Tina Turner on the abuse in her marriage: ‘I think I’m ashamed. I feel I told enough’


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I didn’t become aware of Tina Turner, not fully aware, at least, until she’d already launched her successful solo career in the 80s. At that time, I knew she was an amazing entertainer and that she was a Motown an R&B artist* before she went solo. My folks filled me in a little on her ex-husband, Ike Turner. Then What’s Love Got to Do with It came out and I learned her story. Tina, 79, has been retired for 10 years. She lives in a rented residence in Switzerland that’s named Chateau Algonquin. She’s married to a German record-executive, Erwin Bach, who is 16 years her junior. They married in 2013 after 27 years together. One thing that comes across loud and clear in her profile iis that her husband adores her and knows to let her be the star (as it should be) even when she’s out of her wigs and costumes. What is also clear is that even though the world is still fascinated with her tumultuous past with Ike, she’s not comfortable talking about it. (*thanks for the correction, Christo)

On her retirement
“I don’t sing. I don’t dance. I don’t dress up. I was just tired of singing and making everybody happy. That’s all I’d ever done in my life.”

On the abuse in her marriage to Ike Turner
“I think I’m ashamed. I feel I told enough. I don’t know if I could ever forgive all that Ike ever did to me [but] Ike’s dead. So we don’t have to worry about him.”

“I don’t necessarily want to be a ‘strong’ person. I had a terrible life. I just kept going. You just keep going, and you hope that something will come.” She gestured around her. “This came.”

[From The NY Times]

The scene in What’s Love Got to Do with It when Angela Bassett as Tina raced into the motel, fearing for her life, and tried to trade her jewelry for a safe space is seared into my brain. I will never understand what Tina went through but she’s right, I have enough information on her abuse, she doesn’t owe me any more. It’s interesting to hear her discuss being strong vs. just surviving. I think I get it now. In the article, she said there was a time she couldn’t sit down in an interview without someone, even her friend Oprah, asking about the abuse. I think we all assumed she was talking about it because she was so strong but really, she was just answering the questions. I’m happy she’s found her peace and a partner who adores her. I’m happy she’s at a place that she doesn’t have to talk about her past when she doesn’t want to. She’s worked hard for her life, her independence and her money, she should absolutely enjoy every bit of it to the fullest extent.

The photos in this post are all of Tina attending various productions of Tina – The Tine Turner Musical, which will next come to Broadway. Tina loves the show and has worked with the directors and “Tinas” on getting her moves down right. The abuse is depicted but Tina said, ultimately, she laughed throughout the show. As she said, “Ike’s dead. So we don’t have to worry about him.”

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Photo credit WENN Photos

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31 Responses to “Tina Turner on the abuse in her marriage: ‘I think I’m ashamed. I feel I told enough’”

  1. Becks1 says:

    I was wondering why that clip from “What’s Love….” was all over my twitter this weekend. It’s such a powerful moment in a movie (and in a life story too.)

    I appreciate her comments about not wanting to talk about it – I mean, it was horrific, who wants to keep talking about it for decades? I think most of us can understand that. I’m glad she is happy now.

    • Kitten says:

      Exactly. We sometimes forget that every time an interviewer asks her about her abusive relationship, a wound that we are reopening a wound; a wound that took years and years to heal. I think sometimes people are so taken up with curiosity that we lose sight of the fact that this is a REAL person–not a character in a movie–who was very much traumatized. She doesn’t owe us a single damn thing and I’m so happy for her that she’s made a simple and comfortable life for herself. She deserves it.

  2. grabbyhands says:

    I wish I looked as good now as she does at 79. Or had a tenth as much wisdom and talent.

  3. Lucy says:

    She’s forever fabulous. I’m glad she’s still among us, living her best life.

    • Bella Bella says:

      I’m so happy to see her wearing flats instead of those crazy heels she used to always have on. This, to me, is highly symbolic of her lifestyle change.

  4. Lucy2 says:

    I hope people will leave her alone about it. She survived it, shared her story, and has moved on, stop making her relive the worst time of her life.
    I would love to see this musical!

  5. Christo says:

    Love Tina and love this article (and love Celebitchy). The only thing that I would change above is that she nor both she and Ike were Motown artists because Motown’s head, Barry Gordy, never considered Tina or Ike relatable and friendly enough for Motown’s marketing to “white” audiences” in the US.

  6. smcollins says:

    I’m a total 80’s kid and Tina Turner was definitely a captivating presence. I, too, didn’t learn of her earlier pre-solo career and abusive marriage until later. What’s Love Got to Do With It is one of my favorite movies, Angela Bassett captured Tina’s essence perfectly and Lawrence Fishburne…my god, he was brilliant and completely terrifying. I remember she was asked if she had seen the film and what she thought, and she responded “No, I don’t need to see it, I lived it.” She may not see herself as strong but to me she is the epitome of strength & perseverance.

    • Kitten says:

      It’s so funny reading these comments because I relate so much. I knew her as an 80s pop star–a fabulous one at that. I didn’t realize till much later the utter hell she had gone through. In a way, that’s a testament to her resiliency: she really reinvented herself. But in hindsight, I wonder if she did that as a coping mechanism: a way to be *reborn* and shed herself of who she was when she was with Ike. Maybe she did that not because she wanted to, but because she had to in order to survive and move forward.

  7. Lightpurple says:

    She did an interview with 60 Minutes years ago, and the interviewer, I think it was Mike Wallace, told her that she looked incredible for her age (she did) and asked whether it was natural or like many celebrity women, due to cosmetic surgery. She responded that because of so much damage to her face from the beatings, particularly the cartilage and bones around her nose, she needed surgery so that she could breathe properly but that was all the work she had ever had done. Tina has said enough of those horrible times. Let’s let her live her life in joy. She has earned it.

  8. Brooke says:

    I think there is strength in surviving. Every day that we get up and continue to fight, we show just how much strength we have. I am not going to pretend that I know what it’s like to be abused. I am just amazed though at the strength it takes to survive. If anyone is going through something like this now, I just want you to know that I think you are amazing, you are strong and brave. No matter how you have been made to feel about yourself, you do not deserve what’s happening. You are God’s masterpiece and someone that He decided this world couldn’t live without. You were someone worth dying for. You are still someone worth fighting for.

  9. Original T.C. says:

    I get it, some of it is Black culture also. Black women are thought to “be strong” and just survive. Many times we don’t have the luxury of being vulnerable or crying in public because we are not given sympathy or are viewed as complaining especially in a racist society. So you hold it in and ‘fake it until you make it’. That doesn’t mean you aren’t internally crying, doubting yourself, vulnerable and or broken.

    I personally really hated the public shaming of Rihanna and demanding her to be strong and walk away from her abuser. We don’t shame White celebrity women in public like that. But Black Women are supposed to be superwomen. Major pet peeve.

    • TQB says:

      Yes. She shouldn’t have had to be “strong.” She should have the space to be whatever serves her. Your Rhianna example is excellent; I am grateful she was able to move on in her own time, in her own way. It’s nobody’s f’ing business. If we’re worried for someone’s safety, the person to go after is the abuser, not the victim.

    • Ann says:

      It was really upsetting to me to see the photos of Rhianna and her not walking. I hate the way women have been conditioned to think of abuse as normal.

      • Original T.C. says:

        That’s just it. Just because *you* felt uncomfortable seeing her abused face does not give you the right to *demand* she leaves or try to shame her. I’m sure she was embarrassed to have everyone in the world see her face and was also in emotional pain. We don’t bully White women like that, we offer them public love, support and hope they can one day leave. I mean why would she listen to women who were verbally bullying her just like Chris a-hole Brown? It probably made her dig her foot even deeper.

        P.S. not picking on you in particular, you simply expressed the common critique of Rihanna at the time.

      • Ann says:

        @ Original TC: seeing her beaten swollen face didn’t make me “uncomfortable” nor did I “demand” anything from anyone. I am really effing sick and tired though of women of any color taking abuse from unworthy POS men and this has got to stop. It makes me sad and furious.

    • Anna says:

      Agreed. bell hooks writes about this in the introduction to Ain’t I A Woman, this white supremacist vestige of slavery in making Black women into this superhero Strong figures who are just naturally so. Utter b.s. If we are strong, it is because we survived and continue to survive the most heinous of traumas that this society visits upon us day after day. Surviving and even thriving does not indicate some innate, essentialist strength; it means found a way to survive out of no way. And if we aren’t strong especially for other people who depend on us to do all the things–especially in PWI–then we’re rejected or dismissed or retaliated against. This is the state of Amerikkka.

      Thank you for bringing up Rihanna also. I remember that and at the time, I was trying to exit an abusive relationship with a Black woman and believe me, trying to get any sympathy period in the space of lesbian abuse is like a needle in a haystack. I still can’t understand acquaintances who share Brown’s music as if he isn’t a monster. :(

      There was an article last fall, I believe, written by a Black woman physician on the phenomenon of “weathering” which is basically that Black women are internally 7-10 years older internally due to the effects of racism. Sometimes I feel so tired just hearing about it, let alone knowing the effects I’m experiencing…

      Love forever to Tina Turner and may she have every peace, blessing, and abundance–and REST!–because Lord knows she has given us more than she needed to.

  10. Charfromdarock says:

    I love Tina and am glad she has found a life of happiness.

  11. Skyblue121 says:

    She is amazing! I feel blessed I had the chance to see her at Madison Square Garden in 1985 during her big comeback. What a powerhouse performer.

  12. naomipaige99 says:

    Love Tina Turner!!!!!!

  13. Sarah says:

    What a queen Tina is. I deeply regret not being able to see her perform live but I am glad she is enjoying her retirement with a partner who truly loves and respects her.

  14. Arpeggi says:

    I perfectly understand her desire not to talk about that anymore. It was important that it was told once she broke free: Ike Turner is one of the few dudes whose career collapsed after the extent of his abuse was revealed and never got to comeback. Considering how important his contribution to rock music is, it’s pretty extraordinary that he was cancelled like that. And magnificent! But once that happened, Tina should have been allowed to not have to re-live this over and over and focus on her present and future. I’m glad she got all the love and respect she deserved and got to retire on her own terms.

  15. Dee Kay says:

    I was a kid during the 80s and I didn’t think of Tina Turner as a “comeback” artist but as a new artist who was killing it in her 4-inch heels even though she was north of 40. I dimly knew she had had hits in the 60s (and heard a DJ talk about her terrible ex-husband) but for me, Tina was one of the defining pop artists of my childhood. Fresh and exciting and hot and not at all a nostalgia act. It was harrowing and inspiring to learn what happened to her in her marriage and I learned her 60s hits later. But I’m so pleased that I got the experience, as a young girl, of looking up to Tina Turner with her attitude and style and massive talent. I wish every generation of young girls had a Tina to fangirl over. But there’s only one Tina!!!

  16. JanetFerber says:

    Always will remember her dancing in those high heels whereas I can barely walk in them. I’m so glad she’s happy now.

  17. kerwood says:

    I always wanted to be an Ikette; they were my favorites.

    It was painful to watch the movie and realize how much Tina suffered. And then to watch the documentary about Black backup singers and understand their contribution to rock music and how they were used and abuse.

    I’m glad Tina made it through and is happy now. So many didn’t get to that place.

    • BeanieBean says:

      That was me, too! I wanted to be an Ikette; years later I read Tina’s autobiography and I thought oh my god. Like everyone else commenting, I love how her life is now hers to enjoy. Just keep going.

  18. Rogue_Economist says:

    It’s so jacked up in our culture, but it’s also immutable, that the VICTIM of abuse is the one who is ashamed and the perpetrator never is.

    “Why did you LET it happen?”
    “Why did you ‘put up with it’?”
    “Why did you…why did you….why did YOU….?”

    It’s never “Why did HE do that?”

    Tina’s a survivor. There’s NOTHING shameful about that.

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