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Tina Turner’s farewell documentary

Tina Turner. PHOTO | AFP

Summary

  • Oprah Winfrey compares watching Tina Turner to being overcome with religious fervor.
  • As former band members interviewed for the documentary recall, there was hard work, sometimes performing up to four shows a night and Ike obsessively demanded perfection.

She is one of the most fascinating figures in the history of pop music, renowned for her husky voice, dazzling stage presence, stunning legs and huge hair.

How do you bow out of a career that has lasted more than 60 years, survived a violent marriage and produced a string of timeless anthems loved by fans of all ages around the world?

For Tina Turner, who is now 81, she tells her life story in a new documentary titled TINA (streaming on the US network HBO) which is a combination of brutally honest interviews about her life, recollections of those who have witnessed different chapters of the long journey interspersed with the trademark electrifying stage performances

“There are things you don’t want to say, but there comes a time when you have to say them,” she says at the beginning of the film.

She recounts how as a 17-year-old she struggled to get into Ike Turner’s band but he ignored her because he did not think she could sing. Her patience paid off and she was eventually recruited as a singer in the band leading to the first hit record “A Fool in Love” in 1960.

Ike, who was seven years older, married her in 1962, turned Annie Mae into Tina Turner, a name that rhymed with his favourite comic book character, Sheena Queen of Jungle. Ike and Tina Turner became one of the world’s most famous husband-and-wife R&B/soul music acts.

Oprah Winfrey compares watching Tina Turner to being overcome with religious fervor. “I remember watching her and saying ‘whatever that is, I want some of that,” she says in the documentary.

As former band members interviewed for the documentary recall, there was hard work, sometimes performing up to four shows a night and Ike obsessively demanded perfection.

Tina reveals details of going from the excruciating pain of beatings she endured from Ike and straight onto the stage for a show. “I felt obligated to stay there, I was loyal to Ike,” she says.

As a young girl in her early 20s, she was caught up in a mix of fear and guilt.

“After he beat me up, I would feel sorry for him,” she admits.

The film takes you back to 1981 when Tina for the first time publicly spoke about the violence, she suffered at the hands of her husband Ike, in an interview published by People Magazine.

In her words, she had lived 16 years with a man she knew she would never be happy with.

“I was living a life of death, I didn’t exist, but I survived,” she says.

Ike was domineering and controlled every aspect of her life and music. She describes recording the classic ‘River Deep Mountain High’ on her own with legendary producer Phil Spector, as the first time she got the freedom ‘like a bird that could sing a different type of song.’

The second part of the documentary features the family life of Tina, Ike and their four sons. As her late son Craig says in a previous interview “she was gone most of the time over eight years, eight months on the road, four months back.”

But she was a strict mother while she was home who insisted on respect for meal times and assigned chores.

In 1974, she met Valerie Bishop, a new secretary in the Turner music show, who introduced her to Buddhism, a turning point in her life. She was now confident enough to get up on stage, as we see in the film, and adlib in the middle of a performance about respect for women.

In 1976, Tina fled from the abusive Ike and when the divorce was finalised two years later, she left penniless but retained the most powerful asset in her opinion: the name, Tina Turner.

“To keep the name is to reclaim, reshape it, refine and a message to Ike ‘you gave me this name but watch what I build with it,”’ says Katori Hall, writer of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.”

The third part of the documentary is the Comeback and the fulfillment of Tina’s dream to pack stadiums like the Rolling Stones and other famous rock bands. “We looked a little shabby, but that is what rock and roll is,” says Tina Turner. “I was my own boss.”

Justice is served: Tina reinvents herself, tops the charts, wins Grammys, packs venues around the world, including in front of 186,000 people at a venue in Rio, Brazil.

Above all, she finds true love with her new husband, German music executive Erwin Bach.

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