Tina Turner: five things you might not know about Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Tina Turner, commonly dubbed the “Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll”, has died at the age of 83 following a long illness.

The singer “died peacefully” at her home near Zurich, Switzerland, her spokesperson confirmed in a statement. “With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model.” 

Born Anna Mae Bullock, she rose to fame as one half of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, before going on to establish a successful solo career with hits such as “Private Dancer”, “The Best” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)”.

However, she was also lauded for her bravery, said the BBC, when she spoke out about the domestic abuse she faced at the hands of her first husband. Divorcing the violent Ike Turner in 1978, her story was told in the 1993 blockbuster biopic “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”.

Here are five things you may not know about Tina Turner.

She came from humble beginnings

Turner was born into a “hardscrabble farming community” in Nutbush, Tennessee, said Reuters. This was the source of inspiration for her 1973 hit “Nutbush City Limits”, where she recalled picking cotton with her family. 

But her beginnings were even more humble than the “one-horse town” described in the song, as Turner faced a “tough childhood lacking maternal love in a post-war America rife with racial discrimination,” said Neil McCormick in The Daily Telegraph. “She had been raised in a broken and violent home by parents who both abandoned her,” was how Richard Kay described her childhood in the Daily Mail

Through it all, Turner found a way to turn her pain into passion, and “sang in the tiny town’s church choir as a form of escapism”, said The Guardian

She was a long-time Buddhist

Turner credited her Buddhist faith for “helping her find the strength to leave her abusive relationship with Ike Turner”, said the Los Angeles Times. “It was the soul that drove her eventful life and career.” 

While she grew up as a Baptist Christian, Turner was introduced to Buddhism “by multiple people throughout the early 1970s”, the newspaper added. 

The singer told USA Today in 2020 that she had turned to Buddhist chanting after suffering with depression and a suicide attempt in her late 20s. “Buddhism literally saved my life, and I’ve been happily chanting every day for about 50 years now,” she said. 

Turner was resolutely Buddhist, even when faced with the wrath of her first husband. He threw away her Buddhist scroll but oddly “tolerated the praying – he thought it might get us a hit”, she said in an interview with The Sunday Times in 2018. 

She initially hated her hit song What’s Love Got To Do With It?

The 1984 hit “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” is perhaps one of Turner’s best-known songs, selling two million copies, winning three Grammys and “cementing Turner’s legacy as the Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll”, said Far Out magazine

However, after hearing an initial demo by the English Eurovision Song Contest winners Bucks Fizz, Turner initially hated the track. “It was terrible. It was awful,” she recalled in her 2021 documentary. “I was rock and roll. This was a pop song.”

But soon enough Turner’s manager, Roger Davies, convinced her to meet the song’s producer and co-writer, Terry Britten, convinced they could rework “the song to fit her repertoire”, Insider reported. Turner later dedicated one of her Grammys for the song to Davies, and it was her only track to hit No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, added Billboard News.

She found true love in later life with Erwin Bach

Erwin Bach and Tina Turner

After fleeing her abusive first husband, Turner found love again upon meeting German music executive and producer Erwin Bach in 1985 in Switzerland.

But it took “nearly 30 years together”, the Mail said, before the pair decided to marry in a Swiss civil ceremony in 2013. After the wedding, Turner explained the relationship with Bach after her notoriously abusive first marriage. 

“I really needed love, I just needed to love a person,” she told Oprah in a 2013 interview. “He was another kind of handsome. I thought ‘Oh my God, this is love at first sight’.”

She didn’t fear death

After her illustrious career, Turner said she felt strongly about the need not to look back, as she told the Metro’s John Nathan. “I can’t change my past, I can only forgive and look forward.” 

The icon never avoided the topic of death, and described her “excitement” at getting older in an interview with Oprah.

She added: “To be able to get to this stage and say, ‘Even when it’s time, to leave and go to another planet – I’m excited about that because I’m curious. I’m not excited to die, but I don’t regret it when it’s time for me. I’ve done what I came here to do.”

Turner gave her final interview to the The Guardian only six weeks before her death. When asked how she would like to be remembered, she told the newspaper: “As the Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll. As a woman who showed other women that it is OK to strive for success on their own terms.”