Tina Turner dead at 83

Tuna Turner onstage
(Image credit: Bob King)

Tina Turner, the pioneering rock'n'roller who became a global pop icon in the 1980s, has died at the age of 83. The news was confirmed in a statement by her longtime publicist, Bernard Doherty.

“Tina Turner, the ‘Queen of Rock’n Roll’ has died peacefully today at the age of 83 after a long illness in her home in Kusnacht near Zurich, Switzerland," the statement read. "With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model.”

Turner had been diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016, and had a kidney transplant the following year.

Tina Turner, born Anna Mae Bullock in 1939, was raised in the Baptist church in Nutbush, Tennessee, and sang gospel from an early age. By 1958 she was in East St Louis, where her path crossed with Ike Turner, a local band leader. One night, she got on stage with Ike, and burned her way through BB King’s You Know I Love You. “My jaw literally dropped,” Ike later said.

The pair became partners, and released their first single together, A Fool in Love, in July 1960, which hit the US Top 30. A string of singles and albums followed, including the Phil Spector Wall Of Sound classic River Deep – Mountain High. 

The duo's shift away from R&B to rock'n'roll was driven by Tina, who suggested that the duo's popular revue show cover what became hit versions of The Beatles’ Come Together and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary. And in 1973 she wrote the classic rocker Nutbush City Limits, another hit. 

“I just find R&B so depressing,” she told writer Charles Shaar Murray in the 80s. “I wanna be up!… I always knew I wanted to be rock’n’roll.” 

Mick Jagger, who’d copped his moves from her when Ike and Tina supported the Stones in 1966, knew it. Comparing her to her more static contemporaries, he said “she was like a female Little Richard and would respond to the audience… really go out and grab them”.

By 1976 the cracks between Ike and Tina – he'd been abusing her for years – were obvious to all. After a final explosion of violence during which she fought back physically for the first time, Tina quit the relationship, and the pair divorced in 1978. 

Turner's subsequent battle back from financial and career ruin to 80s megastardom showed her steel. Private Dancer, released in 1985, was a huge, era-defining success, selling more than 12 million copies worldwide and picking up four Grammy Awards. After another four albums she announced her retirement in 2000, and – aside from a farewell tour in 2009 – she stayed true to her word. 

Tina Turner's life was chronicled in three memoirs and in the 1993 biopic What's Love Got To Do With It. There was also a jukebox musical and a well-received documentary, with both – in a true reflection of her fame – simply called Tina. 

"Tina was a unique and remarkable force of nature with her strength, incredible energy and immense talent," said Roger Davies, her manager of 30 years. "From the first day I met her in 1980, she believed in herself completely when few others did at that time.

"It was a privilege and an honour to have been a close friend as well as her manager for more than 30 years. I will miss her deeply."

"The world just lost one of the greatest performers of all time," tweeted Bryan Adams, who duetted with Turner on It's Only Love in 1985. "I'll be forever grateful for the time we spent together on tour, in the studio and as friends. Thank you for being the inspiration to millions of people around the world for speaking your truth and giving us the gift of your incredible voice."

"I'm so saddened by the passing of my wonderful friend Tina Turner," said Mick Jagger. "She was truly an enormously talented performer and singer. She was inspiring, warm, funny and generous. She helped me so much when I was young and I will never forget her."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.