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  • Writer's pictureMaria Kestane

Tina Turner: ‘She set the stage for every strong female performer that followed’

Besides jean jackets and insured legs, Tina Turner’s legacy will be remembered as one embodied by strength, power and inspiration.

Tina Turner performs in a concert in Cologne, Germany on Jan. 14, 2009. Turner, the unstoppable singer and stage performer, died Tuesday, after a long illness at her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland, according to her manager. She was 83. Photo credit: Hermann J. Knippertz (AP Photo).

Not much was up and coming in the small city of Nutbush, Tenn., in the late 1930s.

The exception, however, was a young Anna Mae Bullock, who was mostly referred to by millions across the world as Tina Turner.

Turner was catapulted into her career by chance as a teenager when she was sent on stage to fill in for a singer who didn't show up for their performance at a club in St. Louis in the '60s.

Perhaps it was by chance, but most say it was by destiny.

Turner would then go on to join forces with her then-partner, Ike Turner, to create Ike and Tina Turner. The duo went on to transform the genre of rock and roll before the world’s very eyes.

The couple produced some of the music industry’s greatest hits such as Proud Mary, A Fool in Love and River Deep Mountain High, and they performed together for more than 15 years.

When the curtains dropped, however, Tina was at the hands of Ike’s domestic abuse. She reported physical injuries such as a broken jaw, bruised eyes and busted lips throughout their marriage.

The Director of Fan Engagement and Onstage Experience at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, John Goehrke, said Turner was living a double-life while married to her abuser.

“On one hand, she was a star and she was performing and people knew her all over the world,” he said. “But day-to-day, she was hiding this deep pain of being at the hands of her husband.”

She would go on to detail the alleged abuse she experienced with her ex-husband in her two memoirs and various interviews following their divorce in 1978.

Goehrke said the strength she displayed by sharing her story with millions across the world was something measurable to her musical career.

“The strength, the fortitude to break out of that cycle, it’s such an inspirational story,” Goehrke said. “Not just to people all around the world, but certainly to women who have found themselves in similar situations.”

Tina, whose career was attached to her husband’s for its entirety, found it a struggle to find her own footing as a newly-single artist.

She wouldn't struggle for long, however. Soon came the second wave of Tina Turner, the solo artist that produced hit after hit, and was nominated for and won Grammy after Grammy.

“She reclaimed her own story,” Goehrke said. “She did so on her own terms and put herself right in the centre of it.”

Hit songs and their respective music videos such as What’s Love Got to Do With It and I Don’t Want to Lose You began infiltrating MTV’s broadcast and radio channels.

The 1984 hit, Private Dancer claimed three top 10 hits, three Grammys, and had sold more than 10 million copies when it was released.

She went on to perform a decades-long residency in Europe in the 1980s, and made various acting appearances in TV shows and movies.

In the later years of her life, the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee had settled down in Switzerland with her husband and former manager, Erwin Bach.

After a lengthy battle with an illness, Turner died on Wednesday, May 24, at the age of 83.

Over in Ohio at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, fans have flooded the building to honour and remember Turner’s legacy.

The soundtrack at the hall over the past 24 hours has been Tina Turner, and Tina Turner only, Goehrke said.

“That’s the great thing about music, it lives on forever. The music of Tina Turner will live on forever.”

Goehrke said besides her edgy aesthetic and raspy voice, her stage presence was what made her the x-factor that she was.

“Her performances were magnetic and she always had explosive energy,” he said. “I’d argue she was at the very, very top of that pyramid in terms of live, true entertainers as a singer, as a dancer and as a performer in general.”

“She helped set the stage for every strong female performer that followed,” Goehrke said.

The role she played in transforming the world of rock and roll to create a space for Black women will be a part of her ever-lasting legacy, he said.

"The story of rock and roll would relegate Black women to the edges, but she reframed it and made people remember and recognize the significance that Black women have in rock and roll music," Goehrke said.

Fans around the world have spent the day celebrating and honouring the life of Tina Turner, whose legacy will live on for generations to come.

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