Simply the best: Rock queen Tina Turner dies at 83

Thursday May 25 2023
tina turner

Rock legend Tina Turner speaks during the "Tina - The Tina Turner Musical" in New York City, US on November 07, 2019. PHOTO | JOHN LAMPARSKI | GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP


Rock legend Tina Turner, the growling songstress who electrified audiences from the 1960s and went on to release hit records across five decades, has died at the age of 83, a statement announced Wednesday. 

"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Tina Turner," read the statement on the official Instagram page of the eight-time Grammy winner, who encountered fame first with husband Ike Turner, then as a wildly successful solo act after escaping the violent marriage. 

"With her music and her boundless passion for life, she enchanted millions of fans around the world and inspired the stars of tomorrow. Today we say goodbye to a dear friend who leaves us all her greatest work: her music. All our heartfelt compassion goes out to her family," it added.

"Tina, we will miss you dearly," it further said.

Media reports said the singer had died in Switzerland where she had been living in recent years.

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Lit up stages

The Black eight-time Grammy winner, who has died at the age of 83, lit up the stage from the 1960s, and won a new generation of fans in a stunning comeback after escaping her violent marriage -- making her popular music's ultimate survivor.

Abandoned by her parents, she emerged from Tennessee's cotton fields to become the impassioned "Queen of Rock and Roll" who, according to music lore, taught Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger how to dance.

After snowballing into a global phenomenon, the singer of "Nutbush City Limits" and "The Best" lived her final years in Switzerland with husband Erwin Bach, a former record label executive who was her romantic partner for three decades before they tied the knot in 2013.

Her early career, originally as a soul and R&B siren, was a roller coaster for Turner, who admitted attempting suicide at the height of Ike's physical and emotional abuse.

Tina fled Ike in 1976, dashing across a highway to escape during a concert tour. Her divorce was finalised in 1978, and she was left with nothing but her stage name.

But the rock star dream still gnawed at her.

"How can I fill stadiums?" Turner wondered, in comments played during her 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction.

"I wanted it. I wanted to do what Jagger and all the other guys at the time was doing."

Those dreams were fulfilled, and then some, when she struck crossover gold with her 1984 album "Private Dancer," whose Grammy-winning smash single "What's Love Got to Do With It" propelled her to superstardom at age 44.

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Four years later, she set the record for largest paying attendance of a performance by a solo artist when her Rio concert crowd topped 180,000.

As a Black woman who embraced rock over 1950s doo-wop and 1960s Motown, Turner was a double outsider. But she wrote -- and then rewrote -- the rule book for women in the genre.

"A Black woman owning the stage all by herself: that's the dream right there," singer and rapper Lizzo said of Turner.

Turner sold more than 100 million records worldwide, according to Billboard, and paved the way for bold performers like Janet Jackson, Madonna and Beyonce.

From early on, Tina was the fiery, dominant presence, stealing the limelight with a blend of thick, textured vocals, haunting howls and mesmerizing dance moves.

The Turner oeuvre reflected their personal tensions: it included "I Idolize You," "It's Gonna Work Out Fine," and their most famous number, a 1970 cover of "Proud Mary," in which Tina purrs about starting the song "nice and easy," but finishing it "nice and rough."

Palpable vulnerability

"You sing with those emotions because you've had pain in your heart," Turner told Rolling Stone magazine in 1986.

After leaving Ike, she toiled in Las Vegas shows, released modestly selling solo records and toured heavily in Europe. 

But with the success of 1984's "Private Dancer," her metamorphosis from manipulated co-star to resurrected rock goddess was complete.

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Even as she exuded raw sexual power as a performer, her singing was tinged with a palpable vulnerability.

A Wembley Stadium concert in 2000 saw a 60-year-old Turner holding nothing back, grinding across the stage in stiletto heels and her trademark leather miniskirt.

In 2008, she embarked on her Tina! - 50th Anniversary Tour, which grossed some $130 million.

In 2013, three months after marrying Bach and taking Swiss nationality, Turner relinquished her US citizenship.

The grande dame enjoyed her later years with Bach in their Zurich home and a vacation mansion near the French Riviera.

Tragedy struck in 2018 when Turner's eldest son Craig, from her pre-Ike union with saxophonist Raymond Hill, committed suicide at 59.

Ike Turner -- who died in 2007 -- and Tina had one child together, Ronnie, who died last year at 62 of complications from colon cancer.