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One of the most dynamic soul singers in American music history, Tina Turner was a vibrant force from the moment she stepped onstage as lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue in the late '50s. Her gritty and growling performances beat down doors everywhere, looking back to the double-barreled attack of gospel fervor and free-spirited abandon that had originally formed soul in the early '50s. Divorced from Ike in the mid-'70s, she recorded only occasionally later in the decade. In the mid-'80s, she resurfaced with a series of hit singles and movie appearances that secured her a second life as a powerful solo artist. Her high-profile status was assured well into the 21st century as she entered her late era a major influence on younger generations.
Born Annie Mae Bullock near Brownsville, Tennessee, she began singing as a teen and joined Ike Turner's touring show as an 18-year-old backup vocalist. Just two years later, Tina was the star of the show, the attention-grabbing focal point for an incredibly smooth-running soul revue headed by Ike and his Kings of Rhythm. The couple began hitting the charts in 1960 with "A Fool in Love," and notched charting singles throughout the '60s, though the disappointing position of "River Deep, Mountain High" -- cited by Phil Spector as one of his best productions -- was very hard to take. All expectations were fulfilled in 1971 with "Proud Mary," a number four hit that became the capstone of Ike & Tina's Revue. However, behind the scenes, Ike grew increasingly violent and abusive. Tina finally managed to break free from him in 1976.
She celebrated her newfound freedom with a critically acclaimed role in the film version of the Who's Tommy. Playing the Acid Queen, she delivered an outrageous, all-too-brief performance in an otherwise forgettable mistake of a movie. Several albums were recorded for United Artists during the late '70s, but her career appeared to be stalled by the turn of the decade. Surprisingly, Tina returned in 1983, first teaming with a Heaven 17 project named B.E.F. on a remake of the Temptations' "Ball of Confusion." Tina's vocal offering was understandably apocalyptic, and she gained a solo deal with Capitol that same year. Her first single, a cover of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," hit the Top 30 early in 1984. Second single "What's Love Got to Do with It" became one of the year's biggest hits, spending three weeks at number one. Her album Private Dancer included two more Top Ten singles, the title track and "Better Be Good to Me."
With another movie role in 1985 (Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome), she found a number two hit with its theme "We Don't Need Another Hero." Her next big hit followed in 1986 ("Typical Male"), after which Tina's career began to plateau -- she still charted occasionally and had respectable sales with albums including 1989's Foreign Affair, 1996's Wildest Dreams, and 2000's Twenty Four Seven. In 2009, Turner oversaw and added spoken word segments to Beyond: Buddhist and Christian Prayers, which featured singing from Regula Curti and Dechen Shak-Dagsay. The CD was officially released in 2010. Four years later, a collection of her romantic solo material called Love Songs appeared in time for Valentine's Day.
During the late 2010s, Turner focused on a bio-musical about her life, which began production in 2016. Starring Adrienne Warren, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical debuted in London in 2018. That year, she also published her second memoir, Tina Turner: My Love Story, and was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at that year's Grammys. ~ John Bush