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Legendary singer-songwriter, dancer, and actress, Tina Turner (1939-2023), was in informal kinship care as a teenager. 

Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock into an African-American sharecropping family in Nutbush, Tennessee. She was the youngest daughter of Zelma and Floyd Bullock.  

Tina Turner attended an all-Black, one room schoolhouse called Flagg Grove School. One of her earliest memories is of “playing on my favourite tree. I was a tomboy and I’d always be tearing my clothes, messing up my hair” (Beard). 

Tina Turner’s parents fought constantly, and eventually, her mother left when Tina was about ten years old. Her father struggled to take care of her and her older sister, Alline, on his own. He then remarried, and also abandoned his daughters. 

At the age of eleven, Tina Turner and her sister Alline went to live with their aunt and uncle, half-sister Evelyn and cousin Margaret. She later went to live with her grandmother when Alline moved to St Louis, Missouri. The two had a close, loving relationship.  

I’m very lucky that my grandma GG took me in, loved me and believed in me (Rieden). 

When her grandmother passed away in the 1950s, Tina Turner had no one to look after her. So, she followed her sister to St. Louis, where she reconnected with their mother. 

In St Louis, Tina Turner began going to live music performances whenever she could. She had an eclectic appreciation of music, ranging from the Mississippi Delta blues to gospel. She earned money by working as a nurse’s assistant and looking after small children.    

I always liked kids, and caring for others came naturally to me. My mother thought I would become either a nurse or a teacher, but in my heart of hearts, I knew those paths wouldn’t be mine (Beard). 

After Tina Turner met Ike Turner at Club Manhattan, she soon began playing with his band, the Kings of Rhythm. Within months, they had a hit record. She took on a new name, and soon the group became the Ike and Tina Turner ReviewAs a duo, Ike and Tina’s hits included Proud Mary and Nutbush City Limits, which is a semi-autobiographical song about Tina Turners’ hometown. 

Tina and Ike Turner got married in 1962. She kept Ike’s abuse hidden throughout their marriage. She describes feeling confused and conflicted towards Ike, who she believes brainwashed her and destroyed her self-esteem. 

I was afraid of him and I cared what happened to him. But if I left there was no one to sing. I was caught up on guilt and fear (Rieden). 

Once on her own, Tina Turner became known globally as the Queen of Rock and Roll. Her 1984 album, Private Dancer, sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Her single, “What’s Love Got to Do with It” won three Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.  

Tina Turner went on to perform with countless other big-name music acts, such as David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Celine Dion, Beyonce, Sting, Eric Clapton, and Rod Stewart. One of her personal career highlights was performing Simply the Best in Sydney, Australia for the 1993 NRL Grand Final. 

I’ve always loved performing in Australia as the crowds are always such fun and everyone has welcomed me with open arms… (Rieden). 

Tina Turner also had a successful career as an actress. She played The Acid Queen in the 1979 rock opera, Tommy. Then in 1985, she played Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdom; Australian director George Miller wrote this role specifically for her. Tina Turner later appeared in Last Action Hero (1993) and an episode of Alley McBeal 

Tina Turner published two memoirs, including I, Tina (1987) with Kurt Loder and My Love Story (2018), as well as a pictorial autobiography, Tina Turner: That’s My Life (2020). She also authored a self-help book, titled Happiness Becomes You (2020).

Tina Turner’s life is the focus of a TV documentary, Tina (2021), and a live production titled, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, which opened in London’s West End in 2018 and New York’s Broadway in 2019.  

In 1991, Tina Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside Ike Turner. She was later inducted as a solo performer in 2021. Some of Tina Turner’s other awards include a Kennedy Center Honor (2005) and a Grammy lifetime achievement award (2018). 

Tina Turner raised four sons. She split up with singer/saxophonist Raymond Hill shortly after the birth of her first son, Craig, in 1958. Two years later, she had her second son, Ronnie, with Ike Turner. She also adopted Ike Turner’s other two sons, Ike Jr and Michael. Her firstborn, Craig, committed suicide in 2018, and she lost her second son, Ronnie, to cancer in 2021.  

Tina Turner met her second husband, music producer Erwin Bach, in 1985. The couple lived in Switzerland, where Tina Turner became a citizen in 2013.  

I have always felt connected to Switzerland and very much at home here… Where I live by Lake Zurich is not far from pastures that remind me of Nutbush, which is another reason I’ve always liked Switzerland (Beard). 

Although raised Baptist, Tina Turner began practicing Buddhism since the early 1970s. She described how spirituality influenced her work and helped her manage racism and sexism in the entertainment industry.  

I do my best to see people as individuals and emphasize common ground. This is also what my Buddhist faith teaches: that our essential identities as human beings are equally precious, regardless of differences. When I started as a solo artist, I was a female Black singer in my forties with no money and few prospects for gigs… I understood that although many people might have a limited view of me, I could help open their minds (Beard).

In May 2023, Tina Turner passed away in Switzerland after a long illness. She was eighty-three years old. Tina Turner is survived by her husband, Erwin Bach, and two of her sons, Ike and Michael.


“Tina Turner American-born singer.” Britannica. 

“Tina Turner Documentary Biography.” YouTube, posted by BBC Documentary, 13 May 2015. 

Beard, Alison. “Life’s Work: An Interview with Tina Turner.” Harward Business Review, January-February 2021. 

Braun, Kelly.Inside Tina Turner’s Family Life: Get to Know Her 4 Kids, Late Sons Craig and Ronnie.” Closer Weekly, 9 Dec 2022. 

Greenstreet, Rosanna. “Tina Turner: ‘I always had a crush on Mick Jagger. I loved touring with the Rolling Stones.’” The Guardian, 8 Apr 2023. 

Hassell, Mamie. Tina Turner: From Nutbush City Limits to Life as the Queen of Rock & Roll.” Tennessee State Museum, 12 Jan 2020.–roll?locale=en 

Rieden, Juliette.Why “Australia means so much” to Tina Turner and the Australian man who was “critical” to her career.” The Australian Women’s Weekly, 9 Apr 2023. 

Snapes, Laura. “Tina Turner: legendary rock’n’roll singer dies aged 83.” The Guardian, 25 May 2023.

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