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Tina Turner: how she found love and success after leaving her abusive marriage with Ike Turner

The "What's Love Got to Do With It" singer passed away Wednesday aged 83

Ike & Tina Turner in 1972
Beatriz Colon
Beatriz Colon - New York
New York WriterNew York
24 May 2023
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Tina Turner, one of the most successful recording artists of all time, passed away Wednesday, May 23, at her home in Küsnacht, Switzerland, aged 83, her publicist Bernard Doherty confirmed.

Tina, born Anna Mae Bullock in Brownsville, Tennessee, kicked off her decades-long career in the 1950s. She was still attending high school In Illinois when she met future husband Ike Turner (who passed away in 2007) at a New York City night club, and started singing for his band The Kings of Rhythm, which not long after became the Ike and Tina Turner Revue.

The husband-wife duo soon found fame in the 1960s – their first R&B hit was "A Fool in Love" in 1960 – though behind the scenes, the story wasn't so sparkling. "My relationship with Ike was doomed the day he figured out I was going to be his moneymaker,” she wrote her 2018 memoir, My Love Story, where she also recalled Ike forcing her to change her last name against her will.

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The two married in 1962 in Tijuana, Mexico. At the time, Tina was already a mother to Craig Raymond Turner, born in 1958 out of her relationship with former Kings of Rhythm member Raymond Hill. He passed away in 2018 aged 55 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The couples' first and only biological son, Ronnie Turner, was born in 1960, and he passed away in December of 2022 from complications of colon cancer. They also shared Ike Turner Jr, Ike Sr.'s son with Lorraine Taylor born in 1958, plus his brother Michael Turner, born in 1959.

As the musical pair's fame and success began to grow, so did Ike's abuse towards Tina, which she famously recounted in both of her memoirs. She said of her ex-husband: "First, he was verbally abusive. Then, he picked up a wooden shoe stretcher," adding: "Ike knew what he was doing."

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"I was living a life of death," she also said in a 2021 HBO documentary about her life, Tina, about the abuse she endured throughout 16 years of marriage amid Ike's growing drug addiction. 

Tina Turner and Ike Turner as guests on CHER. Image dated September 11, 1975© Getty
Ike and Tina as guests of CHER in 1975

In her first memoir, I, Tina: My Life Story, written in 1986 with Kurt Loder, she told her co-author: "It wasn't a good life. The good did not balance the bad."

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The revelatory first memoir was released eight years after she divorced Ike in 1978, two years after she released her solo breakthrough album Private Dancer in 1984 (which includes the iconic "What's Love Got to Do with It)," and 18 after she tried to take her own life in an attempt to escape her husband's abuse.

Tina Turner and Ike Turner (1931-2007) on right playing Fender Stratocaster guitar, of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue perform live on stage at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on 24th October 1975© Getty
Tina recalled in her memoirs having to push through performances after being abused by Ike

Tina finally fled from Ike in 1976, after a blow-out fight en route to a Dallas hotel, when she ran off with no money and bloodied clothes, and sought shelter at a Ramada Inn across the highway.

She later found success without him and earned the title Queen of Rock 'n' Roll thanks to 1984's Private Dancer, not only a departure from the R&B hits she released with her ex-husband, but a symbolic departure from the life she had with him.

Tina Turner and her husband Erwin Bach attend the Giorgio Armani Prive Haute Couture Fall Winter 2018/2019 show as part of Paris Fashion Week© Getty Images
Tina and Erwin were together for over three decades

Eventually, Tina found real love with music executive Erwin Bach, who she was with for over thirty years; they married in 2013. They met at an airport in Germany in 1985, after her manager at the time asked him to pick her up. It was an outstandingly different love than that of what she had with Ike, if you can call it love, and he went so far as to donate a kidney to her when she struggled with kidney disease. She was "overwhelmed by the enormity of his offer," she wrote in her memoir.

Tina is survived by Erwin, as well as Ike's two sons with Lorraine, who she adopted early into their marriage. Scroll below for more photos of her.

Tina Turner performing on the pilot for the ABC TV series 'Constantinople' in 1977© Getty
Tina performing on the pilot for the ABC tv series 'Constantinople' in 1977
Tina Turner at the 27th Annual Grammy Awards, 1985© Getty
Tina at the 1985 Grammys
Tina Turner in the middle of her comeback circa 1985© Getty Images
The star in the middle of her comeback circa 1985
Ike & Tina Turner pose for a portrait with their son and step-sons in 1972. Clockwise from bottom left: Michael Turner (Son of Ike & Lorraine Taylor), Ike Turner, Jr. (Son of Ike & Lorraine Taylor), Ike Turner, Craig Hill (Son of Tina & Raymond Hill), Ron© Getty Images
Ike & Tina with their son and step-sons
Tina Turner during the later days of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue© Getty Images
Tina during the later days of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue

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