Tina Turner was simply the best and along her journey, she walked, so many Black women musicians could run through the doors she held open for them.
Born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee, a town just 50 miles outside of Memphis, to a sharecropping family, the odds were already stacked against Tina. Her career is a testimony to what it means to defy odds. She not only took all that life had to offer, whether good, ugly or bad, but the woman dubbed the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll used her voice to triumphantly rise from the ashes in situations that were meant to kill her.
“I used to be baffled about why I had to endure so much abuse because I hadn’t done anything to deserve it,” said Tina in an interview with Harvard Business Review in 2021. “After I began practicing Buddhism, I realized that my hardships could give me a mission — a purpose. I saw that by overcoming my obstacles, I could build indestructible happiness and inspire others to do the same.”
And inspire others she did.
From Beyoncé to Janelle Monáe, Janet Jackson and more, Tina was a masterclass for the very artistry those formidable entertainers are known for today. She was the blueprint, and the proof is in the pudding when you look at Beyoncé’s killer moves and stunning costume designs. In fact, the RENAISSANCE star has even admitted that there were two Tinas who raised her, as the late legend and Bey’s mother, Tina Knowles, have the same name.
“To my Queen Tina Turner. I have loved you for a lifetime. You have paved the way and made it possible for another country girl to go after her dreams,” said the “Crazy In Love” singer during the legend’s 80th birthday. “I’m so grateful for you. I am blessed to have two Tinas showing me the way.”
During a time when white musicians attempted to claim Rock ‘n’ Roll as their own and erase the very people who Tina looked up to in the genre at a young age, she fought for her birthright in the space — and won. While others played checkers, Tina played chess by bringing the genre back home to where it belonged at the expense of the white men who wrongly believed it was theirs and by doing so, she created a space for so many Black women to follow in her footsteps.
Using the power of her voice, Tina Turner hit the ground running and never stopped. As a woman raised and influenced by the Southern Baptist Church, she brought the same raw, gritty, praise-inspired energy to her music and quite literally took folks to church with every performance.
What’s more, as a pivotal part of Rock ‘n Roll since the very beginning, her influence on the genre dates back to the late ’50s as a vocalist for The Ike & Tina Turner Revue, working alongside the man who has been credited for recording the first song within the music category, “Rocket 88.”
Not only did her presence in the male-dominated space encourage the women after her to chase their music dreams, but she also taught them how to survive an abusive relationship when she first opened up about the turmoil she experienced in her 1986 autobiography, “I, Tina: My Life Story.” It was a monumental moment during a time when women’s suffering was often glossed over (much like it still is today).
Yet, there is much more to Tina’s story than the early years. At the age of 45, she completely pivoted and surpassed her peers who were in their 20s with Private Dancer, her debut album with Capitol Records and the very first project that wasn’t overshadowed by collaborations with the man who tormented her with years of abuse.
“If [Tina] has taught the world anything, it is that resilience can have its rewards and that one’s story is never over. She was the queen of the rebrand,” The Cut recalled. “She never gave up on herself, no matter how much the public believed she would fade into the annals of history as a footnote, perhaps in Ike Turner’s story and nowhere else. But she kept changing, kept challenging herself, and kept growing, and that transformation made her relevant for more than half a century.”
On May 24, 2023, the world stopped when news broke that Tina passed after years of medical complications. Tributes poured in from all over, including a heartfelt message by Angela Bassett, who portrayed her in the 1993 film What’s Love Got to Do With It.
“How do we say farewell to a woman who owned her pain and trauma and used it as a means to help change the world?” Bassett wrote via Instagram. “Tina Turner showed others who lived in fear what a beautiful future filled with love, compassion and freedom should look like.”
The world will remember her as the woman who taught Mick Jagger to dance, the first Black artist and first woman to grace the cover of Rolling Stone, plus a host of other accolades. Tina Turner was our shining star, never allowing the ways of the world to dim her light, thus proving time and time again why she was indeed simply the best.
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