Tina Turner Never Pretended Her Story Had a Happy Ending

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty

Legendary singer Tina Turner, the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” a 12-time Grammy winner and one of the best-selling female artists in music history, passed away peacefully at her home in Küsnacht, Switzerland, at the age of 83, her representative told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.

Although her cause of death has not yet been released, Turner struggled in recent years with intestinal cancer and received a kidney transplant in 2017.

To say that Turner was an audaciously charismatic performer who exuded raw sensuality would be an understatement—she was the embodiment of maximalist, unapologetically feminine power.

When she strutted through the ’80s, trailing huge hits like “Better Be Good to Me,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and “The Best,” her hair teased sky-high, and lips painted ruby red, her addictive music videos were so beloved that Turner essentially became synonymous with MTV.

Born Anna Mae Bullock in Brownsville, Tennessee, the singer first started attracting attention in high school as a performer alongside Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm, his band.

In the ’60s and ’70s, Ike Turner would go on to become Tina Turner’s husband, and her music partner, in the prolific Ike & Tina Turner duo.

But his vicious abuse of Turner, which she first divulged in a groundbreaking People magazine interview in 1981, was heinous to the extent that it shadowed the rest of her life, a fact that Turner was radically open about.

Throughout her life, in fact, Tina Turner was remarkably open about the pain she suffered as a result of childhood trauma, her abusive marriage to Turner, the pressures of stardom, and the loss of her son to suicide in 2018.

Turner’s mother “didn’t love me,” she told Rolling Stone in 1986, and “never believed in me,” Turner later told Oprah Winfrey. “She never wanted this child and when this child grew up to be successful and creative, she didn’t accept it because it was something she didn’t want.”

It wasn’t until the 2021 HBO documentary Tina, however, that Turner shared her most striking insights.

Turner met and fell in love with her beloved second husband, record producer Erwin Bach, when she was 46, subsequently relocating to Switzerland in 1995 with her partner, later relinquishing her U.S. citizenship altogether.

In leaving the United States for good, Turner freed herself from the country that made her a star but was also the site of her awful years with Turner, a man who, according to her memoir, forced her to visit a brothel on their wedding night, poured scalding coffee on her face and beat her to the point of breaking her jaw and nose.

“Some people say the life that I lived and the performances that I gave, the appreciation, is lasting with the people. And yeah, I should be proud of that. I am,” Turner said in Tina. “But when do you stop being proud? I mean, when do you, how do you bow out slowly? Just go away?”

Survivors of systemic abuse are often made to feel as though their stories are only palatable if they end happily and neatly. Turner, with a historic career under her belt and a loving husband at her side in Switzerland, could have wrapped things in a nice bow in her documentary to make everybody feel better about everything she went through.

But that’s not who she was.

“It wasn’t a good life,” Tina Turner said in the documentary. “The good did not balance the bad. I had an abusive life, there’s no other way to tell the story. It’s a reality. It’s a truth. That’s what you’ve got, so you have to accept it.”

It was this radical honesty that made her a star. Turner’s inability to bullshit about the tragedy she experienced gave her a shot at enjoying the happiness that she did carve out for herself, with all the grace and appetite for life that make her so adored.

Tina Turner Opens Up About Scandal and Regret in HBO’s Must-Watch Documentary

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