The Heartbreaking Death Of Tina Turner

The legendary Tina Turner has died at age 83. "With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model," Turner's spokesperson Bernard Doherty said in a statement reported by Deadline on May 24. Though the icon's cause of death was not initially announced, Turner had reportedly been dealing with an ongoing illness.

Born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee on November 26, 1939, the late Turner was the daughter of Zelma and Floyd Bullock (via Biography). Turner's parents split up when she was young. Her grandmother then took charge of her upbringing until her death, after which Turner and her sister were raised by their mother in St. Louis, Missouri. 

After graduating from high school, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution notes that Turner worked as a nursing aide at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and had aspirations of going into the medical field. That changed when she began going out to some of the R&B clubs in the area. As fate would have it, she regularly attended shows that featured Ike Turner — her future husband — and his Kings of Rhythm.

Turner would regularly watch the show but longed to perform herself. Soon, she was on stage and eventually became a full-time member of the group, ditching her nursing career for show business.

Tina Turner became a mother at 18

Tina Turner became pregnant at the age of 18 by Raymond Hill, a saxophone player for the Kings of Rhythm (per Newsweek). In 1958 they welcomed a son she named Craig. Turner moved in with Hill, who shared a home with Ike Turner, but their relationship didn't last long. After they split up, Turner became involved with Ike, welcoming their first son, Ronald, in 1960. 

In the midst of her tumultuous personal life, Turner was still pursuing her music career. Biography notes that she got her big break the same year she welcomed her second son, filling in for another singer after they didn't make it to a recording session with the Kings of Rhythm. The song, "A Fool in Love," was released under the name Ike and Tina Turner, and become a massive hit.

Turner was catapulted to stardom, but her relationship with Ike was less successful. Per Britannica, the couple married in 1962, although Ike would later say that their elopement in Tijuana, Mexico, wasn't valid. "As God is my judge of all my wives, Tina's the only one I was never legally married to," he told Spin (via The Daily Beast).

Tina Turner became a star with the Ike and Tina Turner Revue

After the release of "A Fool In Love," the name of the band was changed to the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Per Biography, a string of hit singles followed for the group including "It's Gonna Work Out Fine," "Poor Fool" and "Tra La La La La." Turner juggled stardom and motherhood, parenting not only her sons but also adopting Ike Jr. and Michael, Ike's sons from a previous relationship (via Newsweek). 

By the end of the 1960s, the couple incorporated modern rock music into their act and began including their interpretations of classic rock and roll tunes such as The Rolling Stones "Honky Tonk Women" to their stage show (per The Harvard Crimson). The group hit its pinnacle with a recording of Creedence Clearwater Revival's hit "Proud Mary" in 1971. Turner's distinctive vocals and her sing-talk at the beginning of the tune became a signature hit and also earned them their first Grammy. 

Turner didn't take all the credit for the success of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, though. She revealed to Esquire that she believed the band's backup singers, The Ikettes, were as important as the music as they provided the necessary visual appeal the band needed. While some were dismissive of The Ikettes, Turner defended them. She said of her work with the women, "I don't see it as cheap or vulgar. Nor do I see myself as that. Sex is not cheap or vulgar. ... Ike says he patterned me after Sheena of the jungle. She was white, you know. But I still love the look and action of long hair movin' and the short skirts shimmying."

Tina Turner was in an abusive relationship

While Ike and Tina Turner churned out hits and performed well together on stage, things were much different behind the scenes. Turner later opened up about the extent of the physical abuse she endured prior to and throughout their marriage, saying that it began when she was pregnant with their son, Ronald. Turner alleged that Ike beat her with a shoe stretcher following a disagreement about travel plans. "Maybe I was brainwashed," she told People (via The Washington Post). "I was afraid of him, and I cared what happened to him. And I knew that if I left, there was no one to sing."

Turner endured Ike's abuse for years. As told in her memoir, "My Love Story," at one point things were so bad that she took an overdose of prescription drugs in a suicide attempt. She told her physician she was unable to sleep so he prescribed her sleeping pills, she revealed, after which she took the whole bottle.  

"I was unhappy when I woke up," she wrote (via People). "But I came out of the darkness believing I was meant to survive." 

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Tina Turner built a new life for herself

Tina Turner found strength in Buddhism after her suicide attempt, telling USA Today, "Buddhism literally saved my life." 

She finally worked up the courage to leave Ike in 1976. Recounting the story of her escape in an interview with Oprah Winfrey for O, The Oprah Magazine (via, she explained that they were in Dallas for a tour. On the way to a hotel, Ike struck her several times and hit her in the face. She fought back. When the couple reached their room, she waited until Ike fell asleep before running off with just a handful of change in her pocket. She briefly stayed in a Ramada Inn before making her way to Los Angeles. Turner's turbulent marriage to Ike officially ended two years later when their divorce was finalized (via Biography). 

Following her divorce, Turner became a solo act and more successful than ever. In 1984, she released the solo album that would change the trajectory of her career, "Private Dancer," which would sell more than 20 million copies and win four Grammys. Her success would make her one of the most beloved — not to mention famous — recording artists of all time, as well as make her a multi-millionaire with an estimated net worth of $250 million (via Celebrity Net Worth). In 2013, she married Erwin Bach, a record executive, and also became a citizen of Switzerland.

Turner is survived by her husband and her sons.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.