Tina is a 2021 HBO documentary about the life and career of Anna Mae Bullock better known as Tina Turner. The film covers her tumultuous marriage and professional relationship with Ike Turner that was plagued by domestic violence and other various forms of abuse. It also touched on how her childhood abandonment by her parents filled her with feelings of being unwanted and unloved. It’s a terrible story. And I hate to sound cliché but it’s also incredibly inspiring due to her desire to overcome those obstacles and seeing her achieve her dreams of creating a better life for herself.
Tina is a 2021 HBO documentary about the life and career of Anna Mae Bullock (Anne) better known as Tina Turner. The film covers her tumultuous marriage and professional relationship with Ike Turner which was plagued by domestic violence and other various forms of abuse. It also touched on how her childhood abandonment by her parents filled her with feelings of being unwanted and unloved. It’s a terrible story. And I hate to sound cliché but it’s also incredibly inspiring due to her desire to overcome those obstacles and seeing her achieve her dreams of creating a better life for herself.
I wasn’t born yet when Private Dancer dropped so I didn’t know that it was a big deal at the time of its release. Tina Turner was one of those celebrities that was just there and very grown from the time I was self-aware. I don’t know exactly when I became aware of her, she was just always there. I never really paid her much attention until maybe What’s Love Got to Do With It and even then that was because I adore Angela Bassett. I’ve probably seen What’s Love Got to Do With It at least a million times. I got a VHS copy in my teens and would watch the movie once through, rewind it, and play it back a second time just watching the performances.
When I began seeing trailers and promos for Tina earlier this year, I knew that I would eventually get around to watching the documentary. I originally planned to close out the month with a review of What’s Love Got to Do With It and started watching it one night while taking notes. But it was late so I decided to get ready for bed instead and played the Tina documentary in the background on my tablet while I brushed my teeth.
That was a terrible idea. In no time I was completely wrapped up in the story and had to put it on pause because it was super late by that point. I finished the documentary the next day and my plans for reviewing What’s Love Got to Do With It were put on indefinite hiatus. I watched Tina probably a week after it premiered and over the next few weeks encouraged almost everyone I knew to check it out. Those who did were equally moved.
I didn’t take notes the first time around as I hadn’t been planning to review the film. But I put off re-watching the documentary until I had a night set aside to kick back in front of the big screen with good food and a comfy recliner to cheer Tina on. It was just as inspiring the second time around and has knocked What’s Love Got to Do With It off its pedestal, replacing it as one of my favorite movies.
Since then I’ve read and listened to the audiobook of her second book My Love Story which was also amazing. But when I tried to finish watching What’s Love Got to Do With It it felt different. I still have much love for Angela Bassett but can now see the flaws and “Disney-fying” that Tina Turner took issue with. And now having seen actual footage of Tina Turner in motion as well as behind the scenes, I think Angela Bassett had the acting chops and got the dancing down but didn’t get the look right.
Through that lens, I realized that I’ve never known the visual story of Tina Turner without the backdrop of What’s Love Got to Do With It. I’d read her first book, I, Tina, in high school and even got Ike’s book to get his perspective (he did himself no favors). What’s Love Got to Do With It took a lot of liberty with the timeline of her life but that’s to be expected. But the latter post-Ike part of the documentary is what sealed the deal for me and makes me regard Tina as now being the definitive film about Tina Turner.
I knew nothing about Tina Turner but rather Tina Turner as portrayed by Angela Bassett. I’d read her book and saw the pictures that were included but still in my mind, Angela Bassett was Tina Turner. I’d heard Tina Turner’s songs in the movie and have a few on my phone. But I’d never actually heard her speak so I had no idea of what her speaking voice sounded like. (Her manner of speaking has changed some. But her earlier speaking voice was very similar to Whitney Houston’s with regards to tone and speed but Houston had an East Coast accent while Turner’s was a little country.) She never appeared to be tall but I thought she was super buff in her younger days because Bassett was brolic in the movie. But I was surprised to see that Tina Turner was short and very slim, quite tiny actually.
Somehow I also never made the connection that her dancing was a big thing back in the day. I knew she could dance but having grown up watching Janet Jackson, I didn’t think of a female entertainer doing more than swaying as automatically being a big deal. But then I saw her perform and it was like, “Oh, so she could like dance dance.” I had been sleeping on Tina.
To start, I like Tina’s understated makeup but her hair from the 1960s and 1970s could be a bit hit or miss. For the most part, I didn’t like the heavy makeup or firecracker hair of the 80s. But everything came together flawlessly by the second half of the 1980s into the 1990s. There were a few looks that I didn’t like but otherwise, Tina Turner’s appearance on stage has been BAD from the beginning.
I agreed with Angela Bassett’s commentary that she carved out a lane at a time when Motown was dominating and putting forth an image of very clean cut and nattily dressed Black young men and women. They mostly stepped and swayed but didn’t dance.
Then here came this hard-driving woman dancing up a storm. Ike and Tina started out looking rather regular and dressy like everyone else but over time their look evolved. Tina and the Ikettes eventually made it into short dresses so they could dance without tripping and at some points, Tina’s dresses were stylistically torn and shredded. The show was energetic and sensual, at times sexual. Some might argue that they played into stereotypes but sensuality and sexuality are a part of life. I didn’t take issue with the stage show as Tina was talented and wasn’t using sex appeal or sexual imagery as a crutch. The only performance I disliked was the microphone antics with “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” because it didn’t match the song and was a bit too much.
When I was in preschool I had a Michael Jordan t-shirt where he had a little body and a big adult head. For quite some time I assumed that this was what all adults looked like when they were young. It took me a long time to realize that adults had been children at some point in the past. Even now, I still get a kick out of seeing childhood and young adult pictures of people who were already adults when I was a child. So I enjoyed seeing early photos of Tina Turner.
It’s important to note that Ike and Ann were both relatively young when they met, Ann was in her late teens and Ike was in his mid-20s. She was invisible to him and everyone else until the night she opened her mouth and sang. It was crazy to hear that deep husky voice with all that grit on a song and have her shown as the tiny teen she would have been at the time.
She gave Ike credit for the clothes and jewelry he bought her and making her feel as though finally someone cared about her. It felt like she’d found a big brother or father figure, something that was missing from her life. Given that despite her youth, she’d been taking care of herself for quite some time, it was a relief to feel like she wouldn’t need to worry about anything anymore.
His generosity might have just been artist development though in hindsight it comes across as possible grooming. Age differences become less of an issue when both people are fully grown. But Anne was 17 and still in high school. Meanwhile, Ike was about 24. He was a grown man who had been in the music industry since his pre-teen days and been exposed to all kinds of wild living. But this is part of why it’s a bad idea for young women in their teens or 20s to date men who are substantially older.
Originally she was visiting the music clubs under the supervision of her older sister who was dating one of Ike’s band members. And at some point, Ike introduced himself to her mom to put her at ease. But given the later drama around her not being particularly concerned with Ann’s well-being, one can’t help but wonder about how closely she was paying attention to the situation.
He’s buying her clothes and she’s driving to school in a nice car while earning a little pocket money performing with the band on the weekend. As the two started to get to know each other, he began laying it on thick with sob stories about his youth and time in the industry. True though they might have been, he sounded immature at best and manipulative at worst. What kind of a grown man is unburdening himself to a teen? You’re a hot mess if you as a 24 or 25-year old man need help from a 17-year-old to get your life together.
Ike had a track record of creating songs and launching artists who would then go on to leave him. On the one hand, this is a reality that I’ve found in reading about music history and the business. Often entertainers don’t stay with the one that brought them to the dance. As an artist’s career advances, they sometimes leave behind their original managers, labels, bandmates, etc.
In Ike’s case, the situation with Rocket 88 was messed up. But knowing what Tina would go through with him you have to wonder how he was treating the other artists that left him? If everyone leaves you, at what point do you ask yourself what you might be doing to push them away? People leave jobs for better opportunities all the time. It’s just business.
It’s clear from both parties that neither was particularly the other’s type. Ann began dating Raymond Hill, Ike’s saxophonist, and became pregnant after which he moved back home to Mississippi and she never saw him again. Up to that point she and Hill had been living in Ike’s house along with the rest of the band. She was now 18-years old with her unborn child’s father out of the picture and no real support from her family. I don’t think it’s touched on in the documentary but based on her book it sounds like she gave birth to her first child by herself without any family or friends around to hold her hand through it.
She and Ike adopted each other’s children after they got married. Despite her being an unwed mother at the time of his birth, it seems like they never tried to pass her first son off as Ike’s. But What’s Love Got to Do With It didn’t include Hill and presented the situation as though she had a crush on Ike, started creeping with him, and he fathered her first child. It simplified the situation in some respects but in doing so glossed over the desperation of her situation at that point and how it made her feel as though she had no choice but to stay with Ike.
Tina doesn’t get into the details of the situation with her son’s father but I’ve always been curious about what exactly happened with Hill and how she felt about it. She’s spoken about her first boyfriend breaking her heart and the hell of her relationship with Ike but doesn’t share any feelings about things falling apart with Hill. Though she loved her son and saw becoming an entertainer as a way to provide both of them with a better life.
Ike had a reputation in St. Louis for being an exciting musician but also quite dangerous. They were friends for several years and during that time she saw him be violent with other people but he was nice to her. She seemed to start dating Hill shortly after she became involved with the band and Ike was seeing a bunch of different women in addition to having a live-in girlfriend/wife.
I don’t remember Ike explaining his perspective on what caused the shift in their relationship in his book. Granted he seemed willing to have sex with any woman so it might have just been a matter of proximity and opportunity with Ann. Things came to a head one night when she sought Ike’s protection from another band member who had threateningly expressed his interest in her. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, she had intercourse with Ike figuring it would just be a one-time thing.
Tina Turner was a cutie in her day but he didn’t seem to be immediately attracted to her as he mostly preferred thicker women while she was very slim. She liked Ike as a person but at first found him physically unattractive though I would assume that she didn’t tell him this in those exact words, if at all. I had questions because she seemed to still not be physically into him even after they’d been intimate. Before this, Ike had begun touching her in a manner that made her uncomfortable. Yet she didn’t know how to reject him without risking getting kicked out of the band. And it became even more awkward after they’d had sex for the first time.
There’s so much going on in this short space of time that doesn’t bode well for this being a happy and successful relationship. You’re off to a bad start if one or both people in a relationship are not attracted to the other person. And the way they ended up together is problematic. Ike had been coming on to her for a while but she still viewed him as just a friend. She then had sex with him to avoid the possibility of some other guy sexually assaulting her. And things continued because she and likely him as well couldn’t figure out how to return to their formerly platonic relationship as things were now awkward.
Ann was pregnant with Ike’s child by 1960 and he first became violent with her when she attempted to exert some independence and control over her burgeoning career. She had filled in for a singer who was a no-show for a recording session and the song became a hit. The decision was then made to position her as the star of the group rather than just a featured singer. That led to her stage name being changed to “Tina Turner” and the group being rebranded as the “Ike and Tina Turner Revue”.
Her attempt to decline to tour because she was working a regular job during the week and performing with the band on the weekends but not getting paid led to the first incidence of violence. Ike’s abuse was primarily about maintaining control over her as his potential money maker. Initially, he’d spent time and money giving Anna Mae a makeover that would transform her into “Little Ann”, a very early version of Tina Turner. Experiencing a bit of success, she tried to speak up and reliably get more money which was fair. But with her now being the star of the show, declining to tour so she could spend more time at home with her son would put everything in jeopardy. People could certainly listen to the band but they would now be expecting “Tina Turner” to perform at shows.
Once he saw that Tina had a powerful distinct voice and stage presence, he recognized what she could become and what that would mean for his career and finances if he controlled her. There was a real fear of her having scored a hit record and leaving him behind as others had done in the past. With the desire to hold on to her and avoid his past mistakes of artists being able to walk away, he made a determined effort to hold on to her at any cost. Most of the artists he’d previously worked with were men and they usually escaped through legal and business maneuverings. But with her as someone having no personal or professional support outside of him and being a woman pregnant with his child, he decided to dominate and control her with financial, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
Before becoming intimately involved with Ike she was a teenage single mother to one child. She had a day job but it doesn’t sound like she was making a lot of money and her housing situation seemed unstable. Now pregnant with a second child, her situation was even more complicated. Where was she going to go with two kids and a man on her heels who had already flown off the handle at the mere thought of losing control over her?
But isn’t that how it often starts? Most abusive people aren’t violent from the very beginning and might even start out being quite nice. There were red flags with Ike given that he was violent with other people. Yet, she bought into his version of events that other people had taken advantage of him and assumed that if she was fair with him he wouldn’t be violent with her. It’s not clear exactly when he began to take a sexual interest in her but it’s obvious that he waited until she was comfortable and tied to him before becoming violent.
Revisiting the first instance of them being intimate for the first time, it could be argued that while his manipulation of that situation did not involve violence but it was an abuse of her trust and right to self-determination. With him supposedly being her friend she turned to him thinking she would find safety. Instead, he gave her the choice of being coerced into sex with him or taking her chances with the other guy who threatened the use of force. What kind of a “friend” takes advantage of their friend being in a difficult situation? If it was his house and he was the leader of the band, why didn’t he kick the other musician out of the house or otherwise intervene? And so she ends up feeling stuck with this guy as a result of being afraid of some other guy.
My mom always told me as a kid that you should never envy anyone for what they have because you don’t know what they had to do to get it. During the 60s and 70s, being on the outside looking in, Tina Turner probably seemed to have an amazing life. She was married with four cute kids living in a nice house, driving fancy cars, all kinds of clothes and jewelry, and traveling to perform around the world.
Ike wasn’t particularly physically attractive and coupled with him being very inarticulate, insecure, and incredibly violent, he wasn’t a catch as a husband. The kids were indeed cute and offered some semblance of family life. But with the group lacking hit records Tina had to constantly remain on the road performing which limited the amount of time she could spend with the kids.
Despite the terrible things that took place in the house, it was nice to see photos and videos of their kids and some regular family moments. Though it’s telling that Ike doesn’t seem to appear in any of them. I think Tina’s eldest son looked like her when he was a kid and her younger son looked more like Ike. They were advanced to have a handheld camera following the family around. There’s one clip in particular where it looks like two women (I’m assuming one is Tina) take the boys to a snow-covered hill to do something. I don’t know what. As all I saw was two people inexplicably falling down the hill looking like they were about to give up the ghost. I don’t think you’re supposed to fall like that, it looked comical but also dangerous. I can’t even explain what was supposed to be happening because I don’t know myself.
As happens with many groups, when one member stands out as a star, solo opportunities tend to present themselves. So Tina performed on Phil Spector’s “River Deep Mountain High”, which was the first step in her breaking free musically. This showed that there was interest in her as a solo performer though the song was initially a flop in America. But this didn’t work the other way around. Ike was a talented musician but he was better suited for the background in the form of developing, managing, and producing artists. They could have ascended to even higher heights if their relationship had remained strictly platonic and professional or at the very least if Ike was more secure in himself and had treated her better.
Often professionals behind the scenes see themselves as having “made” an artist. But then as with Ike, they’re typically unable to repeat that success with another artist. That’s not to say that Ike wasn’t talented and didn’t help with her image and career but rather that Tina wasn’t some robot that he built and gave life to. She was talented which helped her to not only later recreate their success but reach an even higher level while Ike was never able to create another Tina.
Children learn about the world, their place in it, and how to treat others based on the examples around them. Everyone that witnessed abuse as a child won’t grow up to be an abuser or abused but I think it certainly increases the risk by possibly normalizing the dysfunctional behavior. Learning about Tina’s experiences in her late teens to early 20s offers some insight into why she stayed with Ike. But taking a step back to her early life in Nutbush and Brownsville, Tennessee gave an even deeper perspective. Overall, her childhood sounded unstable which paved the way for her to have an equally problematic life as an adult.
It seems picking cotton is a special brand of hell that makes people want to change their lives. This was the second musician from Tennessee I’ve come across who was involved with picking cotton in their youth and it filled them with the ambition to want more out of life.
Tina’s parents also had a very contentious relationship where they argued and fought. It’s probably splitting hairs but it seemed like while they might have gotten physical with each other, it wasn’t on par with the sadistic beatings that Tina endured. But then again you never know. It was sad to hear about and envision her mother sitting looking out the window, wanting more out of life, and then not being there anymore. Followed by her father’s panic over her mother leaving and him then leaving too.
I understand leaving your spouse and in doing so you might need to temporarily leave your kids in the care of someone else while you get yourself together. But, I don’t understand not continuing to provide for them until you can come and get them. Anne would have been about 11 or so and her older sister Alline a few years older. They were kids, how reasonable or realistic was it to assume that they didn’t need you as their parents and would be able to take care of themselves?
Viewing her later relationship through the knowledge of her childhood puts into perspective her feelings of guilt about wanting to leave Ike. In her mind, she viewed it as abandoning him, something she had experienced as a child and didn’t want to put someone else through. Hindsight is 20-20 and I think in time she came to realize the flaws in this logic. Ike was a grown man not a child and she would have been leaving him as a result of his treatment of her which he would have deserved. It’s messed up if your wife/husband leaves you because you’re sick, got laid off from work, or something else beyond your control. But you deserve to get left if you’re mistreating that person or taking them for granted.
I remember Tina Turner briefly touching on her relationship with her mother in her first book and little snippets in the movie. Though Jenifer Lewis probably made her mother appear more charming than she was in real life. You get more insight into her relationship with her mother in the documentary and her second book. It was pretty honest to admit that she realized at the point her mother left that she loved her mother but also hated her for not coming back to get them. She seemed to adore her older sister but had a complicated love/hate relationship with her mother.
Her mother seemed indifferent and almost hostile towards her existence. But I wonder if she might have been a little jealous that this child she never loved or wanted managed to achieve in life what she was never really able to get for herself. Imagine being an abused woman yourself who escaped her husband but then continuing to be friends with the man who spent years abusing your daughter after they break up.
There’s quite a bit of discussion of Ike and his insecurities, general awkwardness, and discomfort when speaking to other people. It’s a fairly honest assessment as I read a magazine interview where a journalist tracked him down and Ike said as much. He was addicted to women, couldn’t handle rejection at all, and was often uncomfortable in social situations. His tendency to inexplicably change moods from one moment to another was later explained when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder late in life. Ike was a violent person and there’s no excuse for his actions but I don’t think people are born that way. He likely would have greatly benefited from therapy to deal with his childhood trauma instead of giving free rein to his lack of self-control. Tina seemed nicer but she could have benefited from therapy as well.
Black men get a bad rap in the media. But there’s a tendency for some members of the Black community to shut down Black women for publicly speaking about their abuse or mistreatment if it’s at the hand of a Black man. Having read Ike’s book he pretty much cosigned her version of events though he made excuses for his actions. Some of the women who were with Ike after Tina left also accused him of being violent and having mood swings. So I never got why Little Richard had such negative things to say about Tina in the introduction to Ike’s book or why Arsenio Hall went out of his way to jive talk about her during his interview with Ike. It might have been uncomfortable to hear but she wasn’t lying about him and had every right to speak about her experience. Ike spent years using their professional relationship for his personal gain. I saw it as a fair exchange if she did the same to break away from her old image.
Tina Turner is sometimes shaded for the assumption that she has issues with being Black and/or Black people. I kind of wished that she’d directly addressed those criticisms here. But then again she has in other interviews and is probably over it at this point and unwilling to feed into that negative energy.
Much is made of Tina’s love of Europe but some of that comes from being a Black girl growing up in the Jim Crow South. This was at a time when the women on television and in magazines didn’t look like her and photos of exciting and sophisticated places to visit were primarily presented as being in Europe. Professionally, she’s not the first artist to leave America because they have found more success in Europe.
On a personal level, I don’t think she has a problem with Black people but spent a long time having issues with herself and dealing with a host of insecurities. Not fitting the beauty standards displayed in the media or having the preferred body type of the people around her had a profoundly negative impact on her self-esteem. Her issues with her parents as well as being involved with multiple males as a young woman who mistreated her didn’t help. And seeing Ike carrying on with all of these women probably made her feel like she was lacking in some way when the reality was that no one woman was going to be enough for him.
Ike had a problem with women in the sense that he was obsessed with them but also had a lot of anger towards them. This is especially clear in his relationship with Tina where he recognizes and uses her talent for his gain but seems to also hate her for this. In his book, he detailed being molested by women when he was a child but kind of laughs it off as if at the age of six he was engaging in intercourse rather than being sexually abused. He admitted that it impacted his view on relationships and caused him to view sex as being about power. I think it’s important that the push for discussing and addressing mental health issues continues. But it’s also important that we do the same with child abuse and molestation regardless of the child’s gender.
Society tends to tell men that their value is based on their financial success and their sexual conquests. Ike was not a traditionally attractive man and in his youth, girls would pay him dust in public though they’d play around with him in private. Feeling physically unattractive and being rejected by girls as a young man he aspired to financial success so he could get all of the women that he wanted. But deep down inside he was still insecure and lashed out at Tina and others to make himself feel better.
Combined with drugs, this was a terrible mix. Many of the people I’ve come into contact with who have alcohol and substance abuse problems seem to also have mental and/or emotional issues. Some may be using these substances to self-medicate in an attempt to slow or dull their mind or emotions to avoid remembering and/or having to deal with their problems. As an insecure man who makes himself feel better by sleeping with as many women as possible, the thought of getting older and being unable to perform was likely terrifying. Initially, Ike wasn’t into drugs but became a heavy user of cocaine as he got older and someone told him that it could increase sexual endurance allowing him to continue carrying on with multiple women.
It’s one thing to hear others and Tina speak about Ike’s abuse. But it was heartbreaking to see photos of her forcing a smile while having a messed-up eye and swollen lip. I don’t know anyone else’s life story from the inside so I can’t speak to how much they can bear in life. As a result, I don’t pass judgment on anyone who attempts or commits suicide. We all go through things in life but sometimes people can feel so hopeless and helpless that they feel they can’t go on.
Often Tina leaving Ike in Dallas is regarded as the turning point in her life but I think the true turning point was her suicide attempt in the late 60s. It got to the point where Ike was going to end up killing her or she was going to kill herself. She spent years leading up to her suicide attempt trying to survive and the remaining years of their relationship trying to figure out how to break free.
And while things worked out for her, I can’t help but wonder what if her attempt hadn’t failed? Or what if she’d gotten hit by a car or truck trying to cross that highway? Her life as a person is far more valuable than her legacy as an entertainer. But I think it makes everything that she achieved after leaving Ike all the more inspiring. Regardless of whatever you might be going through today, as long as there is a tomorrow you have another opportunity to change your life and seek out happiness. That’s the message that I got from the second half of the documentary.
I knew that Tina had left the marriage with little in the way of assets. But her breakdown of Ike pretty much retaining the assets and legacy associated with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue put things in perspective. That you could put all of that time in and suffer for years to then not own anything connected with Ike & Tina beyond songs you wrote is crazy. The irony of Ike spending years complaining about people in the industry using him and then turning around and using everything he’d learned to take advantage of her.
Honestly, she could have continued fighting for partial ownership rights and a more equitable division of assets. But Ike would have continued to fight to hold onto those assets as a means of being difficult and holding on to Tina. As she said, he wanted to continue owning her. And in giving those things up she cut off the back and forth and was able to move on and regain control of herself as a person and entity. But she had learned enough on a professional level to trade those trinkets for the right to retain the name “Tina Turner”.
The first half of Tina is primarily about her relationship with Ike and her childhood. But my favorite part of the documentary was seeing her re-build her career post-Ike as a solo performer. And this is where it outshines What’s Love Got to Do With It. I, Tina was released just a few years after “Private Dancer” so there wasn’t enough time to fully analyze the new phase of her career. Being based in part on the book, the movie spent a relatively short amount of time covering her life after Ike which made it seem like an afterthought. You got the impression that she left Ike, did a couple of shows, got a new manager, and everything was great in no time.
I had no real idea of just how much she gave up to escape Ike and the years of hardship and sacrifice that it took for her to reemerge as a solo star. Being written off, disrespected, and completely ignored by record labels and the industry. It was humbling but I respected that she didn’t view taking a step back as being beneath her. To that point, she’d spent a lifetime taking losses and catching hell but it filled her with a hunger deep within to aspire to and believe she could achieve more.
The late 70s / early 80s performances were interesting though I agreed with Roger Davies’ point in describing it as cabaret. I didn’t like that era but you could see something coming together in the performances. The behind-the-scenes footage of rehearsals was great and to see her now in control and leading the band was amazing.
What I particularly enjoyed is that Tina Turner left Ike in her late 30s and was in her mid-40s by the time she fully reemerged. American media tends to cast female performers aside once they get past 35 or so. I loved the breakdown of her transition which I think played a key role in people still accepting her as an energetic and visually appealing presence. Some female artists overplay their sexuality when they’re young and then suddenly become somewhat matronly or go overboard with the sexiness which begins to feel desperate.
People often chalk things up to luck but I lean into the idea that preparation makes it possible to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Tina Turner had spent her life preparing for her shot so when the stars aligned she was more than ready. But things tend to go left even with the best-made plans.
The irony is that with everyone asking her about Ike, she decided to give an interview to shut everyone up but instead it opened the floodgates. PR wise it was a sympathetic story that arguably brought her attention but they under-anticipated how her relationship with Ike would become intertwined with her image and legacy. Watching her exodus to London helped to explain why she left America as beyond her sons who were adults, she had no life here. Part of it might have been being isolated while with Ike and then being focused on her career for years after.
I was thrown off watching that White 80s band perform What’s Love Got to Do With It as it sounded so different and didn’t match their video. I might not have known much but that was Tina Turner’s song and I never imagined anyone but her singing it. I’ve grown to like Tina Turner based on her public image and dancing but I’m still not the biggest fan of her music. That is aside from What’s Love Got to Do With It because that song goes hard. Just imagine, years of putting up with Ike’s nonsense while he chased a hit and then scoring your first #1 song. She deserved all the accolades and success that she experienced. I was rooting for her like she was my friend that finally got the shine she deserved.
And then in the middle of all this, you’re still being asked about Ike? Despite the years and having a child together, I would have glossed over ever having known the man. But from that frustration came I, Tina and What’s Love Got to Do With It the movie. Because the book and movie pretty much ended at the point she left Ike and before “Private Dancer” I was aware of the abuse and her escape but never stopped to consider that this was something she was still traumatized by years later. It’s one thing to deal with on your own but something else with the added pressure of journalists asking about it and having to constantly relive these terrible moments from your life in public. There are moments where she smiles while looking absolutely uncomfortable or incredibly sad. It’s like a flashback to that earlier image of her smiling with a bruised and injured face.
Her relationship with her mother was heartbreaking and similar in some regard to her relationship with Ike. There’s a feeling where this person doesn’t love you or want to be with/around you but they’re more than happy to profit from your talent and hard work. I was interested in a more in-depth analysis of her mother and what her mother’s childhood was like as she wasn’t physically abusive like Ike but there was certainly a selfish streak.
My eyes welled up at the audio clip from her interview with Kurt Loder where they discuss her feelings of being unloved and wondering why. No parental love or romantic love. Unlucky in finding partners who loved her for her. And looking at herself as Anna Mae Bullock rather than Tina Turner and wondering what it was about her that people found unloveable. It’s interesting that juxtaposed against her wondering why no one seems to love her for her, they show probably the only photos of her as an adult where she’s not in Tina mode and is just stripped down to her natural state. I’m not big on hugs but if I’ve ever wanted to hug someone it was in that moment.
She describes feeling unworthy of the things she desires with regards to having a family and happiness given where she came from and her family background. In not having the things she wanted, needed really, she developed the drive to walk through hell to get it. And it gave her the faith that if she kept going all the things she wanted would come in time.
The more I watched the documentary and with the interviews I’ve read and watched since then, it was like getting to know her for the first time. She sounds fun and like someone I would kick it with. Her story about meeting her second husband, Erwin Bach, was endearing and I giggled at her explaining that she’d been very forward with this guy. (The additional details in her book are charming, all over the place and very human.)
They seem to be very happy together and I think given all that she’d been through in life, she deserves not just her professional success but also to be with a man that loves and appreciates her for her. I think everyone wants and deserves love, acceptance, and happiness (as long as that’s what they’re putting out in the world), Tina Turner included or more accurately, Anna Mae Bullock. At this point, I’ve watched the documentary twice with plans to watch it again. I’ll eventually get it on DVD and it will become one of those movies that I watch every so often.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie that touched or had an effect on me like this documentary. I’ve spent a lot of time discussing her dysfunctional relationships with Ike and her parents but I was more drawn to her rise as a solo star. After having a terrible 2020 (like much of the rest of the world) I decided at the start of the year that I wanted to make some changes to myself and in my life. And sometimes reading a book or watching a movie can have a different effect depending on what’s going on in your life. Watching Tina happened at just the right time as I found it incredibly motivational and took a lot away from the movie. Each time I’ve watched it, the second half makes me feel like no dream is too big. You can take on the world and anything is possible as long as you get through today and have hope for tomorrow.
Shop on Amazon
- What Happened, Miss Simone? [Movie Review]
- I Put a Spell On You [Book Review]
- My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire [Book Review]
- Standing in the Shadows of Motown [Movie Review]
Disclosure: Noire Histoir is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for the website to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Noire Histoir will receive commissions for purchases made via any Amazon Affiliate links above.