Great Humanitarian and Pro-Feminist Passes Away
Ike Turner, Tina's ex, dead at 76
Ike Turner, who became more famous for abusing drugs and beating up his wife Tina than for helping create rock 'n' roll, died Wednesday morning at his suburban San Diego home. He was 76.
A free spirit who was also a shrewd businessman, Turner lived the kind of life that rap wanna-bes can only write about.
He was married at least four times - some reports say up to a dozen - and he had at least four children, a number he never precisely clarified.
He missed his own induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 because he was in prison on drug charges.
In New York in 1986 to play a comeback gig at the old Lone Star Cafe, he was asked how much cocaine he used.
"No more than the average executive," he replied.
He was a no-show on stage at the Lone Star that night.
His image in later years was largely shaped by Lawrence Fishbourne's menacing portrayal of his character in the film adaptation of Tina's autobiography, "What's Love Got To Do With It."
Tina charged he beat her repeatedly and that she finally escaped in 1976 when she feared for her life.
She was left with nothing, she said, though by 1983 she had reinvented herself as a solo star bigger than she'd ever been with the Ike and Tina Revue that he built around her.
In a 2001 interview, Ike called Tina's claim of constant physical abuse "a pack of lies." But he couldn't get anyone to believe his side, he said, so he had shrugged it off and moved on.
A spokesman for Tina Turner acknowledged that she was aware Ike is dead but said nothing more: "She has not had any contact with him in 35 years. No further comment will be made."
Ike Turner said he had cleaned himself up from drugs and alcohol when he got out of prison for the last time in 1993, and that he was just happy getting back to playing music.
He remained active until very recently, and won a "best traditional blues" Grammy earlier this year for his CD "Risin' With the Blues."
A preacher's son born at the dawn of the Depression in Clarksdale, Miss., Turner met blues legends like Robert Nighthawk and Sonny Boy Williamson as a child. He carried their equipment, he later said, and became fascinated with blues music, particularly the boogie-woogie piano of Pinetop Perkins.
After the war, as old-style blues was evolving into a more contemporary hybrid becoming known as rhythm and blues, Turner formed an R&B band called the Kings of Rhythm and in 1948 began traveling around the South.
In 1951, the band cut a major R&B hit called "Rocket 88" that many historians consider a seminal rock 'n' roll record.
When it was released by Chess Records, however, the label read "Jackie Brenston," Turner's featured vocalist, and a half century later Turner was still lamenting that he never got proper recognition for it.
As the music business soared in the '50s, Turner became a record company talent scout. Part musician, part recruiter and part hustler, he searche for artists whose music he could record and sell to r&b labels like Sun in Memphis and Modern in Los Angeles.
As he criss-crossed the South, playing and searching, he made a big impression on a number of up-and-coming artists like Elvis Presley. He also played backup on hundreds of classic recordings by artists like Otis Rush and B.B. King.
Things changed when he met the teenage Anna Mae Bullock, who grabbed a microphone and sang a B.B. King song during one of his shows. Soon he had changed her name to Tina Turner, recruited backup singers he called the Ikettes and created an explosive stage show.
They also scored big on record, starting with "A Fool In Love" in 1960 and moving through high-energy rockers like "It's Gonna Work Out Fine" and "Proud Mary."
Ike and Tina married in 1962 and the Ike and Tina Revue remained a major act for more than a decade, recording for Phil Spector and at one point opening for the Rolling Stones.
After his marriage to Tina broke up, however, Ike's career nosedived and he slid into drugs. He spent years moving in and out of jail on drug and weapons charges before he cleaned up when he left prison in 1993.
At that time he said he thought Tina would one day want to reconcile, and while that never happened, he said he would also be happy just to be alive and playing music.
He reportedly died in his sleep, a nice and easy ending to a life and career that could safely be called rough.
"If spending money you don't have is the height of stupidity, borrowing money to give it away is the height of insanity." -- anon