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Obituary: Ike Turner

Obituary by Jack Foley

IKE Turner, the US soul legend and former husband of Tina Turner, has died at the age of 76.

The singer passed away at his home near San Diego, California but no immediate cause of death has been given.

Ike Turner shot to fame in the 1960s but is often credited by some music historians as having written the first ever rock ‘n’ roll record, Rocket 88 in 1951 [which was performed by his band, The Kings of Rhythm and credited to Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats].

During the peak of his fame, he also formed a musical partnership with Tina Turner, whom he married, and who later accused him of abusing her.

In 1972, they won the first of Ike’s two Grammys for their cover of Proud Mary. His second came in February this year [2007], for Risin’ With The Blues, a record he completed after successfully rehabilitating his image.

Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1931, Ike developed a passion for music from an early age. He began life as a session guitarist and pianist and played with many renowned musicians of his day, including BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon.

He was also a singing coach to blues singer Janis Joplin, while guitar legend Jimi Hendrix was also a one-time member of his group, The Kings of Rhythm.

Ike met Tina Turner when she was an 18-year-old singer named Anna Mae Bullock and promptly signed her up to front his group, coaching and re-styling her voice to produce a string of hits, including A Fool in Love, I Idolize You, It’s Gonna Work Out Fine, River Deep Mountain High and Proud Mary.

But although their relationship began happily, it became defined by his drug-fuelled abusive treatment of her, which culminated in divorce in 1976. By the mid-1980s, Ike had lost his way and was imprisoned in California for drug-releated offences.

A 1993 film What’s Love Got To Do With It, based on Tina’s autobiography I, Tina, chronicled this period in their lives and starred Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett in the lead roles. But despite winning widespread critical acclaim, Ike insisted that much of the film’s portrayal of him was inaccurate.

Ike and Tina Turner were subsequently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, even though Ike was still in prison at the time.

The singer eventually overcame his personal troubles, however, to make a successful comeback in 2001 and, at the age of 70, he returned to the public eye with the release of the Grammy-nominated album Here & Now.

In 2007, he also won his second Grammy for Risin’ With The Blues despite suffering from the lung condition emphysema.

An official statement issued by Scott Hanover, from the performer’s management company, announced on December 13, 2007, that: “Ike Turner passed away this morning. He was at his home.”