Ike Turner's Legacy As A Rock Pioneer Marred

Thursday, December 13th 2007, 8:06 am
By: News On 6

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Ike Turner managed to rehabilitate his image somewhat in the past few years, touring around the globe and drawing acclaim that included his first solo Grammy earlier this year.

But the 76-year-old's prodigious musical legacy was forever tarnished by his image as the drug-addicted, brutally abusive former husband of Tina Turner.

Turner, known with his ex-wife for such songs as ``River Deep, Mountain High'' and ``Proud Mary,'' died Wednesday at his suburban home. No cause of death was immediately given.

In interviews toward the end of his life, Turner acknowledged many mistakes, but said he still carried himself with pride.

``I know what I am in my heart. And I know regardless of what I've done, good and bad, it took it all to make me what I am today,'' he once told The Associated Press.

In her 1987 autobiography, ``I, Tina,'' Tina Turner narrated a harrowing tale of abuse, including suffering a broken nose.

Ike Turner was hauntingly portrayed by Laurence Fishburne in the movie ``What's Love Got To Do With It,'' based on Tina Turner's autobiography.

In a 2001 AP interview, he denied his ex-wife's claims of abuse and expressed frustration that he had been demonized in the media while his historic role in rock's beginnings had been ignored.

``You can go ask Snoop Dogg or Eminem, you can ask the Rolling Stones or (Eric) Clapton, or you can ask anybody _ anybody, they all know my contribution to music, but it hasn't been in print about what I've done or what I've contributed until now,'' he said.

Turner, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is credited by many rock historians with making the first rock 'n' roll record, ``Rocket 88,'' in 1951. Produced by the legendary Sam Phillips, it was groundbreaking for its use of distorted electric guitar.

``I see Ike Turner in the company of James Brown and Count Basie as being supremely gifted band leaders, and I say that with no sense of exaggeration,'' said Tom ``Papa'' Ray, who co-owns an independent music store in St. Louis and for 20 years has hosted a local blues and soul radio show.

Turner's profile grew after he met 18-year-old Anna Mae Bullock in 1959. He quickly made the husky-voiced woman the lead singer of his group, refashioning her into the sexy Tina Turner.

Tina Turner declined to comment on her ex-husband's death.

``Tina is aware that Ike passed away earlier today. She has not had any contact with him in 35 years. No further comment will be made,'' her spokeswoman, Michele Schweitzer, said Wednesday.

The pair, who had two sons, produced a string of hits with Ike Turner on guitar or piano. The first, ``A Fool In Love,'' was a top R&B song in 1959. Others included ``I Idolize You'' and ``It's Gonna Work Out Fine.''

Rolling Stone executive editor Joe Levy said such songs acted as musical representations of their personal relationship. ``He's the big, ominous voice. She's the passionate, emotional voice.''

Their densely layered hit ``River Deep, Mountain High'' was one of producer Phil Spector's proudest creations. A rousing version of ``Proud Mary,'' a cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit, became their signature song and won them a Grammy for best R&B vocal performance by a group.

Though they were known publicly as a powerful, dynamic duo, Tina Turner later said her husband was secretly an overbearing wife abuser and cocaine addict.

She said the cycle ended after a vicious fight between the pair in the back seat of a car in Las Vegas, where they were scheduled to perform. It was the only time she ever fought back against her husband, she said.

Ike Turner denied his ex-wife's claims of abuse, despite acknowledging in his 1999 autobiography, ``Takin' Back My Name,'' that he hit Tina. He denied in the book that the hitting amounted to beating.

After Tina and Ike Turner broke up, both fell into obscurity and endured money woes for years before Tina Turner made a dramatic comeback in 1984 with the release of the album ``Private Dancer,'' a multiplatinum success with hits such as ``Let's Stay Together'' and ``What's Love Got To Do With It.''

Ike Turner never again had the success he enjoyed with his former wife. After years of drug abuse, he was jailed in 1989 and served 17 months.

His career finally began to revive in 2001 when he released the album ``Here and Now.'' The recording won rave reviews and a Grammy nomination and finally helped shift some of the public's attention away from his troubled past and onto his musical legacy.

``His last chapter in life shouldn't be drug abuse and the problems he had with Tina,'' said Rob Johnson, the producer of ``Here and Now.''

Turner spent his later years making more music and touring, even while he battled emphysema. His songs were sampled by a variety of rap acts and he won a Grammy for ``Risin' With the Blues.''

Robbie Montgomery _ one of the ``Ikettes,'' backup singers who worked with Ike and Tina Turner _ said Turner's death was ``devastating'' to her. ``He gave me my start. He gave a million people their start,'' Montgomery said.