“This documentary and the musical…. this is it,” says Erwin Bach, husband of the legendary Tina Turner.
Indeed, all expectations are that Tina is the final withdrawal from public life for the 81 year old singer (in truth her recent years have been largely private).
But she does sit down for an on-camera interview in this doco, which was recorded in 2019. There is rare photography of Turner at home in Zurich, Switzerland as she reflects on her tumultuous life… all the rises and falls, her enduring spirit, blazing energy and global success.
Directors Dan Lindsay, T.J. Martin (Dogs, LA 92, I Am Dying) are granted privileged access to Turner for this retrospective documentary. Divided into chapters – Ike & Tina, Family, Comeback, The Story, Love- it includes interviews with family, band members, management, journalists, songwriters and producers.
“It wasn’t a good life. It was in some areas but the good does not balance out the bad,” Turner admits.
She refers, of course, to the domestic violence she suffered at the hands of husband and music partner Ike Turner. It’s been documented before -notably in a People magazine interview in 1981 and dramatised in 1993’s semi-autobiographical film What’s Love Got to Do with It? (starring Angela Bassett). For better or worse, it is a chapter tied inextricably to Turner’s life and for whatever success she forged as a solo act, it has followed her in interviews -including here. This is largely because her frank admission was a watershed moment for so many, particularly black women. If Tina could overcome it, there is light at the end of the tunnel for others…
But it is a paradox for Turner, who is never comfortable being repeatedly dragged back to the “Ike” chapter in her life.
“She wanted to tell it and forget it. But it didn’t work out that way,” People’s Carl Arrington says of his 1981 interview.
That chapter included regular beatings by Ike Turner, with a shoe stretcher, coat hangers, “then he would screw me… and then he would make me go back on stage.” Turner suffered in silence, putting on a show on stage, raising children but being subjected to abuse.
“I was living a life of death. I didn’t exist. But I survived it,” she says.
There were suicide attempts, but an introduction to Buddhism led to “a way out….the more you chant the more you become liberated, mentally.”
She details her escape from his power one night in Dallas in 1976 and subsequent divorce in which he got all the assets -but she got the name ‘Tina Turner’ he had created, and started over.
As she worked from Vegas to TV appearances (watch for The Brady Bunch Variety Hour & Hollywood Squares), she met former Sherbet manager Aussie Roger Davies who undertook her dream: being the first black female to fill stadiums. It would not come easily with record companies uninterested in a middle-aged performer trying to sing Rock in radio focussed on R&B, Pop, Country.
Another Aussie, songwriter Terry Britten would prove instrumental in co-writing What’s Love Got to Do with It? (originally for Bucks Fizz) in London, flew to #1 and reignited her career. The Private Dancer album, recorded in just 2 weeks, went on to sell 20 million albums.
Footage of Turner in performance, whether as a young rising star or seasoned veteran, is electric. Her raw energy spills off the stage, her voice arrests the soul, the catalogue of songs is iconic, her life force is undeniable.
The doco concludes with the opening of Broadway musical Tina, directed by Mamma Mia’s Phyllida Lloyd. Tina turns up for opening night with husband Erwin Bach and Oprah Winfrey on each arm, to standing ovations.
A closing rendition of John Farnham’s Help will give you goosebumps. What a woman. I’m so grateful to have seen her perform live and bask in her energy.
Tina airs 11am Sunday on Foxtel Movies Premiere (repeat 8:30pm).