The award-winning singer-songwriter, author, and longtime Nichiren Buddhist Tina Turner died on Wednesday at her home near Zurich. She was 83 years old. Her peaceful death came after a struggle with a number of illnesses in her final years. A private funeral service for close friends and family members is planned.
“With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model,” Turner’s publicist Bernard Doherty said in a statement. (NBC News)
Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on 26 November 1939 in rural Tennessee. As a young girl, she sang in the choir of the local Baptist church. While still in high school, she saw Ike Turner and his band, “Kings of Rhythm,” at a club in St. Louis, Missouri. At a later show, she took to the stage during an intermission, singing B.B. King’s “You Know I Love You.” This caught Ike Turner’s attention, and he invited her to join his band.
The two entered into a tumultuous romantic relationship soon thereafter. Bullock then took the stage name “Tina Turner,” which is how fans have known her ever since. Ike and Tina married in 1962 and had one child, Ronnie Turner, in 1960. She had one son in 1958 named Raymond Craig, with another musician. In her 1986 memoir I, Tina: My Life Story (William Morrow and Company), she claimed that Ike had been abusive throughout their marriage, prompting her to attempt suicide in 1968. Turner left Ike in 1976 and filed for divorce, which was finalized in early 1978.
Turner remarried in July 2013, after a 27-year romantic relationship with the German music executive Erwin Bach, who would later donate a kidney to her in 2017, saving her life.
Turner had a remarkable career as a singer. From as early as 1969, she was a phenomenal success. Ralph J. Gleason, the influential jazz and pop critic for The San Francisco Chronicle, wrote: “In the context of today’s show business, Tina Turner must be the most sensational professional onstage. She comes on like a hurricane. She dances and twists and shakes and sings and the impact is instant and total.” (The New York Times)
Turner’s album What’s Love Got to Do With It won three awards at the 1985 Grammy Awards. In 1988, she performed in front of some 180,000 people at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, setting a new record for the largest paying audience for a solo artist. Her 2000 world tour earned a spot in the Guinness World Records for the most concert tickets sold by a solo artist.
In 2005, Turner met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his visit to Switzerland, where she was living. She later cited this meeting as an inspiration for the formation of Beyond, a Swiss spiritual musical group. Beyond took form in 2007, co-founded by Turner with her neighbors Regula Curti and Dechen Shak-Dagsay. The group, which grew over time, produced four albums of spiritual music from several of the world’s religions. In an interview with BDG in 2014, Turner reflected on the group, saying:
I’m being a part of something greater than everything I have done. Personally, I am very proud to be a part of it. What this project hopefully will do is to teach people to find out what they are born with, to use it, and to help the world. If we can tap into that inner peaceful space, like we plug in a lamp for light and spread it, there will be more world peace, I think.*
In 2020, Turner announced a deeply personal book, Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good, which explored her Buddhist path and her goal of helping others to achieve the peace that she had found. In a 2020 interview ahead of the publication of the book, she said:
After I attempted suicide, a few people suggested I try chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo and learn about Buddhist principles. At first, I ignored them. But I continued to hear about Buddhism, so finally I decided to look into it. The more I read, the more I found it made perfect sense to me. Soon after I began chanting, I came to see that everything I needed to change my life for the better was already inside of me. I became more confident and hopeful, and the transformations I achieved through my spiritual practice helped me to become joyful and successful.(Vanity Fair)
The chant is Japanese and translates as “Glory to the Dharma of the Lotus Sutra.” It is central to the Nichiren school of Japanese Buddhism, derived from the teachings of the 13th-century priest Nichiren (1222–1282).
“She was my strength when I left my abuser,” wrote former journalist Laura Keeneywrote, “and she introduced me to Buddhism as a balm for my soul.” (Los Angeles Times)
Tina Turner, rock and roll icon, dead at 83 (NPR)
Tina Turner: legendary rock’n’roll singer dies aged 83 (The Guardian)
Tina Turner, trailblazing ‘Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ who dazzled audiences worldwide, dies at 83 (NBC News)
Tina Turner, Magnetic Singer of Explosive Power, Is Dead at 83 (The New York Times)
Tina Turner Has the Secret for Happiness, and She’s Sharing It (Vanity Fair)
How Tina Turner’s Buddhist faith gave her the strength to leave Ike Turner (Los Angeles Times)
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