Ike & Tina Turner were an American musical duo composed of the husband-and-wife team of Ike Turner and Tina Turner. The duo was once considered "one of the hottest, most durable, and potentially most explosive of all R&B ensembles".
Their early works, including "A Fool in Love", "It's Gonna Work Out Fine", "I Idolize You" and "River Deep – Mountain High", became high points in the development of soul music, while their later works were noted for wildly interpretive re-arrangements of rock songs such as "I Want to Take You Higher" and "Proud Mary", the latter song for which they won a Grammy Award. They were also known for their often-ribald live performances, which were only matched by that of James Brown and the Famous Flames in terms of musical spectacle.
|Ike & Tina Turner|
Ike and Tina Turner, 1972
|Origin||East St. Louis, Illinois, United States|
|Labels||Sue, Liberty, United Artists|
|Associated acts||Tina Turner (solo career), The Ikettes|
Ike Turner (deceased)|
By 1956, Ike Turner and his band, the Kings of Rhythm was one of the most popular live performing attractions to the St. Louis and neighboring East St. Louis club scene. Ike had moved there from Memphis in 1954 after work as a talent scout for the Modern and RPM labels. Around this time, a young nurse's assistant named Anna Mae Bullock began frequenting the nightclubs in both St. Louis and East St. Louis with her sister Alline and several friends. One night, Bullock saw Ike and the Kings of Rhythm performing at the East St. Louis club, Club Manhattan. She later stated that the band's performance put her "in a trance".
While there, Anna began dating a member of Ike's band, saxophonist Raymond Hill and she gave birth to their son Craig in 1958. During a band intermission in Club Manhattan, Anna was given a microphone from the band's drummer Eugene Washington. Bullock eventually sang along with Ike's band for several songs that night. Going by the stage name "Little Ann", Bullock made her recording debut as a background vocalist to Ike's song "Box Top", which became a regional single on Tune Town Records. During this period, Ike trained Ann on voice control and performance. In March 1960, singer Art Lassiter was chosen to front the Kings of Rhythm. Ike had written a song for Lassiter he called "A Fool in Love". Lassiter failed to show up to record. Having already booked expensive studio time, Ike allowed "Little Ann" to sing the song as a "dummy track" for Lassiter. The song impressed one radio disk jockey so much that he told Ike to send the record to Sue Records president Juggy Murray.
Upon hearing the track, an impressed Murray bought the musical rights to the song and gave Ike a $20,000 advance for it, convincing Ike to keep Ann's voice on the track. Ike renamed the song's backing female trio "The Ikettes" and also changed "Little Ann" to "Tina Turner." Her image was inspired by his favorite character, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. He also had the name trademarked to prevent her from running off with it. In case Ann left, he could give another woman the name Tina Turner. Including the Kings of Rhythm and the Ikettes singing (and later dancing) trio, the entire troupe performed under the name, "The Ike and Tina Turner Revue".
"A Fool in Love" became a hit after its release in the late spring of 1960, reaching #2 R&B and #27 on the Billboard Hot 100, selling over a million copies. It was described by Kurt Loder years later in Tina's autobiography I, Tina as "the blackest record to ever creep the white pop charts since Ray Charles' 'What'd I Say' a year before". In 1961, the duo reached the top 20 on the pop charts with "It's Gonna Work Out Fine", which became the duo's second million-selling single and also garnered them their first Grammy Award nomination. The duo would score several R&B charted singles including "I Idolize You" and "Poor Fool". In between, the personal friendship between Ike and Tina had turned sexual. Ike later described that his first sexual encounter with Tina "felt like I had screwed my sister or somethin'. I mean I had hoped to die... we really were like brother and sister. It wasn't just her voice... Anyway me and Ann were tight."
Their relationship often was combative. Tina claimed in her autobiography that Ike hit her with a shoe stretcher after she complained about monetary issues and her own misgivings about continuing their offstage partnership. According to Tina, they would eventually marry in 1962 in Tijuana, though Ike later disputed the account. The entire Revue relocated from East St. Louis to Los Angeles in 1960. Gigging for 300 days a year touring the chitlin' circuit to make up for a lack of hit records put a strain on Tina. In 1964, after months of tense business relations, Ike Turner ended his contract with Juggy Murray and Sue Records. He signed with the Kent label and a year later signed with Warner Bros. Records and its subsidiary Loma Records, where they met Bob Krasnow. Krasnow would begin managing them in 1965.
Throughout 1965, the Revue promoted their music on rock and roll-themed musical variety series such as American Bandstand, Hollywood A Go-Go and Shindig! as well as the concert film The Big T.N.T. Show. In addition to deals with Kent, Warner and Loma, the Revue would record for seven other labels in a five-year period, through 1969. The Turners' lack of a hit single was sometimes blamed on Ike Turner's limited facility in the studio. With Krasnow, however, that changed. Hit producer Phil Spector soon called Krasnow asking him if he could produce for Ike and Tina, to which Krasnow agreed. Spector paid over $25,000 for the right to record with them, with the intent on creating his "biggest hit".
Tina recorded the Ellie Greenwich/Jeff Barry composition "River Deep – Mountain High" in late 1965. Released in 1966, the song failed to become a hit in the United States. However, in Europe, the song became a hit, reaching the top three in the United Kingdom. Its UK success prompted Spector to state in interviews, "Benedict Arnold was quite a guy", in regards to the United States' indifferent reaction to the song. Later that year, The Rolling Stones offered Ike and Tina a chance to be one of their opening acts on their fall tour in the United Kingdom, which they accepted. The duo took the opportunity afterwards to book themselves tours all over Europe and Australia where they attracted audiences. The audiences' appreciation of the band's sound stunned Ike Turner, who noted that "there wasn't anything like my show."
Following this, the band returned to the United States in demand despite not having a big hit. By 1968, they were performing and headlining in Las Vegas. That year, they signed with Blue Thumb Records and released the first of two albums with them, the first of which, Outta Season, included their modest hit cover of "I've Been Loving You Too Long" (a song originally sung and written by Otis Redding). The second Blue Thumb release, The Hunter, followed in 1969, and included their modest hit cover of the Albert King hit as well as an original composition titled "Bold Soul Sister". Tina's rendition of "The Hunter" led to the singer receiving her first solo Grammy nomination in 1970. Prior to the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, Ike had lived a teetotal, drug and alcohol free life. Following the success of the Revue, however, Ike began smoking marijuana and, later, cocaine, after being introduced the drug by, he says, "two famous Las Vegas headliners". In 1968, after another violent confrontation with Ike, Tina bought 50 Valiums and swallowed them all in an attempt to end her life before a show in Los Angeles; Tina eventually recovered.
A second opening spot on The Rolling Stones' American tour in November 1969 made Ike and Tina a hot item. During that period, the group was reassigned to Liberty Records after Minit Records was shut down. In 1970, the Revue released the album, Come Together. The title track, a cover of the famed Beatles song, charted, as did their cover of Sly and the Family Stone's "I Want to Take You Higher", which became their first top 40 pop song in eight years, peaking at #25, placing several spots higher than Sly's original had done months earlier. The album would sell a quarter of a million copies. That same year, Ike and Tina appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. Their successful records and increasing popularity with mainstream audiences increased their nightly fee, going from $1,000 a night to $5,000 a night.
Late in 1970, the band recorded their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary". The song was released the following January and became the duo's best-selling single to date, reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and selling well over a million copies, later winning them a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. The song's parent album, Workin' Together, became their most successful studio release, peaking at #25 on the Billboard 200. Later in 1971, a live album, Live at Carnegie Hall: What You Hear Is What You Get, was released, later being certified gold in the U.S. That year, they were reassigned to Liberty's parent label, United Artists Records, after Liberty folded, releasing their later albums on United Artists. Ike Turner later bought his own studio, naming it Bolic Sound, in 1972, where they would record the rest of their material. In 1973, the duo released the hit "Nutbush City Limits", which reached #25 in the U.S. and #4 in the UK. The duo's work on their 1974 album, The Gospel According to Ike & Tina, led to the duo receiving several Grammy nominations. One of the Turners' final R&B hits together was a funk oriented single titled "Sexy Ida (Pt. 1)".
Between 1972 and 1975, Ike and Tina also released either solo or side projects, with Ike producing three albums of material with his band The Family Vibes (formerly the Kings of Rhythm). Tina relied on outside production on her first two albums, Tina Turns the Country On and Acid Queen. The former album, consisting of country songs, resulted in Tina receiving her second Grammy solo nomination, while the latter album was released to build on the hype of Tina's well received performance in the musical film version of The Who's Tommy.
By 1976, Ike Turner's addiction to cocaine was so strong that he had burned a hole in his nasal septum, leading to nosebleeds, from which he would relieve himself by using more cocaine. During this time, Ike was spending more time at Bolic Sound than he was with Tina and their children at their home in Inglewood. Tina Turner, meanwhile, had looked inward to alleviate her own problems and soon found solace after a friend introduced her to the teachings of Buddhism. In July 1976, Ike intended on signing a five-year contract with a new record company, Cream Records, for a reported yearly amount of $150,000. The contract had a key person clause, meaning Ike would have to sign the contract in four days, keeping Tina tied to Ike for five more years.
On July 1, The Ike and Tina Turner Revue traveled by plane to Dallas where they were to perform at the Dallas Statler Hilton. While on the airplane, the two became embroiled in an altercation, which led to a physical fight in their limousine. The duo presented different accounts as to what went on that day. Ike accused Tina of being negligent to help him with a nose bleed due to constant cocaine use. Tina claimed Ike was annoyed that Tina was eating chocolates while wearing an all-white outfit, causing Ike to slap her. The couple agreed, however, that Ike had been up for five days straight on a cocaine binge. Following Ike's slap, Tina recalled fighting him back, scratching him and kicking him. Ike Turner alleged to a musician associate friend that the two "went around like prizefighters for awhile". Both Ike and Tina were bleeding by the time they arrived at the hotel. After going up to their suite, Ike retired to a sofa. Once Ike had fallen asleep, Tina grabbed a few toiletries, covered herself and escaped from the back of the hotel, running across an active freeway before stopping at a local Ramada Inn hotel. She claimed that she later hid at several friends' homes for a time. Ike claims in his book that Tina initiated the fight by purposely irritating him so that she'd have a reason to break up with him before they were scheduled to sign a new 5-year contract upon their return from Dallas. He reveals that three weeks after they split, they met for a meal at Ship's Restaurant in Los Angeles. Ike says Tina said maybe they'd get back together after eight or nine years. On July 27, 1976, Tina Turner filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
Ike and Tina fought for a year in divorce court arguing over money and property. By late 1977, Tina decided to stop her pursuit of any financial earnings. In the settlement, Tina gave Ike her share of their studio, publishing companies, four cars, and real estate — a gift worth close to $500,000, stating that her freedom "was more important." Tina also agreed to retain only the use of her stage name. Ike revealed in his book Takin' Back My Name that Tina made an offer through her lawyer for them to continue performing together but their marriage would end due to Ike's infidelity. Tina also wanted him to buy her and their sons a separate home. Ike declined this offer. The divorce proceedings ended in November 1977 and was finalized March 1978. She also agreed to pay a significant IRS lien.
Both Ike and Tina experienced career struggles and setbacks following the split-up. Both performers continued to have successful performing careers, but drugs soon took over Ike Turner's life. In the interim following the split of the Revue, Ike recorded albums with several former Ikettes while also completing work on two unfinished Ike and Tina projects up until 1980. In 1981, Ike Turner made headlines after being seen in public with singer Chaka Khan. Tina Turner managed a successful cabaret act between 1977 and 1980, before switching to a contemporary rock sound. This led to being the opening act to groups such as Rod Stewart and The Rolling Stones and led to residences at the popular New York nightclub, the Ritz Theatre.
In 1983, having signed with Capitol Records, Tina Turner released her comeback hit, her new wave-ish cover of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together", which became her first single to chart in eight years on several Billboard charts. The hit success led to a three-album deal in 1984. In June, Tina released the acclaimed Private Dancer album, resulting in what Ebony magazine later called "an amazing comeback". Tina Turner's post-comeback career consisted of top-selling albums and record breaking concert tours. In 1988, Tina made history by performing in front of the largest paying audience (approximately 184,000) to see a solo performer at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, earning her a spot on the Guinness World Records. Following the end of her Twenty Four Seven Tour in 2000, Tina made another Guinness World Record by selling more concert tickets than any solo performer in history at the time.
Ike later admitted his first post-Tina years was a period in which his behavior had grown increasingly erratic. Ike's Bolic Sound studios burned to the ground in January 1981 on the day he was set to present it for sale to investors. Ike had failed to pay taxes, which led to the studio being put into foreclosure. In 1982, he was alleged to have shot a 49-year-old newspaper delivery man who he accused of assaulting his wife, Ann Thomas. He was later found not guilty of the charge of assault. Ike Turner would mostly be convicted of drug offenses, culminating in a four-year sentence for cocaine possession in 1990. Sent to California Men's Colony, San Luis Obispo, he completed 18 months of his prison sentence before being released on parole in September 1991.
Tina's accounts on her life with Ike Turner were later documented in the autobiography, I, Tina, released in 1986. In 1988, both Tina and Ike signed away their rights to have their lives dramatized in a biopic based on Tina's book. Ike Turner would later claim that he signed against his will since he was heavily addicted to crack at the time and accepted a $50,000 payment, waiving the right to sue the film company for their portrayal of him in the film. The film What's Love Got to Do with It helped to damage Ike's career in the 1990s. Due to the film and the book, Ike's name became synonymous with domestic violence, overshadowing his contributions to music.
Following his release, Ike began working on a comeback. In 1993, he received royalties from Salt-N-Pepa's sample of his song "I'm Blue" for their hit single "Shoop", and responded by recording a duet version with Billy Rogers. After contributing to Joe Louis Walker' Great Guitars, he toured with the blues musician and was paid $5,000 a night for six songs. Following this, he revived the Kings of Rhythm in 2001 and released the album, Here & Now, which won him a Grammy nomination. Five years later, his album, Risin' with the Blues, won him his second Grammy Award, his first as a solo artist.
On December 12, 2007, Ike Turner was found dead at 11:38 am at his home in San Marcos, California. He was 76. His death was found by the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office to be from a cocaine overdose, exacerbated by hypertensive cardiovascular disease and emphysema. Turner had been clean for over a decade prior but relapsed in 2004 after coming to the aid of a drug-addicted friend and Turner returned to cocaine after he "smelt the fumes".
Following news of her former partner's death, Tina Turner's personal spokeswoman released a statement that the couple hadn't spoken to each other "in over 30 years" and that no further public comment would be made. Turner's funeral was held at the City of Refuge Church in Gardena, California. In February 2008, little over a month after Ike was buried, Tina came out of retirement, returning to perform on stage at the Grammy Awards alongside Beyoncé. Later that October at age 68, she launched a 95-date concert tour celebrating her 50th anniversary in show business. The tour continued until May 2009, ending in England. In October 2007, just two months before Ike's death, a three-disc compilation, The Ike & Tina Turner Story: 1960-1975, was released by Time-Life Music.
In 2018, while promoting a musical based on her life, Tina told The Sunday Times she has forgiven Ike. "As an old person, I have forgiven him, but it would not work with him. He asked for one more tour with me, and I said, 'No, absolutely not.' Ike wasn’t someone you could forgive and allow him back in. It’s all gone, all forgotten."
Ike & Tina Turner were inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991; Ike Turner was still incarcerated and Tina did not attend, stating through her publicist she was taking a leave of absence following her tour and that she felt "emotionally unequipped to return to the U.S. and respond to the night of celebration in the manner she would want." Phil Spector accepted their induction on the former duo's behalf.
The group was nominated several times for Grammy Awards.
The group received a NAACP Image Award. Both Ike and Tina each received stars and were inducted individually onto the St. Louis Walk of Fame.