“I have not had a good life. It has not been on many occasions, because the good news has not managed to balance the bad ”. Tina Turner’s confession at the beginning of rockumental that bears his name sets the tone for what will happen on screen during the (almost) two hours that follow. Directed by Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin, authors of Undefeated (Imbatidos), for which they won the Oscar in 2011 for best documentary, Tina It has been presented these days at the Berlinale and will hit theaters in the summer. We are talking about the intimate portrait of a megastar who overcame the hell of abuse her former husband subjected her to and who fought to redefine her career and her legacy on her own terms.
Dan Lindsay remembers by videoconference with ICON his first contact in 2018 with the volcanic vocalist in her mansion in Switzerland, where she has lived practically isolated for more than a decade. “We went to her home in Zurich and were having coffee with Erwin Bach, her current husband. She came down the stairs and blurted out: ‘A book has been published. A movie has been made. Now there is even a musical. How the hell are you going to make a documentary? ‘ It was one of those unique moments. We said, ‘Well, that’s what we’re here for.’ He laughed and we started talking. As soon as we had confidence, we made him understand that this was not a one-hour television docudrama, but a film in documentary format. It has been a two and a half year odyssey, but we have met an incredibly honest, warm and down-to-earth person. “
The film, divided into five non-chronological parts, is a narrative in several voices (Oprah Winfrey, Angela Bassett and Kurt Loder, who co-wrote his autobiography in 1986, parade through it. Yo, Tina) marked by the interview that the artist gave to People in 1981. The magazine, which at that time had 30 million readers, revealed in its December 7 issue the “torture” to which her husband had subjected her during their 16 years of marriage. “I lived a life of death. I did not exist. But I survived ”, admitted the singer there. According to Carl Arrington, the music editor of People and author of that interview, she confessed to him the abuse suffered by Ike Turner, “because he wanted to tell it and forget about it. But the opposite happened. That marked his career forever ”.
According to Lindsay, “she is still traumatized, as you can see in the film. It is something that he still feels very close to, that he still experiences in dreams and that every time he talks about it it is as if it happened to him again ”. His partner behind the camera, TJ Martin, chimes in: “Finding out that the past is still so present in his life was a surprise to me. How those conflicts remain even at 81 years old. And that’s something that we both saw from our first contacts. That was the main reason for making the film this way. ” Lindsay explains that, although they had total creative freedom, “we were also aware that we should not do precisely what we wanted to point out. That is, to re-traumatize her. Especially when we learned that we were going to have access to all the interviews that Kurt Loder conducted for his book and the tapes of his meeting with People”.
A story that started too long ago
Tina Turner (Brownsville, Tennessee, 1939), born Anna Mae Bullock, is the youngest of three sisters in a peasant family. His father, who worked as a supervisor on a cotton plantation, always had an abusive relationship with his wife. Fed up with the beatings, the mother disappeared from home when she was 11 years old and the three sisters had to go live with their grandmother. At 16 he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he began to frequent local music clubs. There he discovered Ike Turner leading his band, The Kings Of Rhythm. He was a rock’n’roll pioneer who in 1951 had recorded Rocket 88, one of the first themes of the genre. In 1957 he joined his group as a vocalist thanks to an overwhelming voice full of sensuality, far from the innocent pop hymns of Motown that were successful at the time. Ike decides to change the name of his new singer and, incidentally, add his own surname. Thus, the duo Ike & Tina Turner debuts with A fool in love in 1960. There a fruitful artistic relationship began, which soon became sentimental as well. In the end they get married.
While the couple maintains an infernal rhythm of live shows (up to four a day) and publishes a good handful of torrid singles, in privacy the first mistreatments begin. Even so, they married in 1962. From their meeting in 1966 with producer Phil Spector comes a classic like River Deep – Mountain High, Posted on Philles, the producer’s stamp. It was the first song in which he escapes from the creative marital yoke and feels full freedom to do something different. Perhaps that is why her husband is dedicated to putting the song to broth throughout the promotion. “It’s not a black record,” he grumbled in one of those interviews, before Tina’s stunned gaze.
In 1968 she has already started using sleeping pills to help her fall asleep, but one night she takes the entire bottle of Valium. “I never knew how he felt,” Ike said in a 2000 interview, cynically defining his wife’s suicide attempt as “a way to get attention. I guess he wasn’t happy with what I was doing: being a womanizer, hanging out with others and that kind of thing. ” In 1971, your version of Proud Mary Creedence’s Clearwater Revival becomes the duo’s biggest hit. Craig Turner, Tina’s first child, tells in the documentary how in the late 1960s and early 1970s his parents went on tour for eight months in a row and only appeared at their Los Angeles home four months a year. “Nobody knew what was happening in that couple. I was very loyal. It was dedicated to him. Although there was no longer love, “she explains in the tape. The popularity of Proud Mary puts more pressure on Ike, who is looking for a new hit at all costs stimulated by the cocaine that he has started to consume frequently.
Thanks to Buddhist teachings, a creed she had just adopted, Tina decides in 1976 that what was given is over. After suffering the umpteenth beating on the way to the Hilton hotel in Dallas, where they have to perform that night, they both go up to the room and, taking advantage of the fact that he falls asleep, she takes his hand luggage, goes out the door and never comes back. . When she wakes up away from him the next morning, it is July 4, her “liberation day.”
With the divorce in 1978 he renounces everything, except for his stage name, which he could have used otherwise, replacing her in the group with another vocalist. After the sentence, he begins a long pilgrimage through Las Vegas casinos and all kinds of television programs, food jobs that serve to pay the debts incurred with the promoters of his last tour, canceled after the scare of Dallas. Converted into an unexpected disco diva (half cabaret, half nostalgic show), she finds her salvation in Roger Davies, the new manager she hired in 1979. Tina wants to be the first female rock artist to fill stadiums like The Rolling Stones do. And he knows the way to achieve it. “It was the first time that I controlled my own shows. I was my own boss, ”she recalls.
But in the industry nobody wants to know anything about her. In the early eighties, “anyone you asked thought he was still with him,” recalls Davies, who is the one who recommends that you air in People the tragedy of their marriage. “Our generation was the first to break the silence,” Oprah Winfrey says in the film. In 1984, Capitol agrees to publish its first album, Private dancer. There is a version of What’s love got to do with it, a composition that he does not like too much and that he records reluctantly. “I was rock’n’roll. And that was a pop song, “he says. To everyone’s surprise, the album ends up selling ten million copies worldwide and she becomes the global superstar she always wanted to be. Massive performances arrive (180,000 people in Rio de Janeiro, for example), multiplatinum LPs like Break every rule (1986) and papers in blockbusters What Mad Max: Beyond the Thunder Dome (1985). It’s everywhere, even in the Pepsi ads alongside David Bowie.
At the peak of his career, journalists keep asking about Ike, so in 1986 he decides to write his autobiography, Yo, Tina. “Every time I speak the subject comes up again. It’s like a curse ”, he exclaims in a promotional session. Reliving the horror she suffered, many women dare to break free, but she is continually reminiscing about the worst moments of her life. A woman punished to confess her mistreatment in loop. “That is the main paradox we wanted to explore,” explains TJ Martin. Seeking to get away from him, she dared to tell the truth about her marriage, which ironically tied herself even more, as she had to carry that pain with her throughout her solo production. Honestly, we don’t have the answer to this contradiction. We wanted to highlight this issue, especially in the times we are living in. ” Dan Lindsay, his co-director, is of the same opinion. “It is very difficult to stop the cycle of abuse. Many times, the way we act in our relationships is learned behavior. And the same thing happens with the cycle of trauma ”.
Tina’s fate changed completely when in 1986 she met Erwin Bach, a young record executive who had been sent by his company to pick her up at Heathrow airport, with whom she began dating after a few months. After almost three decades of engagement, they were married in Zurich in 2013, the same year that she received Swiss citizenship. Bach himself, who is also the film’s executive producer, affirms at the end of the film: “This documentary is a closure.” A kind of visual testament dedicated to his son Craig, who committed suicide in 2018. “I think it’s kind of an extension of Tina herself, raising the question of how to end,” says Martin. “She retired from the stage in 2009, however – he continues – this work goes beyond her stage presence: it is her saga, her history, her legacy. But never trust Tina. He has a brutal energy and who knows if one day he will return to the stage. Although the idea is that he wants to stop being a focus of attention ”.
Martin assures that she has already approved the film. “We were obviously very nervous when we showed him the result, because there were a couple of moments of doubt on his part due to his past experiences.” It refers to Turner’s refusal to see What’s love got to do with it, the biographical film about her life starring Angela Bassett in 1993 and released in Spain with the same name as this documentary, Tina. “At that time, I had no desire to relive that pain again. And we didn’t want to create another circumstance now that would cause him emotional distress. So when she felt ready, she saw it. They have told us that they liked it, that they found it authentic and accurate. For us that is the best compliment ”. And Lindsay adds. “He also commented that surprisingly it had not been as difficult to see as he expected.”
After 100 million copies sold and 12 Grammy Awards, it could be said that Tina Turner has only begun to overcome the trauma at 81 years old and after the death of her abuser in 2007. “For a long time I hated Ike – acknowledges in the documentary -. When he died I realized that he was sick. I have had a life of abuse and there is no other way to tell the story. Thats the reality. And I have to accept it ”.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.