How Tina Turner Escaped Abuse and Reclaimed her NameBreaking News
tags: music, popular culture, Tina Turner, Domestic Abuse
Night was falling on July 1, 1976, and Tina Turner was supposed to be onstage, launching another cross-country tour. Instead, she was hiding among trash cans in an alley behind a hotel. She knew people would be looking for her soon, if they weren’t already, so after a few minutes, she sprung from her hiding place and ran down the alley.
“I wound up on a freeway,” Turner, who died Wednesday at age 83, remembered later. “[A]nd I ran across that and into this Ramada Inn.”
She was wearing a white Yves Saint Laurent suit, but it was spattered with dried blood. One of her eyes was swollen shut, and she had intentionally left her trademark wig behind. She asked to speak to a manager and, as she recalled later, told him, “I’m Tina Turner. I have had a fight with my husband, as you can see. Will you give me a room? I can’t pay you right now, but I promise that I will.”
This moment — when she would finally escape her abusive husband, the musician and band leader Ike Turner, who had built an act around her and in his mind had “made” her a star — had been building for years. But such was the control that Ike had over her life, that there was almost nothing she could do to prepare. When the moment finally came, she had 36 cents and a Mobil credit card in her pocket.
When Tina met Ike in 1957, she was still Anna Mae Bullock, a 16-year-old country girl from Nutbush, Tenn., who had been in the big city of St. Louis for a few months. Ike, then in his mid-20s, was a polished band leader whose star was rising. She impressed him enough with her unique singing voice that he added her to his band as “Little Ann.”
There was no romance between them those first few years; he was like “a brother,” she said in her 1986 memoir “I, Tina.” She thought he was “ugly” and marveled at the way women flocked around him. She began a relationship with the band’s saxophonist and soon became pregnant, giving birth to her first son in 1958, a few months after she graduated from high school.
Ike reorganized the band around her and, in 1960, renamed them the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. They had begun a romance by then and had a son together that same year, but they weren’t legally married, as the band name implied, until a quickie Tijuana wedding in 1962.
“I knew that I didn’t want to marry him, didn’t want to be a part of his life, didn’t want to be another of the 500 women he had around him by then,” she wrote later. “But I was … well, I was scared. And by now, this was my life — where else could I go?”
For a decade, Tina’s life was a blur of fame, performance, abuse and drug use, all revolving around Ike. Onstage, she was energetic, strong, sexy and earthy. Her low voice commanded attention. Offstage, she was an exhausted mom of four boys — Ike had brought two sons from a previous relationship — struggling to control her husband’s/boss’s rages and trying to meet his demands.
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