Tina Turner had the ability to save people with her music but behind-the-scenes, she had to worry about saving her own life while being married to her first husband.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 5, 2021. It has since been updated.
What's Love Got To Do With It, River Deep - Mountain High, Goldeneye. If any of these songs ring a bell, then you'll know the genius behind it and it's none other than Tina Turner. To us, she was the glamorous, soulful, and brilliant singer that stole our hearts in the 1960s and did so until she retired. But there's a side of her that we had no idea about, and that's the side that survived abuse during her first marriage.
At age 22, Tina married American musician Ike Turner and soon the couple had become the industry's famous husband-and-wife R&B act. Churning out hit after hit like Rocket 88, it seemed like the couple was just perfect. However, that was all a facade. In her memoir, My Love Story, Tina recalls her horrific first marriage in which her "experience was so disturbing... I suppressed it, scratched it out", reported the Daily Mail.
And it all started on their wedding when instead of a proper ceremony, Ike drove them down to Tijuana, Mexico, to get married in "the Mexican version of a justice of the peace" she told the Daily Mail. It only got worse when that night, Ike took her to a sex show. "People can't imagine the kind of man he was - a man who takes his brand new wife to a live, pornographic sex show right after their marriage ceremony," she said, according to the BBC. She never told anyone because she was "too embarrassed."
Though she projected the image of a happy bride, she was far from it. Her experience in their marriage started to slowly hit rock bottom once the abuse began. According to OprahMag, her book reveals the painful side of her marriage.
“He threw hot coffee in my face, giving me third-degree burns,” she wrote. “He used my nose as a punching bag so many times that I could taste blood running down my throat when I sang. He broke my jaw. And I couldn’t remember what it was like not to have a black eye.” While this was one of many incidents, Tina had no idea how to stop any of them from repeating. Ultimately, she mustered the strength to leave and divorced him in 1978, though she had to face break-ins afterward, reported OprahMag.
However, the breakdown of her marriage didn't stop her from producing even more hit songs. Although she was focused on her career, she eventually made room in her heart to find love again. She met her second husband and fell in love with him at first sight in 1985. She began dating German record executive and a man 16 years' her junior, Erwin Bach, a year after meeting him, according to Metro UK.
“I was kind of naughty in those early days,” Turner, now 78, wrote in her memoir, according to People. “One night I said to myself, I’m just going to ask him. I looked at him — so handsome in his Lacoste shirt, jeans, and loafers without socks — and whispered, ‘Erwin, when you come to America, I want you to make love to me.’ He just looked at me, as if he couldn’t believe his ears. I couldn’t believe what I said either!” And they'd been together for 27 years before getting married in 2013.
But what Tina didn't imagine was that Erwin would be the one to save her life twice. When she was facing failing kidneys that were only functioning at 20% of their normal capacity, the first person to step up was her adoring husband. “The consequences of my ignorance ended up being a matter of life and death,” she wrote in her memoir. “At this terrible moment of guilt and self-recrimination, I learned something wonderful about Erwin. He never reproached me for my mistake. Instead, he was loyal, kind, and understanding — and determined to help me get through all this alive."
“He said that he wanted to give me one of his kidneys. I was overwhelmed by the enormity of his offer. But because I love him, my first response was to try to talk him out of taking such a serious and irreversible step," she recalled according to Inquisitr. But after a little convincing, Tina finally said, "Okay darling, if you're willing to give up a kidney, then fine.'"
Sometimes, Tina can't believe her luck when it came to finding love again. “I could hardly believe it then, and there are times when I still can’t believe it. When he thought about his future, he thought of me. ‘My future is our future,’ he told me," she told Page Six. And so for 37 years, until her death, the couple were happily in love.
“I lived through the hellish marriage that almost destroyed me, but I went on,” she mentioned in her memoir. “Good came out of bad. Joy came out of pain. And I have never been so completely happy as I am today.”
On May 24, 2023, Tina Turner died peacefully after a long illness in her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland, according to her representative. She was 83.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by (L) Evening Standard ; (R) Jacopo M. Raule