Tina Turner's Timeline of Tragedies and Triumphs: An Abusive Marriage, Death of 2 Sons and More

Tina Turner died on Wednesday, with her rep telling ET she died peacefully after a long illness in her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland. She was 83.

The music icon experienced the highest of highs (from selling more than 100 million records worldwide to earning a Kennedy Center Honor and receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame) to the lowest of lows (she tried to kill herself to escape her abusive relationship with ex-husband Ike Turner, mourned the death of two of her sons and nearly died from kidney failure) while becoming a household name whose songs -- from "What's Love Got to Do With It" to "Proud Mary" -- have endured the test of time.

Over the course of her career, Tina released nine full-length studio albums, won a dozen GRAMMYs and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not once, but twice. ET takes a look back at some of the triumphs and tragedies she endured.

'Rolling Stone' history

Tina became the first woman to appear on the cover of the famed music magazine. She graced the cover for the Nov. 23, 1967 issue.

She divorced Ike in 1978

Ike and Tina first met in the late 1950s when he was 25 years old and she was just 17. According to Tina, it didn't take long before their relationship turned romantic -- or abusive. In a previous interview with Spin magazine, Ike said, "Yeah, I hit her, but I didn't hit her more than the average guy beats his wife... if she says I abused her, maybe I did."

Tina wrote her first autobiography, I, Tina, in 1986 but she shared even more dramatic details in her memoir, My Love Story, released in October 2018. In the book, she revealed she once tried to kill herself in an attempt to escape their tumultuous relationship.

"First, he was verbally abusive. Then, he picked up a wooden shoe stretcher. Ike knew what he was doing. If you play guitar, you never use your fists in a fight. He used the shoe stretcher to strike me in the head -- always the head,” Tina claimed in her memoir. "I was so shocked I started to cry. Ike ordered me to get on the bed. I hated him at that moment. The very last thing I wanted to do was make love, if you could call it that. When he finished, I laid there with a swollen head, thinking, ‘You're pregnant and you have no place to go. You really have gotten yourself into something now.'"

Tina couldn't take it anymore. She finally split from Ike in 1976 and they divorced in 1978. Their tumultuous relationship was at the center of the 1993 film, What's Love Got to Do With It, and the biographical musical, Tina - The Tina Turner Musical, opened on London's West End earlier this year.

Tina tried to kill herself 

"At my lowest, I convinced myself that death was my only way out. I actually tried to kill myself. I went to my doctor and told him I was having trouble sleeping. Right after dinner, I took all 50 of [the pills he gave me]," Tina wrote in her book, My Love Story. "I was unhappy when I woke up. But I came out of the darkness believing I was meant to survive."

Love at first sight

In 1986, Tina, 46 at the time, met German music executive Erwin Bach, 30, who was sent by her European record label to greet her at Düsseldorf Airport. And it was love at first sight. They would go on to date for 23 years before tying the knot in July 2013, when she was 73. Tina shared her first reaction to seeing Erwin in the 2021 HBO documentary, Tina.

"He had the prettiest face. It was like, 'Where did he come from?'" she recalled. "He was so good looking. My heart went ba-bum. It means that a soul has met. When he found out that I liked him, he came to America and we were in Nashville and I said to him, 'When you come to L.A. I want you to make love to me.' I thought that I could say that because I was a free woman. I didn't have a boyfriend. I liked him."

She also added, "He was just so different. So laid back. So comfortable. So unpretentious, and that was the beginning of our relationship."

Tina, in her 2020 book, Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good, also shared why her relationship with Erwin thrived.

Photo by Franziska Krug/Getty Images

"We grant each other freedom and space to be individuals at the same time we are a couple," she wrote. "Erwin, who is a force of nature in his own right, has never been the least bit intimidated by my career, my talents, or my fame. He shows me that true love doesn't require the dimming of my light so that he can shine. On the contrary, we are the light of each other's lives, and we want to shine as bright as we can, together."

She headlined the Super Bowl halftime show in 2000 

Tina performed at the halftime show in a Super Bowl that would go down as an instant classic, when the then-St. Louis Rams beat the Tennessee Titans in Atlanta in a final play where mere inches proved to be the deciding factor.

Tina retires at 69 

She told The New York Times in a 2019 profile that, when she was performing the final shows in 2009 of her "Tina! 50th Anniversary" tour (her 11th concert tour), she was actually fantasizing about redecorating her house in Switzerland. She told the outlet she didn't miss performing, and instead basked in unobstructed and breathtaking views of Lake Zurich.

"I was just tired of singing and making everybody happy," she told the outlet. "That’s all I’d ever done in my life."

In the HBO documentary, Tina, the singer and Erwin reveal that a trip to the U.S. for the Broadway premiere of Tina - The Tina Turner Musical, which ultimately earned 12 Tony Award nominations, was her one trip to bid adieu to her fans.

"She said, 'I'm going to America to say goodbye to my American fans and I'll wrap it up.' And I think this documentary and the play, this is it -- it's closure," Erwin said.

At this point, Tina had already written her memoirs and her story was told in the 1993 biopic, What's Love Got to Do With It, Angela Bassett portrayed Tina.

Her health struggles mounted, Erwin donated his kidney

Tina suffered a stroke in 2013, just weeks after she married Erwin.

"When I came back from my honeymoon, I was determined to find out what was causing a painful feeling in my chest," she told Oprah Winfrey in a 2018 interview. "I went to the hospital, and two days later, the stroke came. That was the beginning of the sickness."

In her memoir, My Love Story, Tina revealed that the stroke delivered such a "powerful blow" to the body that she "would have to work with a physiotherapist to learn how to walk again."

"In the hospital, I didn't believe that I couldn't walk," she told Oprah. "I said, 'Bull crap.' Then I stepped out of bed and flopped to the floor and said, 'Oh my God, what have I done?' But I wasn't depressed -- I was just determined to fix it."

Tina was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016, and when doctors told her that both of her kidneys were failing, the singer said she didn't become depressed. Instead, she resigned to the idea that her time had come.

"When the doctors said, 'Both kidneys are out,' I said, 'I guess it's my time to go,'" Tina told Oprah. "I was in my 70s. In my thinking, I'd lived long enough, and I didn't want to be on a machine for the rest of my life. My mother and sister were both gone."

Tina's kidneys were functioning at only 20 percent, and just when it seemed like there was no hope, Erwin swooped in just in time to save her life. Tina wrote in My Love Story that she was "shocked" Erwin would give up one of his kidneys.

"I wondered if anyone would think that Erwin's living donation was transactional in some way," she wrote. "Incredibly, considering how long we had been together, there were still people who wanted to believe that Erwin married me for my money and fame. What else would a younger man want with an older woman? Erin always ignored the rumors."

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Her oldest son dies in 2018

Craig Raymond Turner died on July 3, 2018. He was 59.

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Coroner's office told ET at the time that Craig was pronounced dead at his home in Studio City, California, at 12:58 p.m.

"The call was reported as a suicide, gun shot wound," the spokesperson continued. "The next of kin has been notified. There will be an autopsy done and there is an investigator at the scene."

Tina welcomed Craig with Kings of Rhythm saxophonist Raymond Hill in 1958, when she was just 18. She married Ike Turner four years later, in 1962, after which he adopted Craig.

Shortly after Craig's death, Tina took to Instagram and shared photos of her scattering Craig's ashes off a boat in California.

"My saddest moment as a mother," she captioned the devastating photo of her tossing a red rose into the water. "On Thursday, July 19, 2018, I said my final goodbye to my son, Craig Raymond Turner, when I gathered with family and friends to scatter his ashes off the coast of California."

She continued, "He was 59 when he died so tragically, but he will always be my baby."

She sold her catalogue for $50 million 

The music publishing company, BMG, announced in October 2021 it had "acquired an extensive portfolio of rights in the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, one of the greatest and best-loved artists in popular music history, Tina Turner. Working hand-in-hand with Tina Turner, BMG will maintain and develop her musical treasure-trove and safeguard her inspirational legacy."

According to Forbes, the deal was reported to be worth just over $50 million.

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Her second son, Ronnie, dies in 2022

Tina took to Instagram to speak out about Ronnie's death, who died of complications of metastatic colon carcinoma, a form of cancer.

"Ronnie, you left the world far too early," Tina wrote alongside a black-and-white photo of herself with her eyes closed. "In sorrow I close my eyes and think of you, my beloved son."

Afida Turner, Ronnie's wife, also took to Instagram to share the tragic news.

"I did the best to the end this time I was not able to save you," she wrote in part. "Love you for this 17 years this is very very very bad I am very mad this is a tragedy."

Tina is survived by her adopted sons, Michael and Ike Jr.


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