Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock, November 26, 1939) is an American-born Swiss singer-songwriter, dancer and actress. Turner rose to prominence with Ike Turner‘s Kings of Rhythm before recording hit singles both with Ike and as a solo performer. One of the world’s best-selling recording artists of all time, she has been referred to as The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll and has sold more than 200 million records worldwide to date. Turner is noted for her energetic stage presence, powerful vocals, career longevity and trademark legs.
Anna Mae Bullock was born in Nutbush, Tennessee. She began her career in 1958 as a featured singer with Ike Turner‘s Kings of Rhythm, first recording under the name “Little Ann”. Her introduction to the public as Tina Turner began in 1960 as a member of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Success followed with a string of notable hits credited to the duo, including “A Fool in Love“, “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” (1961), “River Deep – Mountain High” (1966), “Proud Mary” (1971) and “Nutbush City Limits” (1973), a song that she wrote. Tina Turner married Ike Turner in 1962.
In her autobiography, I, Tina (1986), Tina Turner revealed several instances of severe domestic abuse against her by Ike Turner prior to their 1976 split and subsequent 1978 divorce. Raised a Baptist, she became an adherent of Nichiren Buddhism in 1973, crediting the spiritual chant of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo with helping her to endure during difficult times. After her divorce and professional separation from Ike, Turner built her own career through live performances.
In the 1980s, Turner launched a major comeback as a solo artist. The 1983 single “Let’s Stay Together” was followed by the 1984 release of her fifth solo album, Private Dancer, which became a worldwide success. The album contained the song “What’s Love Got to Do with It“; the song became Turner’s biggest hit and won four Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year. Turner’s solo success continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s with multi-platinum albums (including Break Every Rule and Foreign Affair) and hit singles (including “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)“, “Typical Male“, “The Best“, “I Don’t Wanna Fight“, and “GoldenEye“). In 1993, What’s Love Got to Do with It, a biographical film adapted from Turner’s autobiography, was released along with an accompanying soundtrack album.
In 2008, Turner returned from semi-retirement to embark on her Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour; the tour became one of the highest-selling ticketed shows of all time.
Turner has also garnered success acting in films—she played the role of the Acid Queen in the 1975 rock musical Tommy, had a starring role alongside Mel Gibson in the 1985 action film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and appeared in a cameo role in the 1993 film Last Action Hero.
Turner has won 12 Grammy Awards; those awards include eight competitive awards, three Grammy Hall of Fame awards, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the only female artist to garner concurrent Grammy nominations in the pop, rock, and R&B categories. Rolling Stone ranked Turner 63rd on its list of the 100 greatest artists of all time and 17th on its list of the 100 greatest singers of all time. Turner has her own stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. In 1991, Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was a 2005 recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors.
In 1977, with finances given to her by United Artists executive Michael Stewart, Tina returned onstage, giving a round of shows in Las Vegas in a cabaret setting, influenced by the cabaret shows she witnessed while a member of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. She took her cabaret act to smaller venues in the United States. Tina earned further income by appearing on shows such as The Hollywood Squares, Donny and Marie, The Sonny & Cher Show and The Brady Bunch Hour. Later in 1977, Tina headlined her first solo concert tour, throughout Australia. In 1978, United Artists released her third solo album, Rough, with distribution both in North America and Europe with EMI. That album, along with its 1979 follow-up, Love Explosion, which included a brief diversion to disco rhythms, failed to chart.
The albums completed her United Artists/EMI contracts and Tina Turner left the labels. Continuing her performing career with her second headlining tour, Wild Lady of Rock ‘n’ Roll, she continued to be a successful live act even without the premise of a hit record. Following an appearance on Olivia Newton-John‘s US TV special, Hollywood Nights, in 1979, Tina sought a contract with Newton-John’s manager Roger Davies. Davies agreed to work with Tina as her manager after seeing her perform at the Venetian Ballroom in the Fairmont San Francisco hotel in February 1980.
After Turner told Davies of her plans to fill in rock arenas like Rod Stewart and The Rolling Stones, Davies advised Tina to drop her old cabaret act and remodel the band into a modern rock outfit, taking the new band to perform in small clubs and bars throughout the U.S. and Europe. In 1981, Davies booked her at The Ritz in New York City. Following the performance, Rod Stewart hired her to perform a duet version of his hit, “Hot Legs“, on Saturday Night Live on October 3, 1981, and later hired her to open for him on his U.S. tour. One show with Rod Stewart and Kim Carnes, on December 19, 1981, at the L. A. Forum, Inglewood, was filmed. Afterwards, Tina Turner opened three shows for The Rolling Stones. A recorded cover of The Temptations‘ “Ball of Confusion” for the UK production team B.E.F. featuring Robert Cray, became a hit in European dance clubs in 1982. A music video was filmed in Europe featuring Tina and her band and later aired on the then-fledgling music video channel MTV, making her one of the first African American artists to have their video played on the channel. Following performances with Chuck Berry and several short tours in the U.S. and Europe, she again performed at the Ritz in December of the year, which resulted in a singles deal with Capitol Records under the insistence of David Bowie.
Private Dancer was the beginning of my success in England and basically Europe has been very supportive of my music. […] [I am] not as big as Madonna [in the United States]. I’m as big as Madonna in Europe. I’m as big as, in some places [in Europe], as the Rolling Stones .
—Turner in 1997, on her European success
In November 1983, Tina released her cover of Al Green‘s “Let’s Stay Together” with Capitol. The record became a hit, reaching several European charts, including a top 10 placement in the United Kingdom. The song peaked at number 26 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Tina’s first solo entry into the U.S. charts. It also peaked at the top 10 of the Hot Dance Club Songs and Hot Black Singles charts. The success of the song forced Capitol to rethink its contract with Turner, offering her a three-album deal and demanding an album on short notice. Recorded in two months in London, the album, Private Dancer, was released in June 1984. That same month, Capitol issued the album’s second single, “What’s Love Got to Do with It“, earlier recorded by the rock group Bucks Fizz in 1984. It reached the top 10 within a month and in September had reached number 1 on the Hot 100 in the U.S. Featuring other hit singles such as “Better Be Good to Me” and “Private Dancer“, the album peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 200, selling five million copies alone in the states and over twenty million copies worldwide; Private Dancer became her most successful album.
Turner’s comeback culminated in early 1985 when she won four Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year for “What’s Love Got to Do with It“. In February of that year, she embarked on her second world tour supporting the Private Dancer album, where she toured to huge crowds. One show, filmed at Birmingham, England‘s NEC Arena, was later released on home video. During this time, she also contributed vocals to the USA for Africa benefit song “We Are the World“.
Turner’s success continued when she traveled to Australia to star opposite Mel Gibson in the 1985 post-apocalyptic film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The movie provided her with her first acting role in ten years; she portrayed the glamorous Aunty Entity, the ruler of Bartertown. Upon release, critical response to her performance was generally positive. The film became a global success, making more than $36 million in the United States alone. Turner later received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress for her role in the film. She also recorded two songs for the film, “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” and “One of the Living“; both became hits, with the latter winning her a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. In July, Turner performed at Live Aid alongside Mick Jagger. Encouraged by a performance together during Tina’s filmed solo concert in England, singer Bryan Adams released their duet single together, “It’s Only Love“, later resulting in a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
Turner released Break Every Rule in 1986. Featuring “Typical Male“, “Two People” and “What You Get Is What You See“, the album sold more than four million units in the U.S., Prior to the album’s release, Turner published her memoirs, I, Tina (which later became a bestseller) and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Tina’s Break Every Rule World Tour, which culminated in March 1988 in Munich, Germany, yielded record-breaking sales.
In January 1988, Turner performed in front of approximately 180,000 at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, setting a Guinness World Record “for the largest paying rock concert attendance for a solo artist” that held until 1997. The success of Turner’s two live tours led to the recording of Tina Live in Europe which was released that April. Tina took time off following the end of the Break Every Rule World Tour, emerging once again with Foreign Affair in 1989; the album included one of her signature songs, “The Best.”
She later embarked on a European tour to promote the album. Foreign Affair went gold in the United States, with its singles “The Best” and “Steamy Windows” becoming Top 40 hits there. It was hugely successful in Europe, where she had personally relocated.
80s Studio albums
- 1982: Nice ‘n’ Rough Tour
- 1984: 1984 World Tour
- 1985: Private Dancer Tour
- 1987–88: Break Every Rule World Tour