Tina Turner led a long, prosperous life. Born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, she grew up in Nutbush, Tennessee and recalled picking cotton. Despite these humble beginnings, Turner would shoot to stardom early in her life. At the age of 16, she moved to St. Louis and began performing at night clubs with her sister, according to the St. Louis Hall of Fame.
Few stars traveled so far — she was born Anna Mae Bullock in a segregated Tennessee hospital and spent her latter years on a 260,000 square foot estate on Lake Zurich — and overcame so much.Kelsi Anderson
Here, she would meet Ike Turner, a man who would go from lover to her worst nightmare. Yet, Turner’s life was a testament to overcoming adversity. She went from victim to two-time superstar and ended up living her best life in Switzerland. All in all, Turner’s life was fascinating.
The Chitlin Circuit
Credit: Daily Mail
In her earliest days, Turner performed on the Chitlin Circuit. This was “a network of clubs and theaters in African-American neighborhoods that hosted some of the best talent in American music history,” Matthew Leimkuehler wrote for the Nashville Tennessean. Bobby Rush, a blues musician who was known as the King of the Chitlin Circuit, told Leimkuehler, “Sometimes you play for the chitlins, that’s what you would get.”
With roots going all the way back to Vaudeville, the Chitlin Circuit saw the rise of many young, Black performers like Turner, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Jimi Hendrix. Named for the African American staple food, chitterlings, the Chitlin Circuit included “churches, [juke] joints, nightclubs, restaurants, and theaters that inspired dreams of fame and fortune for many noteworthy Black entertainers,” said Atlas Obscura.
While they toured with the circuit, Tina and Ike created the single “A Fool in Love.” Originally, it was written for Art Lassiter, but he did not show up for the studio session. Since they had paid for studio time already, Tina suggested that she sing it instead, and a hit record was created.
Relationship with Ike
When “A Fool in Love” was released, Ike introduced Anna Mae Bullock as “Tina” and filed the record under an “Ike and Tina production.” According to the-world-of-tina.com, “It was the duo’s first hit in the pop chart and was also included on their 1961 debut album, The Soul of Ike and Tina Turner.” Chart data shows that it debuted at number 87 on the Billboard in September 1960 and peaked at number 27 in October 1960.
Later, Tina would go on to re-record the song for her album What’s Love Got to Do With it?, and she performed it on her Twenty Four Seven Tour forty years later. This would mark Tina’s ascent into superstardom for the first time. The hit song was able to span genres and ascend R&B and pop charts. Yet, there was a dark side to the success.
In a 2013 Oprah interview, Turner revealed that Ike had patented her name “Tina” as an early form of control. This would signal the beginning of his abuse of Tina. The abuse got so bad that Tina attempted to take her life in 1968, according to bbc.com. Although she was initially afraid to leave him, Tina eventually fled the marriage, carrying with her just 36 cents and a Mobil gas credit card.
She would later file for divorce from Ike.
After leaving Ike and the group, Tina struggled to get by and even received food stamps at one point. Yet, the end of the band was not the end of her career. It was the beginning of a new branch of her career. In a 1997 interview with Larry King, Tina said that she had more success and support in Europe than she ever did in the United States, and that prompted her decision to renounce her U.S. citizenship.
“I have left America because my success is in another country. My boyfriend is in another country,” she told him.
In this interview, Tina referred to the success of her album Private Dancer. On the Billboard charts, it peaked at #3, which was a career-high for her. This album would also feature “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” Tina’s first and only number one record. Truly, leaving Ike allowed her to reinvent herself.
While living in Europe, she continued to tour and produce music. Overall, she completed twelve world tours, opened for three tours, and produced nine studio albums. She also has acting credits on many movies and has written four books. For this reason, Tina was inducted into several Hall of Fames: the St. Louis Hall of Fame, the Soul Music Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice.
In her personal life, she married her partner of 27 years and spent her last days surrounded by love. Overall, Tina Turner lived a lavish life, and we will remember her for the legend she is.