Rich, free and in control: the 'foreign affairs' of Tina Turner
Ebony, Nov, 1989 by Lynn Norment
Rich, Free And In Control
TINA Turner is 50 years old, but you can't tell her age by looking at her clear, wrinkle-free complexion or her famous high-stepping legs. You get no indication of age from her energetic performances. Of from the sensuous, husky, honey voice that fires the imagination of young rock 'n' roll fans and their conservative fathers as well.
Rock music's queen diva defies age, nature and the odds by looking as good as ever and continuing to turn out hit songs. Her newest album, Foreign Affair, marks Tina's return to the limelight after a 12-month retreat from the public view. Most of that time was spent in Europe, where she has a new home in London, a new German boyfriend who is almost 20 years younger, and ahost of loyal fans who treat her like royalty.
Finally, she is rich, free and in control of her life and career, having made a remarkable comeback from being the penniless, battered wife of musician Ike Turner to a solo success, a wealthy woman who must be reckoned with on her own terms.
To her credit are four successful solo albums, four Grammy Awards and a string of worldwide concert tours that literally had her performing on every single continent to sold-out crowds. In addition, Tina now appears in TV ads for Chrysler Corp.'s 1990 Plymouth line of automobiles. It is her first time doing a national advertising campaign. "I'm much more secure, more in charge of my career," she now says with confidence.
On the Foreign Affairs LP, tina also takes her first production and arranging credit for work on "The Best," the album's first single, and "Look Me In The Heart." "I've always selected my songs, but this is the first time that I've had any control in the recording studio," she says, adding that the album also includes a couple of down-home blues songs for those fans who have complained that she has deserted her blues roots for the more racy rock 'n' roll crossover hits.
The album, which was recorded in New York, London and Paris earlier this year, was truly a foreign affair, especially since it reflects the works of several British producers and writers. But the title could speak to other aspects of this superstar's life as well. Her manager and good friend, Roger Davies, is Australian, and she credits her loyal European fans with helping her get her life and career back on track after the breakup of her long-time marriage.
But more than any of these references, Foreign Affair could allude to her three-year-old relationship with record company executive Erwin Bach, who works for EMI Germany.
She says she had known the 32-year-old Bach (who is not much older than her adult sons, Craig and Ron) for two years and "felt I seriously like this person" before she invited him to her house in London for dinner. "Some kind of way, the chemistry just happened and we have been together for three years," she says. "He's young. He's European. He's very adult for his age. And the relationship is a very healthy one. It's not restricting; it's not demanding, and we still live our own lives."
For the past year, life for Tina has focused on sharing time with Bach while house-hunting all over Europe and finally settling, though only temporarily, in a fashionable townhouse that covers six floors in London's ritzy Notting Hill Gate district. She eventually wants to find the right estate--with a large house and spacious grounds -- in Germany. In the meantime, she has been taveling the world, taking in the sights of Cairo, Paris and Brazil. She also has spent time working in Bach's garden and making changes to the bachelor's London home.
Is this the same Tina Turner whose stage performances over the past 30 years have defined shaking and shimmying for successive generations? As Tina herself admits, there is another side to her sexy stage persona: the down-to-earth woman who would rather be identified with elegance and class rather than raunch and sex.
"In a strange kind of way," she says, "I've always been embarrassed about sex. I guess no one would ever think of me as shy. I rarely use profanity. Sometimes I'm shocked by what people say. I don't want to say raunchy things because I think, psychologically, I really don't want that as an image. Raunchiness is what I do best, I suppose, and I enjoy it, but I have limitations."
Throughout her life and career, the dynamic entertainer has proven that she can stretch the bounds of her limitations.
From 1958 to 1976, Tina and her career were controlled by her former husband, Ike. Starting with the chittlin' circuit and working their way to grand concert halls, the Ike and Tina Turner Revue gained considerable acclaim with such hits as "Proud Mary," "River Deep," "I Want To Take You Higher" and "Come Together." She was 16, naive and had recently moved from a Nutbush, Tenn., farm to St. Louis, Mo., when she first met Ike in the mid '50s. According to her autobiography, after years of physical and emotional abuse, Tina broke away from ike in 1976, after he beat her for what would be the last time and fell asleep. Tina says she literally ran for her life with only 36 cents in her pocket, leaving behind all her personal belongings.
However, that's a painful past she'd like to forget, for the memories still cause anxiety and nightmares. Moving on with her life, she steadily rebuilt her career, performing in small clubs across the country, barely breaking even every night. She then went to London, where she was delighted to discover that she was still enormously popular. She performed extensively in Europe from the mid-'70s to 1980, earning a reputation as rock 'n' roll's hardest-working woman. In 1980, she returned to the U.S. as a solo performer and landed on the same bill with such rock stars as Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones.
Her version of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" was a big hit in Great Britain. In the U.S., the single became the No. 1 dance record and rose to No. 3 on the R&B charts.
That triumph compelled Capitol Records to rush Tina into the studio in 1984 and release her most successful solo LP, Private Dancer, which has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide. It also encouraged the entertainer to embark upon a triumphant world tour that packed arenas and stadiums, often in cities where she had previously played in small clubs. The Private Dancer LP won her four Grammy Awards in 1985, including "Record Of The Year" for What's Love Got To Do With It. In 1986, she released the multi-platinum Break Every Rule LP and her autobiography, I Tina. Her 1987-88 world tour, which she insists was her last, included 220 concerts in 25 countries over a period of 18 months. In Brazil, she performed for a throng of 182,000 fans, one of the largest concert crowds on record.
In the notes for her Tina Live In Europe album, the entertainer reflects on one of her favorite countries, West Germany. "We began [the tour] where we eventually ended -- in West Germany, a country which has long been very special for me," she writes. "I never lost my audience in Germany during those years after the Ike and Tina Revue and before the success of Private Dancer. I could always rely on the German people to come to my shows."
She also tells of the compassion demonstrated by her Swedish fans when she became too ill with a sinus infection to go on stage. "When the promoter went on stage to break the news, the people actually applauded and cheered with understanding," she recalls. "They sent cards, letters and flowers, and when we did go back, we actually played to a bigger crowd."
During an interview, Tina speaks of the "magic" and "energy" of Europe, of the "manners" and the "lifestyle." She says that in London, the fans "don't bother you quite as much. If they do, they sort of do it discreetly. I have a bit more freedom there, being an entertainer. I'm treated like a celebrity, yes, because of my success there, but at a distance, and nicely. I like it."
By contrast, she says she can't walk the streets of Milan, Italy, any more than she can those in New York City. "They're crazy," she says, good naturedly, of her Italian fans. "They chased me back to the hotel with a camera. You can't do anything unless you stop to have an autograph session. In London, I can walk the streets, I can shop by cr. . .with few people bothering me."
But Tina emphasizes that she loves her fans and refuses to let a few overly exuberant ones keep her from enjoying her life, from going to movies, dinner, shopping. "I don't want to lose my freedom," she says. "You can't stop going out, you can't become a prisoner to your career. If you do, you become a drug adict or something. I get in the streets. I put my hair in a braid or wear a hat, and I deal with speaking to people. Sometimes it makes them happy, sometimes it really makes someone's day. And that feels nice because you know you've given someone a lift."
Tina credits her religion of 13 years, Buddhism, with giving her life a lift and keeping her perspective calm. "In Buddhism, you develop yourself, make decisions yourself," she says, explaining her self-assurance. "You make changes yourself rather than someone else advising you or telling you. . . . It's a very strong practice in that sense. it helps you make decisions because you become a different person."
When asked how she maintains her youthful good looks, she says: "It comes from getting up early, working hard, sweating on stage for years, and the dancing and the traveling." She emphasizes that proper diet and exercises are important for her as they are for anyone concerned about good health. She no longer eats the heavy foods she grew up eating in Tennessee, she says, but prefers "clean foods," such as simply cooked vegetables and broiled meats. "The only vice I have is coffee," she says.
She credits her clear, wrinkle-free complexion to "good genes," but adds that the fact that she shuns drugs, drinks only a little white wine and makes an effort to sweat out impurities -- either on stage, in a sauna or by holding her face over a bowl of hot water -- enhances nature's gift.
Even though Tina insists that she'll never tour again, her performing career is far from over. Her goal now is to secure acting roles, either in movies or in a television series. Though she had the option of portraying herself in the upcoming Disney movie on her life, she decided that reliving the memories of her life with Ike would be too painful for her. However, she is acting as crative consultant for the film project. Her Aunty Entity role in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome was ideal, she says, because it was a portrayal of a strong, powerful woman. She doesn't want comedy or sex roles. "I want to deal with some kind of war, with the physical strength in a woman," she says. "It is my personality; it's how I am."
Considering the numerous other obstacles this rock 'n' roll queen has overcome during her life, it is a safe bet that she'll get some choice acting roles in the future. "I'm working on making it happen," she says. "With what I have done already, I am pleased, and that is my attitude about my life . . . I have a fantastic manager. I'm more involved in my work, and i have secured myself financially, and my family, and I have a boyfriend. So, that's all I need at the moment."
COPYRIGHT 1989 Johnson Publishing Co.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group