Tina Turner, the American-born singer who left a hardscrabble farming community and abusive relationship to become one of the top recording artists of all time, died on Wednesday at the age of 83.
She died peacefully after a long illness in her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland, her representative said. The
Turner began her career in the 1950s during the early years of rock and roll and evolved into an MTV phenomenon.
In the video for her chart-topping song “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” in which she called love a “second-hand emotion,” Turner epitomized 1980s style as she strutted through New York City streets with her spiky blond hair, wearing a cropped jean jacket, mini skirt, and stiletto heels.
With her taste for musical experimentation and bluntly-worded ballads, Turner gelled perfectly with a 1980s pop landscape in which music fans valued electronically-produced sounds and scorned hippie-era idealism.
Sometimes nicknamed the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Turner won six of her eight Grammy Awards in the 1980s. The decade saw her land a dozen songs on the Top 40, including “Typical Male,” “The Best,” “Private Dancer” and “Better Be Good to Me.” Her 1988 show in Rio de Janeiro drew 180,000 people, which remains one of the largest concert audiences for any single performer.
By then, Turner had been free from her marriage to guitarist Ike Turner for a decade.
The superstar was forthcoming about the abuse she suffered from her former husband during their marital and musical partnership in the 1960s and 1970s. She described bruised eyes, busted lips, a broken jaw, and other injuries that repeatedly sent her to the emergency room.
“Tina’s story is not one of victimhood but one of incredible triumph,” singer Janet Jackson wrote about Turner, in a Rolling Stone issue that placed Turner at No. 63 on a list of the top 100 artists of all time.
“She’s transformed herself into an international sensation – an elegant powerhouse,” Jackson said.
In 1985, Turner gave a fictional turn to her reputation as a survivor. She played the ruthless leader of an outpost in a nuclear wasteland, acting opposite Mel Gibson in the third instalment in the Mad Max franchise, “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Most of Turner’s hit songs were written by others, but she enlivened them with a voice that New York Times music critic Jon Pareles called “one of the more peculiar instruments in pop.”
“It’s three-tiered, with a nasal low register, a yowling, cutting middle range and a high register so startlingly clear it sounds like a falsetto,” Pareles wrote in a 1987 concert review.