Simply the best: Tina Turner at 80 | Music | DW | 25.11.2019
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Simply the best: Tina Turner at 80

After a 50-year career that rode the extreme highs and lows of the music business, the legendary Tina Turner has reached another milestone. She celebrates her 80th birthday on November 26.

Soul diva Tina Turner might have played her last show in 2009, but she continues to sell records and remains a high rotation FM radio favorite, the singer having shipped over 200 million albums at last count. 

But the native of Nut Bush, Tennessee, who was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, went through a lot to get there. Abandoned by her parents as a child, she was still a teenager when her powerful vocals and vivacious stage presence caused Ike Turner to hire the singer for his band, Kings of Rhythm, in 1958.

'What's Love Got to Do with It'

The star-crossed lovers soon paired up to form the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, the act recording early hits like "A Fool In Love" (1960) and later classics like the Grammy-winning "Proud Mary" (1971), and the soul epic "Nutbush City Limits" (1973).

Ike and Tina Turner perform in the early 1960s

Ike and Tina Turner perform in the early 1960s

But having infamously faced constant abuse from her husband and musical collaborator, Ike, Tina Turner finally found the strength to leave the relationship in 1976. It was a long time coming, she told Rolling Stone in 1986:

"It's hard to explain. This man was beating me — I always had a black eye or something, and he had women all over the place, and he wouldn't give me any money — and yet, I didn't leave. I felt sorry for him." She said her new faith in Buddhism gave her the strength to finally move on. 

Read moreA star-studded farewell for Aretha Franklin

'We Don't Need Another Hero'

After a few years in the musical wilderness, Tina Turner's sputtering solo career gained traction in the early 1980s, especially following the release of the chart-topping, Grammy Award-winning Private Dancer album in 1984 that went on to sell 10 million copies. 

The album's second single, "What's Love Got to Do with It," went number one around the world and was the namesake for the 1993 film that detailed her domestic abuse suffered at the hands of Ike Turner. 

A year later, she co-starred with Mel Gibson in the 1985 post-apocalyptic film, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which included two songs performed by Turner, "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" and "One of the Living."

As she approached the age of 50, she had become a certified global superstar, setting world records for live audiences — 180,000 turned up to see her at a Rio de Janeiro concert in 1988.

Tina Turner performs with Mick Jagger at the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia in 1995

Tina Turner performs with Mick Jagger at a Live Aid concert in Philadelphia in 1995

The decade ended with the multi-million selling album Foreign Affair (1989), her seventh solo studio record that included the single "The Best," a top five hit in the UK that has become an unofficial anthem at Donald Trump rallies. 

Read more: Amy Winehouse: A tragic life that still resonates

'Soul Survivor'

"That woman was in the abyss for a very long time, but somehow she climbed up again and again," said Katori Hall, who wrote the book for Tina, the basis for the hit West End musical based on the life of the singer that has lately moved to Broadway (and that was staged in Hamburg, Germany, in March 2019).

"People said I gave them hope," said Turner, in the publicity for her musical life story — of which she attended a performance in New York last month and appeared on stage with the lead performer, Adrienne Warren.

Over the past decade, Tina Turner has married her longtime partner Erwin Bach, a German music manager, in 2013 in Zurich, where she has also been living since 1994. Having survived a stroke just weeks after her wedding, a cancer scare in 2016 and a kidney transplant surgery a year later, she continues to fight on. 

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EINSCHRÄNKUNG DW Personenfoto | Corporate Communications | Carla Hagemann

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