Tina Turner, Queen of Rock & Roll, Dead at 83


After a protracted illness, a legendary singer "died peacefully" on Wednesday.

After a protracted illness, Tina Turner, known as the "Queen of Rock & Roll," passed away peacefully today at the age of 83 in her home in Küsnacht, Switzerland, according to a statement released by her family on Wednesday. "With her, the world loses a legend of music and a role model." Although Turner had recently battled kidney failure and intestinal cancer, the cause of death was not immediately known. Turner also recently suffered from a stroke.

Turner introduced an untamed, explosive stage presence to pop music beginning with her appearances with her ex-husband Ike. Turner never looked restrained, not even with scripted backing vocalists, whether with Ike or during her career. Her impact on vocal performance in rock, R&B, and soul was equally enormous. She impacted performers ranging from Mick Jagger to Mary J. Blige with her delivery, while Janet Jackson and Beyoncé both adopted her high-energy stage presence and variety of gravity-defying wigs. She could compete onstage with any guy, was Turner's message, which resonated with generations of women.

However, Turner left behind another legacy that was more intimate and concerned a much more complicated man. She spent a lot of time with Ike, a demanding and frequently drug-addled bandleader, and guitarist, who frequently battered and degraded her. Her subsequent rebirth, beginning with her wildly successful, Grammy-winning transformation in 1984 with Private Dancer, turned her into a representation of rebirth and survival.

Turner, who was given the name Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, was raised in Haywood County's remote and unincorporated community of Nutbush, Tennessee, which is the setting for her song "Nutbush City Limits." Turner claimed that her family was "well-to-do farmers" who made a good living from the sharecropping industry. When their parents moved away to work, Turner and her older sister Ruby Aillene had to contend with feelings of abandonment.

In a 1986 Rolling Stone interview, Turner said, "My mother and father didn't love each other, so they were always fighting." Tina's father moved away three years after her mother left when she was ten years old to live in St. Louis. Turner moved in with her grandma in Brownsville, Tennessee.

She started working as a nurse's assistant after high school with the intention of going into that field. Turner frequently visited nightclubs in East and St. Louis with her sister, where she first saw Ike Turner perform as the bandleader of Kings of Rhythm. The eight years older guitarists and the music of his band captured the 18-year-old's heart. Turner was in the audience one night when the drummer passed her the microphone. Ike then asked Tina to join the group as a guest vocalist and gave her vocal training. She collaborated with Carlson Oliver as "Little Ann" on Ike Turner's "Box Top," her debut studio effort.

Turner and Raymond Hill, the saxophone for the Kings of Rhythm, had their first child, Raymond Craig, in 1958, the same year that "Box Top" was published. Shortly after, Tina moved in with Ike to assist the artist in raising his two sons after he split from their mother. Turner admitted to RS in 1984 that she wasn't originally attracted to him but that they ended up having a sexual connection anyway: "I liked him as a brother," she stated. "I wasn't looking for a relationship. But I guess I just got used to it. Turner changed her stage name at Ike's suggestion after being inspired by the television series Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

Ike and Tina Turner's debut single, "A Fool in Love," was released in 1960. Reaching the Top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100, it became an instant hit. Their subsequent smash tune, "It's Gonna Work Out Fine," earned them their first Grammy nomination for Best Rock and Roll Performance the following year. In the early 1960s, the Ike and Tina Turner Revue kept up a demanding traveling schedule as a part of the chitlin circuit and rose to prominence for the caliber of their production and the variety of audiences they could draw in the South.

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