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Ike & Tina Turner

Born in 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Ike Turner played as a session guitarist and pianist with many renowned musicians including BB KingHowlin’ WolfMuddy Waters and Willie Dixon.

In 1951, at the age of 19, he wrote what some music historians identify as the first ever rock ‘n’ roll record, Rocket 88. He performed on it with his band, The Kings of Rhythm, although the record was credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats.

He was at one point a singing coach to blues singer Janis Joplin, and a young guitarist named Jimi Hendrix was also a one-time member of The Kings of Rhythm.

Ike met the woman he would later marry when she was an 18-year-old singer named Anna Mae Bullock. He quickly signed her up to front his group, coaching and restyling her into the husky-voiced, stiletto-wearing Tina Turner. They soared to fame with a string of hits, beginning with A Fool in Love.


Tina was still singing back-up as Little Ann in Ike’s band when she recorded the sensational vocal on A Fool In Love – originally as a demo. It didn’t take Ike long to realise he’s never heard a better take, kept it, and changed Little Ann’s name to Tina. It was to be their first single together.

Others followed, including I Idolize YouIt’s Gonna Work Out Fine and Proud Mary – which won the couple a Grammy Award in 1972. But it was mainly on their stage act – one of the raunchiest and most powerful ever seen at the time – that their sixties’ reputation was based.

The couple formed the 15-piece Ike & Tina Turner Revue (pictured below) including The Ikettes – backing singers who included Bonnie Bramlett, Merry Clayton and PP Arnold.

The duo recorded over 30 albums for various labels and scored a massive UK hit in 1966 with the Phil Spector-produced River Deep Mountain High, and again in 1973 with Nutbush City Limits (written by Tina).


The pair’s relationship was overshadowed by his drug-fuelled abusive treatment of her, which led Tina Turner to eventually seek a divorce in 1976.

The story of this period was told in the 1993 film What’s Love Got To Do With It, based on Tina Turner’s autobiography I, Tina, and starring Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett as the musical duo. Ike maintained that much of the film’s portrayal of him was inaccurate.

After the divorce, one of the pair would reinvent herself as a globe-conquering AOR diva, while the other would make headlines for less celebratory reasons.

ike&tinaturner_025Ike spiralled into cocaine addiction and was jailed in California in 1989 for drug-related offences.

The duo were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, although Ike was in prison at the time.

In 2001, at the age of 70, he returned to the public eye – this time for his music, rather than his misdemeanours – with the release of the Grammy-nominated album Here and Now – and in 2007, despite a battle with the lung condition emphysema, he won his second Grammy for a further album, Risin’ with the Blues.

Ike Turner died on 12 December 2007 at the age of 76.  Californian coroners established that he was killed by a cocaine overdose.

Cardiovascular disease and pulmonary emphysema were also given as “significant” factors in the death.

In his autobiography, Ike estimated he had spent $11m to support his cocaine habit in the 1970s and 1980s.