Oprah Winfrey, a self-declared Tina Turner ‘groupie’, pens a heartfelt tribute to late singer
In the wake of her death, fans of Tina Turner are looking back at the impact and intimacy of her longtime friendship with Oprah Winfrey.
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As titans of their respective industries, both Turner and Winfrey carved out remarkable career paths for themselves in spite of racial obstacles, opening the door for many who’ve come after. After striking up a friendship, through the years the two legends often came together for celebrations and interviews in which they reflected on one another’s lives and careers.
Paying tribute to Turner, Winfrey shared a slideshow filled with photos of the two together over the years.
“I started out as a fan of Tina Turner, then a full-on groupie, following her from show to show around the country, and then, eventually, we became real friends,” Winfrey wrote on Instagram on May 24. “She is our forever goddess of rock ‘n’ roll who contained a magnitude of inner strength that grew throughout her life. She was a role model not only for me but for the world. She encouraged a part of me I didn’t know existed.”
“Once she claimed her freedom from years of domestic abuse, her life became a clarion call for triumph. I’m grateful for her courage, for showing us what victory looks like wearing Manolo’s and a leather miniskirt,” she continued. “She once shared with me that when her time came to leave this earth, she would not be afraid, but excited and curious. Because she had learned how to LIVE surrounded by her beloved husband, Erwin, and friends. I am a better woman, a better human, because her life touched mine. She was indeed simply the best.”
The day after the news broke, Winfrey followed up with an essay posted to her website, Oprah Daily, saying she learned the news of Turner’s death after her friend Gayle King’s phone started "blowing up with messages and condolences for Tina Turner."
"The words stunned me into immediate tears. I had been expecting to hear this news four years ago in 2019 after visiting her at a hospital in Switzerland, where she told me she was ready to leave this earth," Winfrey wrote.
She went on to describe their conversation in the hospital, where Turner, who had a number of health difficulties, was being treated.
"She said she had a full life and was ‘tired.’ I’m always wary when someone who is ill says they’re tired. It often means they are tired of the work and energy it takes to stay alive. I left the hospital thinking that would be my last time seeing her. I was on alert for a full year afterward, waiting to get ‘the call’ from her devoted husband, Erwin. Instead there were calls with news of improvements, new treatments, therapies, doctors," she wrote.
In a May 2005 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, Winfrey described watching Turner’s performances as "spiritual."
"Watching Tina perform is what I call a spiritual experience. Each electrifying swing of her miniskirt, every slide of her three-inch Manolos across the stage, sends a message: I am here. I have triumphed. I will not be broken," she explained. "When I leave a Tina concert, I feel the same way I do after I’ve seen any great art: I want to be a better human being."
On social media platforms, fans have been sharing touching tributes to the dynamic duo’s friendship, with clips and pictures of their interactions throughout their lives.
"As a kid, Oprah Winfrey was my biggest star in the world," a Twitter user wrote with a post that featured a video of Turner delivering a birthday performance for Oprah on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 2004. "Then Oprah lost her mind when Tina Turner surprised her with her 50th Birthday Show — that’s when I learned who the biggest star in the world was to the biggest star in my world. RIP to the World’s Biggest Star."
She made Oprah break her professional persona and simply be a Huge Fan again. That’s the power of Tina Turner. https://t.co/ZCAhrLt8hh
— CaseyNotMyBurnerAccount (@not_casey) May 24, 2023
"She made Oprah break her professional persona and simply be a Huge Fan again," another wrote of the host’s love for the singer and her birthday performance. "That’s the power of Tina Turner."
Turner fans were also sure to share their own memories of watching the singer from their televisions whenever she made appearances on Winfrey’s talk show.
One user remembered, “Watching Oprah get excited about Tina Turner was always my favorite thing and like a core memory of watching her show for me.”
“Y’all remember when John Travolta surprised Oprah on her birthday with Tina Turner?” one shared. “And Oprah just lost her mind? And Tina just gliding down them steps and started performing. I always loved that moment.”
"Check on Oprah," another insisted in a Twitter post. "She ran around with that Tina Turner wig for a whole season of her talk show."
Check on Oprah! She ran around with that Tina Turner wig for a whole season of her talk show. pic.twitter.com/cqeMdOovvw
— NatoyaEbony (@NatoyaEbony) May 24, 2023
In 2011, Winfrey admitted to being such a fan of the singer that she wrangled her talkshow into creating her own “ultimate groupie story.” At the time, Winfrey and her show followed Turner around the country for her “Wildest Dreams Tour.”
“I had a wig made so that I could be a part and close to Tina in ‘wigdom’ and then I wouldn’t take the wig off," she recalled. "I did it for the show. I did it for the next show. I think we did five or six shows around the country, and I started wearing it on the weekends. I started wearing it to bed. I started wearing it at all times.”
One of my first concerts was Tina Turner who played in Chicago when I was a teenager. HANDS DOWN one of the very best concerts I’ve ever been to! I remember seeing Oprah, Gayle and Dr. Phil jamming out to her unbelievable performance! pic.twitter.com/AEM0Bs171e
— Amy Lewis, Pop Culture Retrospective Podcast host (@PopCultureRetro) May 24, 2023
"One of my first concerts was Tina Turner who played in Chicago when I was a teenager," another fan recalled in a tweet. "HANDS DOWN one of the very best concerts I’ve ever been to! I remember seeing Oprah, Gayle and Dr. Phil jamming out to her unbelievable performance!"
Oprah’s love for Tina Turner and Maya Angelou are probably the only times we’ve seen her be a real authentic human being with a heart lol. https://t.co/qWYRsGciYl
— Caroline’s Kerry (@youdoingtoomuch) May 24, 2023
“I hope Oprah is okay," another user commented. "Just last week, I was listening to her Super Soul Sunday podcast with Tina Turner, Oprah truly admired her. Ms. Tina Turner was hilarious and an entertainer. May she rest well.”
This article was originally published on TODAY.com