Though highly respected among her peers, Tina Turner had been virtually written off by the public after her last hit with husband Ike, 1973's autobiographical Nutbush City Limits. About ten years later, though - and thanks to some English fans -Tina would undergo one of the greatest comebacks in the history of popular music. "Bigger than ever" hardly describes the ensuing series of best-selling albums, international concert tours, roles in hit movies, her own autobiography, and the film adapted from it. She was 46 years old - museum material by contemporary music standards - when the comeback began.
Born in Nutbush, a suburb of Brownsville, TN, Anna Mae Bullock was eighteen years old and attending high school in East St. Louis, MO, when she met bandleader, record producer and talent scout Ike Turner. Seven years her elder, Ike had been a professional pianist and guitar player since he was fourteen. In 1951, his band - the Kings of Rhythm - backed singer Jackie Brenston on what is regarded in many circles as the first rock and roll song: Rocket 88. He became a talent scout and producer, working with Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King, among others. Moving from his hometown of Clarksdale MS to East St. Louis, MO, Turner continued as a bandleader, forming an act called Ike and Bonnie Turner. Then, in 1957, he met Annie Mae, re-named her "Tina," and married her. And the act became the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.
Signing to New York City-based Sue Records, their first hit was 1960's A Fool in Love, followed in short order by I Idolize You and the standard-to-be It's Gonna Work Out Fine. Tina sang lead on all three, though on Fine, she was joined on vocals by studio guitarist Mickey Baker - (reportedly, because Ike was too shy to sing on record; reluctance, if true, that he'd conquer later).
The two continued, recording for a variety of labels and touring constantly. A brilliant musician and great musical mind, Ike ran a notably low-budget organization, and if his eyes were on the prize, the prize seemingly consisted of playing Las Vegas-type lounges; only a few steps up from bowling alleys and the kind of dive they were used to playing, where chicken wire surrounded the stage, to shield the performers from flying beer bottles. What might have promoted a major career boost, Phil Spector's production of Tina on the cosmic River Deep, Mountain High, flopped in the United States, though it was a hit in Europe.
This all changed somewhat when they signed with Minit Records in 1968. Invited to join the Rolling Stones on a tour that resulted (minus the Turners) in the Get Your Ya's-Ya's Out album, Ike and Tina were slowly being introduced to a younger, whiter audience. The breakthrough came with Proud Mary, their 1970 reinvention of the previous year's Creedence Clearwater Revival hit. After a few more hits on Minit's parent label, Liberty, Tina tired of Ike's alleged drug habit and physical abuse of her, and left him. She was literally penniless.
Returning to the nightclub circuit, where she evidently did a good job of re-creating the excitement of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, and was remembered by the producers of the film of The Who's Tommy, and cast as The Acid Queen.
In 1983, Tina was brought in by the British group Heaven 17, for a remake of the Temptations' Ball of Confusion, under the group name BEF. On the strength of that song's success, she was signed by Capitol Records. Her first single for the label was a No. 1 revival of Al Green's 1971 hit Let's Stay Together. The new song, What's Love Got to Do with It followed, then Private Dancer ...the hits continued. In 1985, she played a dramatic role in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and scored with the hit We Don't Need Another Hero. Her 1988 Tina, Live in Europe album included duets with Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, Bryan Adams and David Bowie.
Her harrowing autobiography, I, Tina, became the 1993 hit film What's Love Go to Do with It. She sang in the Disney animated films Brother Bear and The Lion King.
Turner has slowed down with the new millennium, but hardly stopped. As 2005 began, she was working on another film project, with the producing-directing team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, in the title role of The Goddess. She will tour this year.
Ike and Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.