What Tina Turner said about her abusive marriage to Ike Turner
Tina Turner, one of the greatest singers and performers of all time, died on May 24 at the age of 83, leaving behind a powerful legacy of music and resiliency.
Both a rock and feminist icon, Tina Turner was an inspiration who revitalized her career after leaving her verbally, emotionally and physically abusive marriage. Before she became the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” behind songs like “The Best” and “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” she was half of a music duo with ex-husband and manager Ike Turner.
The former couple released their first song together, “A Fool in Love” in 1960 and married two years later. They divorced in 1978. When she became a solo artist, Tina Turner publicly spoke about the abuse she suffered during their marriage.
Tina Turner, who was born Anna Mae Bullock, and her life story have been detailed in two memoirs (“I, Tina,” and “Tina Turner: My Love Story”), the 1993 Oscar-nominated film “What’s Love Got to Do with It” and “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.”
In “Tina Turner: My Love Story,” published in 2018, the “Proud Mary” singer shared that she knew their relationship was “doomed” the moment Ike Turner realized she could make money for him.
“He needed to control me, economically and psychologically, so I could never leave him,” she wrote.
She revealed that Ike Turner took her to a “pornographic sex show” immediately after their wedding ceremony.
“I was miserable the whole time, on the verge of tears, but there was no escape,” she said.
The book also included graphic details of the multiple physical injuries she suffered at the hands of her former spouse, who died in 2007 at 76.
“(Ike Turner) threw hot coffee in my face, giving me third-degree burns,” she said. “He used my nose as a punching bag so many times that I could taste blood running down my throat when I sang. He broke my jaw. And I couldn’t remember what it was like not to have a black eye.”
The abuse continued to escalate. She said one night, her ex-husband picked up a wooden shoe stretcher and attacked her.
“Ike knew what he was doing,” she wrote. “If you play guitar, you never use your fists in a fight. He used the shoe stretcher to strike me in the head, always the head.”
She continued, “I was so shocked I started to cry. Ike ordered me to get on the bed. I hated him at that moment. The very last thing I wanted to do was make love, if you could call it that. When he finished, I laid there with a swollen head, thinking, ‘You’re pregnant and you have no place to go. You really have gotten yourself into something now.’”
She recalled trying to attempt suicide to escape. She told her doctor that she was having trouble sleeping and he prescribed her some medication.
The singer said she took 50 pills before going on stage one night.
“When I took those pills, I chose death, and I chose it honestly,” she said in her second memoir. “I was unhappy when I woke up. But I came out of the darkness believing I was meant to survive.”
In 1990, Ike Turner confirmed he was abusive in an interview with People.
“All the fights Tina and I had were about her being sad about something,” he said. “I get real emotional if you’re worrying and don’t tell me what it is. Then I can’t think about nothing else. So I’d slap her or something like that.”
His interview with the publication came nine years after Tina Turner opened up to the world for the first time about her frightening encounters with the music manager in a December 1981 tell-all with People. Audio from the interview was included in the 2021 HBO documentary “Tina,” which featured archival footage and recent chats with the legendary singer.
“Maybe I was brainwashed. I was afraid of him, and I cared what happened to him. And I knew that if I left, there was no one to sing,” Tina Turner said in the audio.
In the documentary, she told filmmakers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin why she chose to speak out in 1981.
“I wanted to stop people from thinking that Ike & Tina was so positive, that we were such a great team,” she said. “So I thought, if nothing else, at least people know.”
The filmmakers explained in an interview with Vanity Fair that they used mostly past footage to discuss Tina and Ike Turner’s relationship to avoid further traumatizing her.
Tina Turner previously told Oprah Winfrey in 2018 she didn’t want to talk about her trauma and only decided to revisit it for her Broadway musical because “there’s no one else to tell this story because everyone is gone.”
However, “Tina” added a more recent interview where Tina Turner shares that she forgave her ex-husband.
“Forgiving means not to hold on,” she said. “You let it go.”
She concluded, “I had an abusive life. There’s no other way to tell the story. It’s a reality. It’s a truth.”
This article was originally published on TODAY.com