Tina Turner’s death at 83 shook the world, bringing her invaluable contribution to pop culture through film and music, to light. But before the crooner left this earth, she made an indelible mark in the lives of those she touched, through her musical legacy, and passion for change. Notably, her journey to becoming the legendary queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the frontier woman of change was no easy one.
Born Anna Mae Bullock in Brownsville Tennessee, Tina grew up in a rural community with her two older sisters and her parents. The crooner was exposed to a dysfunctional home from a young age, once admitting her parents never loved or wanted her. Additionally, her mom, Zelma Priscilla suffered abuse at the hands of her dad for years. Having spent her childhood relocating between states due to several factors, Tina eventually had to face abandonment by her mom, who was eager to flee her abusive husband Floyd Bullock.
Music became a basis to escape her disturbing childhood. Yet, even that soon became a source of conflict for the star, who wound up reliving her mom’s past in the hands of ex-husband and band member Ike Turner. After enduring years of abuse, Tina Turner eventually found the courage to not only walk away from the marriage but also to speak up, ultimately becoming a voice for the oppressed until her death.
How Did Tina Turner Die?
Tina Turner died on Wednesday, May 24, 2023, in her home in Kusnacht, following an illness. Her death was announced via an Instagram post, featuring a black and white photo of the singer from her youthful days. The caption read,
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Tina Turner. With her music and her boundless passion for life, she enchanted millions of fans around the world and inspired the stars of tomorrow. Today we say goodbye to a dear friend who leaves us all her greatest work: her music. All our heartfelt compassion goes out to her family. Tina, we will miss you dearly. (© Peter Lindbergh).
Although an official cause of death was not immediately revealed, Tina Turner spent her final years battling various illnesses. Her last known ailment involved a kidney failure resulting from untreated high blood pressure. The condition led her to undergo a kidney transplant in April 2017, after her husband, Erwin Bach donated his.
Thankfully, the transplant bought Tina more years on earth, which she spent doing remarkable works in the world and touching lives. Her indelible imprint over the decades not only inscribed her name in the sands of time but also saved millions across the globe in unique ways.
The Tina Turner Film Created a Revolution
Tina’s tragic past contributed to shaping her into the remarkable woman she became, and she ensured it wasn’t all for naught. The crooner’s life story ultimately became a source of solace for millions across the globe, inspiring at least two biopics. The first, released in 1993 was the Tina Turner film titled What’s Love Gotta Do With It. The movie starring Angela Basset as Tina Turner depicted the real-life story of the renowned singer, from her rise to stardom to breaking away from the throes of abuse.
The highly fictionalized film was adapted from Tina’s autobiography, I, Tina, which told the tale of her childhood, music, painful marriage, and empowering breakout from the musical duo, Ike & Tina Turner. The breakout also spelled the end of her abusive marriage to Ike Turner, one of the most tumultuous periods in her life. The film gained critical acclaim, particularly as regards the invaluable lessons on overcoming domestic abuse. However, Tina strongly kicked against the movie’s idea of portraying her as the victim.
Despite the many inaccuracies in the drama the Turners have raised over the years, it remains a fact that Tina took the high road in the end, ultimately setting the strides for millions of women all over the world facing similar woes. The significance of that move reverberated across theatres when the movie premiered in the early nineties. One fan once quoted,
“The scene where she (Tina) finally gets sick of his abuse and starts fighting back. When she finally hits him (Ike) back in the scene in the limo, I heard the loudest cheers and applause in the audience that I’ve heard since I saw Thelma and Louise. I’ve seen the movie dozens of times and her passion in that scene still gets me emotional every time.” (Via IMDB)
A Tool For Change
Nearly two decades later, the Turners finally got the chance to right those inaccuracies in the 2021 documentary, Tina. Like the movie, the documentary dwelt on Tina’s tragic, yet inspiring life, and how she rose from the ashes after fleeing her abusive marriage with only a few cents in her name. Through the film, many in abusive relationships have been able to reach into their “inner Tina” and stop being the victim.
In her tribute to Tina Turner, Angela Basset, who played the iconic character in the 1993 film, sang odes to “a woman who owned her pain and trauma,” and utilized it as a tool for changing the world. She shared,
“Through her courage in telling her story, her commitment to stay the course in her life, no matter the sacrifice, and her determination to carve out a space in rock & roll for herself and for others who look like her, Tina Turner showed others who lived in fear what a beautiful future filled with love, compassion, and freedom should look like.”
She Became an Advocate for Health
Tina Turner spent her last years battling one illness after another. In her 2018 memoir, My Love Story, the singer revealed she suffered multiple life-threatening illnesses, including a stroke in 2013, just three weeks after her wedding to Erwin. Three years after overcoming that, Tina was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. She also lived with high blood pressure but failed to properly manage it, eventually leading to kidney damage.
Having lived through her worst experiences, Tina dedicated her last days to preventing others from making her costly mistakes. Aside from the lessons on the importance of not neglecting one’s health in her 2018 memoir, the star also utilized social media to create awareness about her medical diagnosis and encourage fans to choose the path of life. She became a frontwoman for the Show Your Kidney Some Love movement, an international campaign for kidney health.
Through the website, she shared the story of how neglecting her high blood pressure eventually became her bane. In one of her last posts from March 9, 2023, to commemorate International World Kidney Day just 11 weeks before her death, Tina Turner urged fans to learn from her experience and avoid repeating her mistakes. Many took to the comment section to express gratitude to Tina for the enlightening lessons, and thousands more vowed to improve their way of life by adopting her recommended tenets for healthier lifestyles.
Tina Turner’s Songs Ushered In a New Era
Tina Turner belted out some of the most incredible songs in her musical career, both as a solo artist and as one-half of the musical duo, Ike & Tina Turner. Through songs like Rock Me Baby, A Fool in Love, Proud Mary, and What’s Love Got to Do With It, she wove her way into the heart of music lovers at a critical point in pop history. In a 2018 article in The Guardian, the author Daphne A. Brooks described Tina as the giant of the decade who made history by executing her “swagger, sensuality, grave vocals and unstoppable energy” as her trademarks. This invariably became a force to overcome the professional obstacles on her path as an African American songstress and reach the top. She added,
“She catapulted herself to the forefront of a musical revolution that had long marginalized and overlooked the pioneering contributions of African American women and then remade herself again at an age when most pop musicians were hitting the oldies circuit.”
Through her contribution to music, Tina paved the way for other African female entertainers to shine without fear of racial bias. Her revolutionary era, pioneering diversity in pop culture also seeped through other aspects of showbiz, including the world of sports. Following her death, the chief executive of the Australian Rugby League fondly recalled the contribution of Tina Turner to the games. He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation,
“She played a unique role in probably the most iconic sports marketing campaign in our history. It was inspirational and it got people thinking about rugby league differently. The thing that made that campaign so successful was Tina – what a wonderful person she was.”
Tina’s song, What You Get Is What You See, was used in the campaign in a bid to attract a new audience. She followed up with another advertisement featuring her song, Simply The Best. Many opposed the use of an African-American to promote Rugby, yet, it successfully popularized the Rugby league in Australia. Through such feats, Tina Turner undoubtedly impacted millions with her adventurous life, laying down a legacy that would continue living on long after her death.