Tina Turner's farewell to fans: Star, 81, takes a final bow with HBO documentary that reveals her ongoing PTSD battle after marriage to Ike and how 'proud' she is of her 60 years as a music icon

Tina Turner's farewell to fans: Star, 81, takes a final bow with HBO documentary that reveals her ongoing PTSD battle after marriage to Ike and how 'proud' she is of her 60 years as a music icon
March 22nd, 2021

Tina Turner discussed the years of horrific abuse she endured during her marriage to Ike Turner as she bade farewell to her legions of fans in a new documentary.

The music legend, 81, admitted that even today, she still has flashbacks of being beaten by the musician, who she divorced in 1978 - with her new husband Erwin Bach comparing her to a 'shellshocked soldier' in new film Tina.

The Best hitmaker told viewers she has a form of post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the beatings and numerous health issues in recent years - with the documentary portraying how Turner's career has seen her triumph over abuse.

In the documentary, she explains the reason she decided to come forward in the 1980s about her years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse by Ike was that even after the split, interviewers insisted on asking her about their partnership. 

'After all the success I have had, people were still talking about Ike and Tina,' she said.  

'I wasn't interested in telling that ridiculously embarrassing story of my life. But I felt that's one way I could get the journalists off my back.'  

Turner admitted that even today, she still has flashbacks of being beaten.

'That scene comes back, you're dreaming, the real picture's there -- it's like a curse,' she said.

Erwin later compared her to a shellshocked 'soldier coming back from the war'. 

Tina has also battled numerous health issues, including a stroke in 2013 just weeks after her wedding to Erwin and being diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016. 

Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock, and still just a teenager when she met the man who would change her life, Ike Turner. 

A brief romance in Knoxville with sax player, Raymond Hill produced her first son Craig - before musician and singer Ike invited her to join his band and then his bed. 

Ike and Tina became known in the 60s and 70s for The Ike and Tina Revue - but behind closed doors Ike was inflicting sickening violence on Tina. 

Later came well known years of domestic violence. 

'Busted lips, black eyes, dislocated joints, broken bones and psychological torment became a part of everyday life,' she wrote in her 2020 book  Happiness Becomes You: A Guide To Changing Your Life For Good.

''Buddhism found me. The abuse I endured in my 20s and 30s had become obvious to people around me, and at different times a number of them suggested that I learn about Buddhism.  

'I tried to keep myself sane while managing his insanity,' Tina adds.

But her depression and despondency from Ike's abusiveness and infidelities led Tina to attempt suicide in 1968 by downing 50 sleeping pills backstage before a concert.   

The music crew backstage realized something was wrong and rushed her to the hospital to save her life.

Initially disappointed to wake up, she decided to just make the most of her life,  but where she was headed she didn't know - before turning to Buddhism.   

The pair finally divorced in 1978 - with Tina finding greater success than she had ever experienced in her youth with the release of  her 1984 album Private Dancer when she was aged 45.

Grammys, sold-out tours and even love quickly followed for Turner, who in 1986 began a relationship with German record executive Erwin.

The two were married seven years ago, and he even gave her one of his kidneys.   

In 2018, Tina lost her son Craig to suicide at the age of 59. 

Hill could not overcome mental health issues and committed suicide suffering clinical depression and loneliness which exacerbated a drinking problem. 

Oprah Winfrey calls Turner a trailblazer in speaking out about her trauma at a time when it was still rare in the entertainment industry.

'Nobody talked about sexual abuse, physical abuse, domestic abuse, abuse period,' said Winfrey, who survived molestation as a child.

'Our generation is the generation that started to break the silence.'

Tina by Oscar-winning directors Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin premiered earlier this month at the Berlin film festival.

Paired with the musical about her that had its Broadway premiere in 2019 until the pandemic shut it down, the film is billed as  Turner's farewell to her legions of fans.  

The documentary includes emotional interviews with the singer in which she recounts her childhood of grinding poverty picking cotton in the Tennessee fields, her singing debut with violent husband Ike and her lonely years even as the world's top female rock star.

Tina was born in 1939 into a community of sharecropper farmers. Her father, Richard, was a farm overseer and could afford a house big enough that the children could sleep in a separate room. 

Richard and his wife, Zelma, spent their time fighting. Turner is convinced that, having already had her sister Alline, neither parent wanted a second child and never showed her any love.

Turner was three when her parents went to work at a wartime defence facility in Knoxville, leaving her to live with her strict, religious grandparents in Nutbush (which she celebrated in the song Nutbush City Limits).

The family was briefly reunited when the war ended, only for Zelma — desperate to escape her husband — to walk out on them when Turner was 12.

When Richard briefly married again — to a woman who repeatedly stabbed him in their vicious fights — he also deserted Turner and her sister.

They were passed between various relatives until, at 16, Turner rejoined her mother, living in St Louis, Missouri.

At a nightclub, she watched a local R&B band, Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm, and 'almost went into a trance'.

One night, she took the mike during an intermission and started singing, astonishing everyone with her raw power.

She joined the band while still at school and gave up wanting to become a nurse. 

She had an affair with the band's saxophone player and, aged 18, had his child. Ike, a local celebrity and inveterate womaniser, became her mentor. 

Turner thought him 'ugly' but, desperate to make a career in music and bowled over by his attentions, she fell in love with him.

Seeing her as the route to the stardom he craved, he gave her a raunchy on-stage image, making her wear miniskirts to flaunt her long legs and insisting her singing voice was as raw and sexy as possible.

Their first record, the aptly named Fool In Love, saw her using her new name 'Tina' which, of course, Ike had chosen.

The first time he beat her up was when she suggested ending their affair (even though she was pregnant by him). 

His response was to smash her in the head with a steel shoe tree before insisting they had sex. It was, she said, when Ike started to control her through fear.

The woman who famously sang What's Love Got To Do With It was not in love with Ike for long.

Fool In Love was a huge hit and Ike insisted they move to Los Angeles. When she was hospitalised with hepatitis and doctors insisted she needed to rest, he sneaked her out of the hospital so they could go on tour. 

Their son, Ronnie, was born in 1960 and they married in a ten-minute ceremony in Mexico two years later. Turner was too scared to refuse.

Many have wondered with amazement why she didn't leave him. The answer, she suggested in a 1986 autobiography, lay in her blighted childhood which had left her with negligible self-esteem and a terrible fear of being abandoned.

She fretted that leaving him would finish her career and it was only later that she understood it was Ike who was terrified of losing her. 

Realising she was the real talent in their act, Ike sought to control her psychologically and physically. He rarely let her out of his sight, gave her no money and refused to let her see friends. He kept her in a state of continual fear that she might offend him.

The savage violence was relentless, choking and beating her with anything that came to hand, including phones, coat hangers and the heels of his shoes. Turner merely needed to look at him the 'wrong' way to provoke him. 

Many nights she would appear on stage nursing a black eye or a swollen, bloody lip.  

Their housekeeper once saw him push a lit cigarette up Turner's nose, and she got third-degree burns when he hurled a cup of hot coffee in her face. On one occasion he broke her jaw, on another he fractured her ribs after attacking her in their dressing room — but he always forced her to go on stage afterwards.

He would later claim: 'Yeah, I hit her, but I didn't hit her more than the average guy beats his wife . . . if she says I abused her, maybe I did.'

When he wrote his 1999 memoirs, such twisted reasoning still held sway. 'Sure, I've slapped Tina,' he wrote. 'There have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I have never beat her.'

He hardly bothered to hide his cheating from her. He had affairs with her backing singers, the Ikettes, and with their housekeepers, one of whom essentially became his live-in concubine.

Turner didn't dare object, asking only that he never brought any woman into her bed. On tour, the male band members would have a special party suite which Turner wasn't allowed to enter.

When Ike built a recording studio, he included a private sanctuary with steel doors and security cameras, where he could take his women. Turner called it the 'whorehouse'.

Ike started taking drugs heavily — first marijuana and then cocaine — and became even more paranoid. Turner, who didn't even drink or smoke let alone take drugs, once tried to leave him, but he intercepted the bus and herded Turner and the children back home.

However, it was becoming clear, even to her, that she could have a career without him.

After 16 years, Turner finally called time on their appalling relationship in July 1976 when — with their record sales and live appearances dwindling — they flew to Dallas for a concert. 

In the limo to their hotel, Ike attacked her — taking off a boot and smashing the heel in her face. For the first time, she fought back and later slipped away while he slept in their room.

She checked into another hotel whose manager was so alarmed by her battered face that he put a guard on her door.

Walking out on Ike in the middle of a tour, Tina flew back to LA the next day and began divorce proceedings.

The documentary sees friends weigh in including Winfrey, I, Tina biographer Kurt Loder and Angela Bassett, who was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Turner in the 1993 blockbuster What's Love Got to Do with It.

Turner was famously critical of the movie, refusing to watch it for several years and rejecting her depiction as a 'victim' in it.

The documentary also spotlights the obstacles Turner had to surmount to become a stadium-filling sex symbol as a Black middle-aged woman.

'I had a dream: my dream is to be the first Black rock'n'roll singer to pack places like the (Rolling) Stones,' she said.

The documentary includes a shocking interview in which a record company executive is quoted using racist and misogynistic slurs to explain why he wanted to drop her from the label in the early 1980s.

Given the rigid race-linked radio categories of pop and R&B in America, Turner and her Australian manager Roger Davies decided she should relaunch her career from Europe.

Turner got the last laugh with her 1984 album Private Dancer, which sold millions of copies worldwide and included her first major solo single What's Love Got To Do With It, a song she says she 'hated' at first until she 'made it my own'.

'I don't consider Private Dancer a comeback album,' she said, noting that it came out when she was 45.

'Tina had never arrived, it was Tina's debut and this was my first album.'

She retired from touring in 2008 and near the end of the film, a frail-looking Turner attends the musical about her life with Winfrey and Bach on each arm.

'I should be proud of that, I am,' Turner says, fighting back tears as she bids 'goodbye' to her fans from her home in Zurich.

'But what do you do to stop being proud? How do you bow out slowly, just go away?'