Even though the pair was extremely successful together, their marriage was burdened with abuse, both physical and mental.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on August 19, 2020. It has since been updated.
Relationships are a weird thing. Those which seem unsure in the beginning unexpectedly turn out to be the sweetest ones for many. In the same way, the ones which look like they're meant to be, might not be the ones that go on forever. Some of them end up traumatizing either one of the partners or both for a lifetime.
Tina Turner and Ike Turner were one such couple who were envied by many for the passion and chemistry they shared on stage while performing. No one saw them as two individuals but as one soul who rocked their listeners with their mesmerizing voices and energetic performances. But behind all the love-filled songs, there lay a dark secret.
Tina was born in 1939 as Anna Mae Bullock to poor parents who were sharecroppers. Her parents got divorced which led her and her sister to be raised by their grandmother. But she was always drawn to music and by her teens, she was into St. Louis' R&B music scene.
According to Biography, Tina was still in her teens when she crossed paths with Ike Turner, the leader of King of Rhythms, at Club Manhattan. It wasn't love at first sight for her, in fact, she found him unattractive. But their love for music bonded them together and she started performing with the band. The professional relationship soon turned intimate and from then on they were relationship goals for everyone, almost.
Though the band was only making it bigger in the industry with the diabolical pair at the center stage with hits after hits, their relationship was going right in the opposite direction. Sure, the couple were married and had a son, but things weren't good. In her autobiography, I, Tina (1986), the singer revealed that she suffered brutal abuse at the hands of Ike during their relationship.
Tina's 2018 memoir My Love Story also revealed a lot of information about their relationship. “He threw hot coffee in my face, giving me third-degree burns,” reported USA Today. “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.” Even Ike confessed in his autobiography Takin’ Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner (1999) that they hit each other.
The People revealed in 2018 that Tina had reached a point in her life where she tried to take her own life which she mentioned in My Love Story. The excerpt which was printed in People revealed a specific incident that was graphic enough for everyone to understand the severity of abuse. Ike wanted her to change her name from Anna Mae Bullock to Tina Fisher, but she didn't want to.
Ike didn't take the rejection well and hit her with a wooden shoe stretcher. “I was so shocked I started to cry. Ike ordered me to get on the bed. I hated him at that moment," she wrote. In a few years, she was convinced that taking her own life was better than living.
She penned, “At my lowest, I convinced myself that death was my only way out. I actually tried to kill myself. I went to my doctor and told him I was having trouble sleeping. Right after dinner, I took all 50 of [the pills he gave me]. I was unhappy when I woke up. But I came out of the darkness believing I was meant to survive.”
Tina's friend introduced her to Buddhism which helped her take control of her life once again and move forward. Tina left Ike after a huge fight at Dallas hotel in 1976 and two years later she officially divorced him, reported The New York Times. Even though Tina never spoke much about the abuse other than the mentions in her books, a little bit of it was captured in the biographical, What’s Love Got to Do with It (1993) starring Angela Bassett and Lawrence Fishburne.
Even though her career slowed down after their divorce, 1984's Private Dancer helped renew her career along with the hit film What’s Love Got to Do with It. She then retired from the music industry in the 2000s, reported Cheat Sheet.
Ike's drug addiction got worse as the years passed. He started vanishing from the public eye and in 2007 he died of a drug overdose. Talking to the New York Times in 2019 she expressed feelings about her ex-husband's death she said, “I don’t know if I could ever forgive all that Ike ever did to me. But Ike’s dead. So we don’t have to worry about him.”
Tina did find love again in the 80s in German music producer Erwin Bach whom she married in 2013 in a grand celebration. Recalling her journey she said, “I don’t necessarily want to be a ‘strong’ person.” She added, “I had a terrible life. I just kept going. You just keep going, and you hope that something will come.”
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: (L) Photo by Frederick M. Brown ; (R) Photo by Frazer Harrison