One of the greatest musical duos of all time were Ike and Tina Turner. The two of them were unstoppable and their songs will continue to be sung for generations to come. Yet, as we all now know, behind the façade of their perfect relationship was something darker and ultimately, tragic.
Anna Mae Bullock became Tina Turner thanks to Ike Turner who recognized her talent and realized that she had what it takes to become a star. One of their most famous songs started with Tina singing that she left a job in the city…working for the man…
Well, Tina Turner didn’t have to have an ordinary life thanks to Ike Turner. But just as he was part of his rise, he was part of their downfall…
Join FactsVerse to learn about the tragic final days of Ike and Tina Turner…
Anna Mae Bullock was born on November 26, 1939, in Brownsville, Tennessee. She came from humble beginnings and upon reflection, one would think these beginnings were an unlikely start for a famous soul singer.
Her father oversaw sharecroppers and part of Anna Mae’s childhood involved her picking cotton on a plantation. Her family life wasn’t the easiest and his mother eventually left her father. She would later recall that their family life wasn’t peaceful and that her parents didn’t have much time for their children.
Yet, Anna Mae found her solace in music. As a young girl she began singing with her church’s choir and it wasn’t long until she realized that all she wanted was to pursue a career as a singer.
Her elder sister Ruby was also very much interested in music and eventually became a songwriter. As they became adults, the Bullock sisters began touring the country to perform at various nightclubs – hoping that their big break would come one day.
But the part of the country that appealed to her the most was St. Louis and this city would be the city that would change her life. She began to get noticed in clubs across the city and her talents were being recognized greatly.
At the same time, she was discovering the incredible talent in the city. Soul music was becoming more and more popular and Anna Mae Bullock was eager to become part of this scene. And as Anna Mae was working on becoming a star, she took notice of another singer who was already a star. She was enchanted by him and she wanted to sing with him.
And little did she know, she would soon want to be with him…
This singing star was none other than Ike Turner. He would be the man who would make Anna Mae Bullock into Tina Turner.
Ike Turner was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi on November 5, 1931. His father was a Baptist minister and his mother was a seamstress. Growing up in humble surroundings in Mississippi made young Ike an unlikely figure to become a star – but alas, his inimitable talent couldn’t be suppressed.
His childhood, however, was full of tragedy and before he was a teenager he had been molested by several older women.
As a young teenager, he would escape the horrors his life with a job at a local radio station. This is where he would spin records and it gave him a euphoria unlike any other. But he knew that he couldn’t dedicate his life just to sharing music. He also had to create music.
His musical talent was unparalleled. He composed music, wrote songs and performed them. He brought a soul and energy that was only becoming recognized in the 50s and 60s. Probably the only other major star who could compare with Ike Turner’s energy and musicianship was the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown.
He began performing in nightclubs across the country and St. Louis became the city that made him. His recordings and performances were popular among both black and white Americans and his music is largely credited to breaking the color line. Both black and white Americans would dance together while Ike sang to the crowd.
One of his biggest fans was a fellow Southerner. A young lady named Anna Mae Bullock was also trying to make it in the music industry. She was so moved by his music and by his charisma and she wanted to perform along with Ike Turner and his band.
Eventually, she managed to find a way to meet him. And the rest is history.
What follows is the exciting but ultimately tragic tale of Ike and Tina Turner…
THE TRIUMPHS AND TRAGEDIES OF IKE AND TINA TURNER
When Anna Mae Bullock met Ike Turner and told him that she wanted to perform with him and his band, the first thing he did was tell her she had to change her name. While they weren’t dating at the time, it was decided that she should adopt his surname. And then, the most fitting first name for the female Turner would be Tina.
Ike and Tina Turner eventually became a couple and the two became the most popular singing duo of their time – a record they would hold until perhaps Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston came into the spotlight.
Their energy was unparalleled and they could record for hours’ on end as well as perform for hours without a moment’s break – which is what made them huge stars.
They began their career in the 1960s but it was in the 1970s that they became a staple of soul music. It was the music that they began recording in the 1970s that they are most remembered for today.
The song that put them on the map so to speak was their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song “Proud Mary.”
This very song earned them a Grammy Award for Best R & B Vocal Performance by a Group. Ike Turner was instrumental in writing and arranging many of the songs but as she became more confident, Tina Turner would also write some of the songs such as “Nutbush City Limits’ which was released in 1973.
The two of them were unstoppable and one couldn’t imagine Ike without Tina and Tina without Ike. But also they seemed like perfect partners.
But this wasn’t the actual picture. It’s often been alleged that Ike Turner was in charge and that he could be controlling. Behind the facade, Ike Turner and Tina Turner’s relationship wasn’t all rosy. They would fight and it was believed – and still is believed – that Ike Turner was physically abusive toward Tina Turner.
Whether or not this is true remains a debate to this day. Many people close to Ike Turner have stated that they have never seem him hit Tina Turner and that this wasn’t true. But there have also been accounts stating that he did harm Tina Turner.
Ike Turner became addicted to drugs when he was in his thirties and it wasn’t until he was eventually arrested many years later that he kicked the habit. He eventually relapsed into drugs one more time and had to work hard to kick the habit once again. The drugs took such a toll on his life and its believed that this caused him to become aggressive and lash out against Tina Turner.
Both of them had been through trauma in their childhoods and this took a toll on their mental states. In fact, even before they became famous Tina Turner had attempted suicide in 1968 – before her career with Ike Turner took off. Nevertheless, they both put up a great face for the media and for the public and managed to continue having a successful career.
They continued to record albums and they produced hit after hit after hit.
But eventually, their tumultuous relationship got in the way of their music career and they broke up. Their divorce was finalized in 1978 and by the 1980s, both of them were pursuing successful solo careers – though arguably, Tina Turner’s career was much bigger and this was the decade where she recorded her hit song “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”
During this same decade, she wrote her autobiography I, Tina. Part of this autobiography was used as inspiration for the film about Ike and Tina Turner also called “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”
The film came at a time when Ike Turner had kicked his drug habit, was recording great music and was trying to get his life back together. In other words, the film couldn’t have come at a worse time. The film portrayed Ike Turner as an abusive husband and even showed a rape scene which apparently was completely invented for the film.
He received much hate as people felt that the film was completely accurate. Even Tina Turner claims to this day that she’s never seen the film in full.
It took him many years to recover from the trauma that the backlash brought. The film really made his life much harder but he never gave up. He continued to record music and by the time the 90s came along, Ike Turner was back to recording great music. While he had his personal troubles and had to kick his drug habit twice he managed to get back on his feet. He even served a brief stint in prison after shooting a mailman who apparently kicked his dog – this was when he was still embroiled in his drug addiction.
His life was tragic but at the end of his days, he was recording music and doing what he did best – making others dance and feel moved with his music.
Ike Turner died on December 12, 2007, at the age of 76 in San Marcos, California.
. In the years since his passing, Tina Turner has stated that she’s forgiven him and that she is at peace with her life. Tina Turner eventually left the United States and settled in Switzerland – as she is married to a Swiss man, Erwin Bach. She continued to perform music upon her move to Switzerland but now in her eighties, she’s decided to retire.
She unfortunately had some health issues as she suffered a stroke and has cancer.
A new documentary, called Tina, was released in 2021 to show her farewell tour and to discuss her life and career.
So, now let’s hear from you:
Are you a fan of Ike and Tina Turner? What do you think about this tragic relationship of theirs?
We certainly wish Tina Turner well as she moves out of the spotlight! And we hope that she is at peace now.
And now, here’s what we want to know from you:
Do you think that Ike Turner’s career would have lasted so long in our modern times?
Or are audiences and fans less tolerant about domestic violence and his career would have been finished much earlier?