The iconic singer, whose career spanned almost seven decades, died last week at her home in Kusnacht, near Zurich, Switzerland, following a long illness.
Her husband, Erwin Bach, had given the singer one of his kidneys for life-saving transplant surgery in 2017, after she was diagnosed with kidney cancer.
The couple married in 2013, almost 30 years after they first met. They lived a quiet life in Kusnacht after Turner bowed out from public life in 2019.
During her long career, Turner sold more than 100 million records globally, making her one of the best-selling recording artists in history.
She received 12 Grammy Awards, comprising a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, eight awards for individual records and three Grammy Hall of Fame awards. The first woman and black artist to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone, the magazine ranked her as one of the 100 greatest artists and singers of all time.
She was awarded her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the St Louis Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, first in 1991 – with her former husband and musical partner Ike Turner, and then as a solo artist in 2021.
In 2005, she received the Kennedy Centre Honours, which recognises people in the performing arts who make a lifetime contribution to American culture. The same year, she received the Woman of the Year Award at the charity’s 50th anniversary celebrations, when she was described as an “exceptional woman” in public and privately.
The star was born in Brownsville, Tennessee, in November 1939, in the rural community of Nutbush. She started singing in the church choir as a child. After graduating from high school, she worked as a nurse’s aide.
However, she rocketed to fame after an impromptu performance in 1957 with the Kings of Rhythm band, led by Ike Turner, at the Manhattan Club in St Louis, where she reportedly grabbed the microphone and sang the BB King blues song, You Know I Love You. This was the start of her singing career with Ike.
They married in 1962 and divorced in 1978, when she resumed touring as a solo artist.
In the early 1980s, Turner was considered more of a nostalgia act, but she reinvented herself as a pop and soul superstar when she released a cover version of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together in November 1983, which charted all over Europe and reached number one on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Singles chart, effectively relaunching her career as the world’s leading female solo artist.
She remained at the pinnacle of her career until she retired almost 30 years later. Following a grueling six-month, 90-date tour, she stopped touring in 2009. However, she remained involved in show business, including liaising on the musical, Tina, based on her inspiring life story, which debuted on Broadway in November 2019.
She also made a documentary for HBO the same year, with Bach, which she described as her way of saying goodbye. The musical and documentary provided “closure”, confirming her desire to disappear from the public eye.
Marriage to Erwin Bach
When Tina Turner met Erwin Bach in 1985, she described it as “love at first sight”. At the time, he was a 30-year-old music executive with EMI. He had been asked to pick up 47-year-old global superstar, Turner, from the airport.
In an interview, she said he was so good-looking, her “heart went bu-bum” and her hands started shaking. In her book, Happiness Becomes You, she said she “should have felt tired” after her flight and preoccupied with her concert tour. Instead, she felt an “instant emotional connection” with Bach. Rather than listening to her head telling her that romance “never ends well”, she listened to her heart and was determined to get to know him.
Bach said he didn’t feel nervous, despite being in a car with one of the most famous women in the world, because he was working and they “got along very well”.
During her time in Germany, Turner got to know Bach. He visited her in Nashville when she returned to the US later that year and they began a romantic relationship. She later described him as a “light at the end of a tunnel” after her tumultuous marriage to Ike Turner.
Their relationship was “laid-back, comfortable and unpretentious”. Their romance blossomed and Bach later described it as love that felt like an “electrical charge”. He still had that feeling after many years together.
Bach originally proposed on Turner’s 50th birthday, three years into their relationship, but she was wary, explaining she had to be sure he was totally committed.
Despite still being together in 1995 and moving to Switzerland, marriage wasn’t something Turner considered. They moved into their beautiful home, Chateau Algonquin, overlooking Lake Zurich, a tranquil retreat were gardeners tended the manicured grounds.
After 27 years together, Turner finally agreed to tie the knot in 2013. She said at the time, “There comes a time in life where you must put things in place.” One of these things was marrying her partner at their Swiss home, surrounded by more than 200 friends, with rock singer Bryan Adams performing All for Love live.
Sadly, Turner suffered a succession of health problems in later life. After surviving a stroke and intestinal cancer, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer in December 2016. She fell so ill that she considered assisted suicide.
Still recovering from intestinal cancer and a stroke, Turner discovered her kidneys had only 20% functionality and were “plunging rapidly”: there were only two choices to survive – dialysis or a kidney transplant. There wasn’t any time to waste, and a decision must be made. However, there was little chance of finding a donor.
Turner said she didn’t want to “live on a machine”, but toxins had started taking over her body. Unable to eat, she was “surviving but not living”. She felt it was “time to die” and had accepted it.
However, Bach stepped in and offered to donate his own kidney to save his wife’s life. Turner admitted to feeling “happy, overwhelmed and relieved” at his offer, especially after they both came through the experience alive in 2017.
The world loses a music icon
The news of the music legend’s death was announced on 24th May 2023 on her official Instagram account. She had passed away after fighting a “long illness”. The announcement spoke of her “music and boundless passion for life” that had “enchanted millions of fans around the world”.
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