you get to California, I want you to make love to me.”
The younger man was dubbed her “boy toy” by the press. Nevertheless, the couple has remained together, and Bach’s love loyalty is evident. The two are partners and soul mates.
Three weeks into their marriage, Turner had a stroke and had to learn to walk again. Then, after developing intestinal cancer in 2016, she went into kidney failure. Bach donated one of his kidneys in 2017, saving her life. Since then, she has suffered from health conditions stemming from the transplant.
Together, they live at the Chateau Algonquin in Zurich, Switzerland, and have since 1995. The home features a portrait of Turner as an Egyptian queen and photographs of the sarcophagi of old Egyptian royalty. Turner believes she might have been among them in a past life.
A Silver Lining to the Challenges
Now retired, she allows herself to live a quiet life with the man she loves.
“I was just tired of singing and making everybody happy,” she said, “That’s all I’d ever done in my life.”
Ike Turner died in 2007, and Turner has found peace if not full forgiveness.
“I don’t know if I could ever forgive all that Ike ever did to me,” she once said, but “Ike’s dead.” Turner laughed. “So we don’t have to worry about him.”
More recently, she revealed a silver lining to all that she went through.
“The silver lining was that through the hardships and heartbreaks, I discovered within me a strength that I could survive even the worst situations,” Turner told TODAY. “I just needed to find a way to tap that strength and increase it, because then I knew I would find the courage to stand up for myself and lead the life that I wanted and deserved.”
More about her love story from CBS Sunday Morning:
Tina on Broadway
In 2019, playwright Katori Hall brought Tuner’s story to Broadway in the critically acclaimed “Tina.” Adrienne Warren portrays Turner, performing 24 classic songs swiveling in her trademark fringed minidresses.
Turner consulted with the choreographer and writers of the show.
Closing out the new Tina documentary, we see her attending the musical debuted in London, receiving a standing ovation.
“Some people say that the life that I lived and the performances that I gave, the appreciation is lasting with the people and I should be proud of that,” she says. “I am. But when do you stop being proud? How do you bow out slowly?”
In 2009, Turner gave her final performance for “Tina! 50th Anniversary.”
With that, we say farewell to Turner from public life but as forever an icon. Asked to sum up her life so far, she gave three words: “Hope. Resilience. Victory.”
See the trailer for the 2021 documentary, Tina below:
Featured images: Screenshots via YouTube
Tina Gray is a freelance journalist, theatre enthusiast and aspiring author. She has a passion for telling stories through various mediums and regularly writes for various online publications. Her short stories will soon be published in her first volume. Currently, she resides in the San Fernando Valley and is studying screenwriting.