On March 2, 2021, the documentary, “Tina,” debuted at the Berlin Film Festival where it received a very favorable rating. The Oscar winning documentary duo, Dan Lindsay and T. J. Martin, went on to watch HBO release in the U.S. on March 27, and saw it garner the largest HBO audience for a documentary since the 2019 release of “Leaving Neverland.”
Born Anna Mae Bullock 1939, Tina Turner was destined to be a star. Her childhood was tragic, both parents abandoned her. She met Ike Turner, who was more a father figure at first than a husband but married him anyway out of fear and desperation. All she knew was he was her key to success.
The documentary opens with Tina singing and performing. And Tina dances like no one else – wild, sensual, truly feeling the music, on the greatest legs ever to hit the planet. Seriously, the best legs ever. In this film, she immediately addresses the 1981 People magazine article with Carl Arrington, where she finally told the true story about Ike Turner. The story is shocking, honest and a harrowing story of abuse and torture, and the brave escape she made after years of trauma.
Ike Turner’s band was the first live band she ever saw, at 17 years old. She was totally mesmerized by them, went back night after night until they let her sing. Ike was blown away by her vocals.
Their first record was “Fool in Love” in 1960. Ike exploited her talent, giving her the name “Tina” without her consent initially. Ike knew Tina was his goldmine and married her. The abuse began immediately. He would beat her with wire hangers, then force her to have sex. Tina felt loyal in spite of the beatings, felt sorry for Ike. Additionally, she was scared of him, and stayed with him out of fear. He controlled everything, the finances, the music, and the songs they sang. He also controlled all of Tina’s movements, beating her if he didn’t like what he saw.
Phil Spector initially gave Tina a chance to sing differently and kept Ike out of the studio. However, the first recording River Deep, Mountain High flopped, and damaged Spector’s career in the process. Tina stayed put with Ike out of necessity, but she now knew she could do more. They had 4 sons, 2 from Ike’s previous relationships, one from a brief romantic relationship of Tina’s (which the documentary glossed over), and one together. Ike kept her on a short leash, gave her a very small allowance, didn’t allow her to have friends, etc. Her son Carl described her as “always very sad” during that period.
Then they had a hit with Proud Mary, and Ike felt driven to be a bigger success. He also discovered a fondness for drugs during that period, which only exacerbated the couple’s relationship challenges. The couple’s four sons were maturing and noted that during this period they could hear the beatings and abuse that Tina was enduring. It was around this time, Tina attempted suicide by taking a bottle of sleeping pills. In watching Ike’s interviews, he is completely oblivious, a typical control freak who takes zero responsibility. He misguidedly saw himself as her “savior.”
After the suicide attempt, Tina turned to Buddhism, and credits that for helping save her. Ike could see he was losing control over Tina, and the beatings increased. But she started fighting back – then finally left him at a hotel in Dallas. She left on foot, sticking to alleys and running across a freeway to a Ramada Inn to seek shelter. A kind manager helped her and gave her a room for the night. Tina flew back to L.A. on the 4th of July, and that’s the day she also got her freedom. She got nothing in the divorce – no money, no house, no car, no royalties, but she did insist on getting her name, which she knew was priceless. Ike also stuck her with all the bills from the cancelled shows. Just to work at first, she did whatever it took – conventions, Vegas, TV shows, whatever she could make money from.
That’s when she met Roger Davies. She persuaded him reluctantly to come to a review show in San Francisco, and he was underwhelmed at first, but stayed for the second show and that’s when he saw the true “Tina” magic. He knew then he had to manage her. He immediately went to work changing her image, moving her away from the cabaret/Vegas type of shows that she had been performing.
He cut her hair, changed her wardrobe to a more rock and roll style, and put her to work. But they still couldn’t get her a record deal, until she publicly told the true Ike story. Once the magazine, People, told her story, her stock skyrocketed. John Carter from Capitol Records gave her a limited development deal, but he had to fight hard to get her a deal. The upper management didn’t want Tina on the label, but she proved herself once again.
With little to no support in the US, they took her show to England. At age 40, Tina blazed a new path for herself, and took no prisoners. Enter Terry Britten with demo songs, including What’s Love Got to Do with It. The demo itself was rough, but Davies was convinced that was the song she needed to do. He prevailed and in 1984, Tina hit the charts with the song she initially hated. The Private Dancer album took less than 3 weeks to complete and sold over 20 million copies worldwide.
Tina was a hit with audiences ages 7 to 70. Loved by millions, she sold out stadiums all over the world. As she herself said, “This wasn’t a ‘comeback’ album. This was my FIRST album. This was my real introduction as Tina. Tina had never arrived. After I left Ike, that was my debut. I don’t consider it (Private Dancer) a comeback album.”
Tina wasn’t content just to perform in concert. She also started acting, appearing in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. But try as she might, she still couldn’t shake the specter of Ike, and finally had to address the story once and for all. So finally, she wrote a book called “I Tina,” which became a massive success and spawned the hit movie “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” hoping to put it all to bed once and for all.
This documentary also does a deep dive into Tina’s early life prior to Ike. The film addressed her abandonment as a child by both her parents. It’s revealed that her father was abusive, and often beat her mother. Her mom left, then her dad left. Tina and siblings were forced to live with family members, and as a result, she never felt loved. Truly heartbreaking.
Then at the end, her current husband Erwin is introduced. What a gentleman. He is truly the love of her life. Ike Turner died in 2007, and Tina has since forgiven him, stating she now sees how very ill Ike actually was.
As a fellow survivor of physical marital abuse, this documentary struck several nerves with me. Tina and I walked the same path, with similar outcomes. Her resilience and fortitude really touched me. At times, you could feel the pain oozing from her words. But she is truly a survivor, and now she has that happy ending. This documentary was Tina’s closure, the final chapter of her public story. Her private life goes on, with her loving and devoted husband at her side.
Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected]