In the end, Tina Turner got to tell her own story.
Through her best-selling memoir I, Tina, the autobiographical film What’s Love Got To Do With It, and through her most recent documentary, 2021’s Tina, she got her side of things out. It’s little secret that at one stage in her life, she was struggling to do so.
Turner’s story is headlined by her incredible success and seeing her rise to the top of rock music, in the end, very much on her own terms. To get that far, she had to overcome horrific domestic abuse as she did so, and effectively had to rebuild her life after the glare of fame had found her. She’s told that story, it’s out there. In her voice.
Born Anna Mae Bullock in November 1939, the path she took simply wasn’t there when she first started building her music career. In 1960, she changed her name, and her ascent began, originally as a double act with the man she would soon marry and later divorce, Ike Turner, the world oblivious to the way he was treating her behind closed doors.
For many, that would have been it. For Tina Turner, it was the catalyst to a music comeback that’s still hard to fathom, and hard to find a rival too. The barriers were still in front of her, but powered by one of the most recognisable, distinctive singing voices in rock history, Turner was – by the 1980s – being crowned the ‘Queen of Rock n’ Roll’. And nobody was taking that crown off her.
I’m generally someone a little behind, and to the side, when it comes to music. But I sought out Tina Turner, and I saw her live. Incredible. I’m still a bit narked that she ended the gig without an encore, instead stepping into her car and beating the traffic that I ended up stuck in for the best part of two hours. The two hours before was a masterclass in live performance. She looked like she owned the place, belting out iconic number after iconic number.
She was in her 60s when she played that gig. Her energy levels put me in my 40s to shame. By the time she officially retired from gigging in 2009, she’d smashed so many records it was hard to count them up. There was little sense she opted for a quiet retirement, either, even when she moved to Switzerland for her final years.
That aforementioned 2021 documentary, though, was a bittersweet film. She confessed in it that she never watched the earlier movie made of her story, What’s Love Got To Do With It, given that she has no urge to relive those elements of her life by choice.
In Tina, she talks about the documentary being a farewell to her fans. As we since learned, she was battling health issues on a number of fronts, and presumably knew more definitively than she was letting on that it was her goodbye. Time was no longer on her side.
Now, just over 83 years after she arrived into the world, she’s left it. And she’s left an indelible mark behind; not just in her own body of work, but in the influences that ripple through music, and will continue to do so. You know the drill with pieces like this: icon, legend, those kind of words. But in this case, they fit bloody well.
What’s more, pieces such as these obviously lean towards nostalgia and to eulogising their subject. Me? I’m not much good at that. I just feel sad. Sad that such a story had to come to an end, but grateful that a legacy-and-a-half has been left behind to savour. Rest in peace, Tina.