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Simply the best: Global superstar Tina Turner dies aged 83



Tina Turner, the Queen of Rock n Roll, has died aged 83.

One of the greatest entertainers of all time, Turner died in Switzerland a spokesperson announced.

"Tina Turner, the 'Queen of Rock'n Roll' has died peacefully today at the age of 83 after a long illness in her home in Kusnacht near Zurich, Switzerland," the statement said.

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"With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model."

Known for her powerful, gravelly vocals, explosive stage presence, and fierce mane of hair, Turner made one of the greatest comebacks in musical history and became a symbol of female empowerment, sensuality and resilience.

The legendary singer sold more than 200 million records and won 12 Grammys in a career that spanned more than five decades and produced a catalogue of hit songs including 'River Deep (Mountain High)', 'What's Love Got To Do With It' and 'The Best'.

In Australia, Turner was adored for her seemingly endless succession of radio hits, a blockbuster movie role, a bizarre dance craze and as the unlikely face and voice of rugby league.

From Nutbush to the world

Born Anna Mae Bullock in Brownsville, Tennessee on November 26, 1939, Turner grew up on a sharecropping farm in nearby Nutbush with her parents Zelma and Floyd Bullock and her two older sisters.

Tina Turner

When Turner was 11, her mother left the family fleeing domestic abuse, and Turner was sent to live with her grandmother, only reuniting with her mother later in life.

As a teenager, she immersed herself in the rhythm and blues scene in St Louis, Missouri, where she met Ike Turner and began performing with his band.

The Ike and Tina Turner Revue had a hit of string singles including 'A Fool in Love', 'Proud Mary', and 'Nutbush City Limits'.

The pair were married in 1962.

By then, Turner was a mother to four boys, including Craig, her eldest biological son for an earlier relationship; Ronnie, her son with Ike; and two of Ike's children, which she adopted.

Turner divorced Ike in 1978 citing years of physical violence and infidelity.

One of the greatest pop comebacks of all time

From a difficult childhood and an abusive marriage, Turner would rise like a phoenix, finding success as a solo performer in the early 1980s with the help of Australian Roger Davies who became her business manager.

Her only No. 1 Billboard 100 hit, 'What's Love Got To Do With It' was released in 1984, and won Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Female Vocal Performance.

By the late 1980s, when Aussie rock bands like INXS and Midnight Oil were taking pub rock to the world, Turner had made Australia her second home.

She became a regular fixture on prime time television and starred alongside Mel Gibson in the 1985 film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

Around the same time, the iconic 'Nutbush' line dance, having emerged seemingly from nowhere, cemented itself in 'Aussie' culture, and is still performed in primary schools, at wedding receptions and Christmas parties, despite Turner having never performed the dance herself.

Making rugby league sexy

But her enduring image in the collective memory of many Australians is her appearance, red-lipped and wild-haired, on the NRL's 1989 ad campaign singing 'What You Get Is What You See', interspersed with clips of ruggedly handsome football players wearing stubbies.

The following year, another campaign featuring her new hit 'The Best' completed the league's transformation from a hyper-masculine working-class sport to a family-friendly game that women were suddenly clamouring to watch.

Speaking on Tina Turner: The Best Is Yet To Come, Dick Marks, who directed the 'Simply the Best' commercial, said, "she just embodied the spirit of rugby league, the physicality of rugby league and the passion of rugby league".

A duet version of the song with Australian rocker Jimmy Barnes followed soon after.

The iconic song and commercial remain instantly recognisable, seared into the memory of anyone older than three at the time.

"I have so many happy connections to Australia – my concerts, filming Mad Max and the Nutbush City Limits line dance always makes me smile," Turner told the Herald Sun in 2021.

"But becoming the voice of the NRL, that was truly an honour, then and now."

In 1990, Turner released her greatest hits album 'Simply the Best'. The biopic 'What's Love Got To Do With It' was released in 1993, although Turner had minimal involvement.

She toured the world several times throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, before officially retiring from performing in 2009 after completing 'Tina! The 50th Anniversary Tour' in 2008.

In 2013, Turner gave up her American passport and became a citizen of Switzerland, where she lived until her death.

Her autobiography My Love Story was released in 2018.

Turner's list of accolades is long, and includes a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and St Louis Walk of Fame, and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a duo with Ike in 1991 and then as a solo artist in her own right in 2021.

'Tina: The Tina Turner Musical', for which Turner was an executive producer, came to the stage in Sydney this month (May), direct from Broadway.

Speaking with Phyllida Lloyd, the musical's British director, Turner spoke of her reasons for being involved in the production.

"I don't need a musical. I don't need another show. But I get cards and letters, you can't believe what people think about me, the legacy that I left.

"People say that I gave them hope.

"I meant so much to people, I have to pass that on."

Turner's eldest son Craig died by suicide in 2018. Ronnie died of complications from cancer in 2022.

She is survived by her husband, music producer Erwin Bach.

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