Review: ‘Tina’

By: 
Ben Miles

The career of and the cruelty in Tina Turner’s life is told in “Tina,” an HBO documentary currently streaming.

Not only do we become reacquainted with the strife and struggles faced by this one-of-a-kind talent  –  whose musical intelligence seems to have come to her as a natural gift and not enhanced through any formal training as a dancer or vocalist  –  we recognize and easily admire the strength of spirit Tina Turner needed to overcome and separate from her exploitive, perhaps even sadistic, first husband, the late Ike Turner.

Though retired since her final concert performance in 2009 and happily remarried to the erstwhile recording company executive Erwin Bach and now living in Zurich, the story of this “Queen of Rock ‘n Roll” reigns supreme in the annals of popular music history; her beginnings were modest, if that.

Tina was christened Anna Mae Bullock on her birthdate (November 26, 1939) in Brownsville, Tennessee and began her career with Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm in 1957. Using the moniker of Little Ann she made her initial recording called “Boxtop” in 1958. Two years later she recorded the hit single “A Fool in Love” under her newly acquired stage name Tina Turner.

It took a while to convince Ike to even listen to Little Ann but once his band mates succeeded in having Ike Turner to take a close look at Ann and her vocal and dancing abilities, Ike saw an opportunity to cash in on this rare talent. Given the ruthlessness that Ike had experienced in the music business he felt it necessary to become as cutthroat and controlling as he perceived the powers of the recording industry to be.

Ike’s relationship with Tina went from one of sibling-like mentorship to domineering husband to intolerant, unpredictable mad band manager.

In the middle of the 1970s Ike’s cocaine addiction was taking a mighty toll on his relationship with Tina. After signing a television contract with CBS-TV in 1976 Ike planned to end his arrangement with United Artists Records for a five year, $150, 000 annual commitment to Cream Records.

Soon afterward, however, Ike and Tina took a flight from Los Angeles to Dallas where they were bound to perform at the Dallas Statler Hilton. But the couple got into a vicious fight while traveling to the hotel. After arriving at the hotel, Tina escaped from from Ike and took refuge at a friend’s home. Shortly thereafter Tina filed for divorce, which was finalized in March of 1978.

In the 1980s Tina returned to music as a solo artist in what is considered among the greatest comebacks in the history of rock ‘n roll music. In 1984 the multiplatinum album, “Private Dancer” featured the mega-hit “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” which won the Grammy Award for record of the year. Having sold over 100 million records, Tina Turner has staked her claim and fame as one the best-selling recording artists ever.

What’s more, Tina Turner was the first Black recording artist (and the first female) to be on the cover of “Rolling Stone” magazine, which ranked her as one of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Additionally, Tina has been inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame (in 1991 along with Ike Turner) and in 2005 was recognized as a Kennedy Center Honoree.

“Tina” the documentary tells the unvarnished tale of Tina Turner’s unlikely life story. Co-directed by Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin, the film is not always cogent and could use some re-editing for the sake of sequence and clarity. Still, “Tina” is an inspiration suggesting that talent plus determination can go a long way toward overcoming obstacles and creating a memorable and meaningful life. “Tina” offers the Queen of Rock ‘n Roll as proof.

Director: Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin

Writer: Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin

Featuring: Angela Bassett, Tina Turner, Oprah Winfrey, Erwin Bach, Kurt Loder

Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.

Genre: Documentary, Biography, Music

Where: Currently streaming on HBO platforms

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