With a career that spanned five decades and influenced generations of future artists, Tina Turner will always hold a place among music’s true icons.
Turner’s singing career had humble beginnings, as she first began performing as part of her church choir when she was just a child. At 18, she linked up with Ike Turner, and an incredible roller coaster career would launch. Platinum albums, hit singles, sold out shows, Grammys – such heights were counterbalanced by a tumultuous fallout with Ike, along with a prolonged commercial downturn.
Through it all, Turner embodied what it meant to be a strong, dynamic female artist, proudly accepting her crown as the Queen of Rock.
Here are 10 Major Milestones From Tina Turner’s Legendary Career.
Beginning With Ike
When she was 18 years old, Bullock began frequently attending performances at St. Louis’ various music clubs. One act who caught her eye was Ike Turner, and Bullock boldly suggested she should join his band, the Kings of Rhythm. She was initially dismissed, but when Bullock grabbed the microphone during intermission one night and sang an impromptu rendition of B.B. King’s “You Know I Love You,” Turner was impressed. He brought the singer on board and eventually completely recalibrated his band around her talent. Ike created Bullock’s onstage persona, renaming his new star Tina Turner.
“A Fool in Love,” the debut single credited to Ike & Tina Turner, was released in July 1960. The song reached No. 2 on the R&B chart and No. 27 on Billboard Hot 100. The latter achievement was especially notable considering music, like the country itself, was largely segregated at the time. “A Fool in Love” began a string of hits for Ike & Tina Turner as such songs as “I Idolize You,” “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” “Poor Fool” and “Tra La La La La” all became Top 10 R&B hits in the next two years.
Friendship With the Stones
In 1966, Ike & Tina Turner toured as the Rolling Stones’ opening act during the band’s U.K. tour. So began a friendship that spanned generations, as Tina joined forces with Mick Jagger and the guys on numerous occasions. In 1969, Ike & Tina opened for the Stones on their U.S. tour, a trek which further helped the duo crossover to mainstream white audiences. The Stones’ 1970 film Gimme Shelter featured Ike & Tina’s performance of “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” (the duo’s entire set was later included on the 40th anniversary edition of Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!). Tuner covered the Stones both during her run with Ike and in her solo career. She also famously shared the stage with Jagger at the Live Aid festival in 1985, and performed with the Rolling Stones when the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. “I always had a crush on Mick Jagger,” Turner admitted to The Guardian months before her death. “I loved when we toured with the Rolling Stones.”
Throughout the ‘60s the Ike & Tina Turner Revue became one of the nation’s most popular, and hardest working, groups. They toured relentlessly, while also finding time to continually record and release new material. In 1971, the duo scored the biggest hit of their collaborative career with a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.” While the original, released two years prior, rolled along with a swamp rock lilt, the Turners reimagined the track as a powerhouse soul number. Ike & Tina performed the song on such famous shows at Playboy After Dark, The Ed Sullivan Show and Soul Train. Their rendition of “Proud Mary” also took home the Grammy for ‘Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group.’
While the Ike and Tina partnership was commercially successful, it was personally toxic. Ike physically and emotionally abused Tina for years, while also controlling all of her finances as a means of manipulation. In 1976, after another violent altercation, the singer had enough. Without any money to her name and no real means of starting over, Tina left Ike for good. The couple would divorce, and after Ike’s legal team alleged she was robbing him of close to a million dollars in revenue by destroying the Ike & Tina brand, the singer acquiesced. Ike was awarded the majority the couple’s belongings and assets, but Tina was given her freedom. “Tina walked out with what was on her back, essentially,” the singer’s lawyer noted to Ebony magazine. “But she said, ‘My life’s more important.” Tina pursued a solo career and made money via TV appearances over the next few years. Though her initial solo material failed to find success, she continued performing on the strength of her catalog, and was often regarded as a nostalgia act.
Staring down the potential end of her career as a popular, mainstream act, Turner signed with Capitol Records in 1983. Her initial single with the label, a cover of Al Green‘s “Let’s Stay Together,” was successful enough for Capitol to approve a full studio album. What they got was Private Dancer, the biggest album of Turner’s career and arguably the most impressive comeback release in music history. With rock, pop and R&B influences, Turner showcased the full spectrum of her abilities. There were covers – like her rendition of David Bowie’s “1984” and Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain” – as well as originals. But it was the timeless hit “What’s Love got to Do With It” that catapulted Turner back among the A-list stars. The tune reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and helped propel Private Dancer to more than 10 million worldwide sales.
Tuner made a couple of brief film appearances, first as the Acid Queen in the 1975 cinematic adaptation of the Who’s Tommy, then a cameo in the 1978 Beatles jukebox musical Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Her role in 1985’s Max Max Beyond Thunderdome would be far more different, as it placed Turner squarely in the spotlight as the film’s antagonist, Aunty Entity. “We needed someone whose vitality and intelligence would make her control over Bartertown credible,” director George Miller explained to Jet magazine. “She had to be a positive character, rather than a conventional evil ‘bad guy.’ We had worked on the script with her (Turner) in mind. But we had no idea if she’d be interested.” The singer didn’t just take the role, she made it her own, infusing Aunty Entity with a ruthless yet engaging mystique. Even at this stage of her career, Turner was finding new ways to show off her endless talents.
In 2000, Turner decided it was time to retire from the road, but not without a final massive farewell trek. The Twenty Four Seven world tour would take the singer across Europe and North America for more than 100 dates. “I’ve been performing for 44 years,” Turner explained at the farewell tour’s announcement. “I really should hang up my dancing shoes. I can’t keep up with Janet Jackson. I’m not a diva like Diana Ross. I’m rock ‘n’ roll, but I’m happy I can do it one more time, so people can remember me at my best.” For that 2 million fans came out to see Turner during the tour, which raked in $122.5 million.
Even after retiring from the road, Turner stayed busy. The singer released the greatest hits compilation All the Best in 2004, which quickly soared past platinum sales. In 2005, she was among the honorees at the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. Then came the singer’s official return, announced in 2008 as she made a wildly celebrated appearance with Beyonce at the Grammys. Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour would kick off that fall, celebrating the singer’s five amazing decades in music. Turner played 37 shows in the U.S., every one of them a sell-out. She then went to Europe for a second leg, concluding the you May 5, 2009 in Sheffield, England. The triumphant trek would be her final tour.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Turner remains one of only three women to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice. She was initially inducted in 1991 alongside Ike, the enshrined once more in 2021 as a solo artist. She declined to appear at either ceremony, but did record a short acceptance speech for the 2021 event. “If they are still giving me awards at 81, I must have done something right,” the singer laughed. “I’m very happy to have this and to have achieved this.”