Hollywood Flashback: Tina Turner's Abuse by Husband Ike Made Headlines 40 Years Ago
As many in the recording industry rally behind Kesha, who is still embroiled in a lawsuit with producer Dr. Luke over alleged sexual assault, THR looks back at the volatile relationship between Tina and Ike Turner that included a broken jaw and bloody fight in a Las Vegas limousine.
This story first appeared in the March 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
The lawsuit between Kesha and Dr. Luke over alleged sexual assault and the record producer's control of the singer's career is unresolved, but it has brought the music industry's long history of abusive relationships into the news. None is better known than Ike and Tina Turner's. In her 1986 autobiography, I, Tina, the singer wrote about years of ill treatment that included a broken jaw and a bloody fight in a Las Vegas limousine that led her to finally leaving Ike in 1976. Her tale was turned into 1993's What's Love Got to Do With It, which earned Angela Bassett an Oscar nomination.
But the Disney/Touchstone film also earned her ex-husband (played by Laurence Fishburne) an everlasting reputation as a tyrannical spousal abuser. "They assassinated my career with that damn movie," Ike Turner once said. (He'd sold the rights to his depiction for $50,000 and used the money to fuel his cocaine addiction.) "The story about Ike abusing Tina reduced him to nothing more than a wife-beater in the public's estimation," says I, Tina co-author Kurt Loder. "But Ike was a key figure in R&B history as a musician, producer and talent scout." For example, at 19 he recorded 1951's "Rocket 88," which historians have called the first rock 'n' roll record.
After leaving Ike, Tina went on to make solo platinum records, played Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and had one of 2008's highest-grossing tours. Following his release from prison in 1991 after serving 17 months on drug charges, Ike made a comeback that included his 2006 Grammy-winning album Risen' With the Blues. Unfortunately, he also returned to his crack cocaine addiction. When he died in 2007 at 76, THR quoted Little Richard, who said at his memorial at Gardena's City of Refuge/Greater Bethany Community Pentecostal Church, "Stop holding this mess — whatever it is — against this man. Even Jesus forgives."
Tina, 76, now lives in Switzerland with her 60-year-old second husband, German record producer Erwin Bach. When Ike died, she made no comment, but in 2013 she told Oprah Winfrey that he "was smart. He wasn't an educated smart man but had common sense."