Book ex­tract: Tina Turner’s love story

In this ex­tract from her siz­zling new mem­oir, rock god­dess Tina Turner of­fers an in­ti­mate glimpse into how she fell in love with her sec­ond, much younger hus­band – and how he gave her the gift of life by do­nat­ing his kid­ney to her

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MY WED­DING day could not have been more per­fect or spec­tac­u­lar – and no one minded a bit that the bride was aged 73. I’d or­gan­ised the whole thing my­self, and that in­cluded im­port­ing more than 100 000 ­roses to be­deck the grounds of our home in Switzer­land.

As friends gath­ered, sip­ping cham­pagne on that glo­ri­ous day in July 2013, the air was filled with the most won­der­ful scent. A lot of thought had gone into my choice of wed­ding mu­sic. If you lis­ten to Frank Si­na­tra’s My Way, the words fit my life per­fectly: “The record shows I took the blows / And did it my way.”

I had to have that one! De­spite my fa­mously abu­sive first mar­riage, to Ike Turner, I’d man­aged to find love be­yond my wildest dreams. It was only as we gath­ered for pho­to­graphs that I started to feel a lit­tle funny. It must be the heat, I thought, or the dress – an Ar­mani con­fec­tion of green taffeta, black silk tulle and Swarovski crys­tals that was get­ting heav­ier by the minute.

In fact, that funny turn was the first sign of a hellish or­deal to come . . . a night­mare that would end only when my dear hus­band Er­win of­fered me the ul­ti­mate gift. The gift of life it­self.

Er­win and I’d first met 28 years be­fore. At the time I was trav­el­ling the globe with my Pri­vate Dancer Tour, which left me with very lit­tle time for a per­sonal

life. Not that I ever had a lot of boyfriends – I spent my en­tire youth with Ike and, af­ter my di­vorce, dat­ing was of­ten more trou­ble than it was worth. In any case, I was never one of those women who had to have sex no mat­ter what. To be hon­est, I’d some­times gone up to a year with­out it.

That par­tic­u­lar week in 1985, the next date on my tour was in Cologne, Ger­many. As my man­ager, Roger, and I flew into the city, I was tired and a lit­tle down, think­ing of the gru­elling sched­ule ahead.

We were walk­ing through the air­port when a young man stepped out from be­hind a col­umn to greet us. I thought he might be a fan but Roger greeted him warmly. Er­win Bach, an ex­ec­u­tive from EMI, my record com­pany in Europe, had turned up to de­liver a sur­prise gift to me from Roger – a new Mercedes jeep, the hard-to-get G-Wagon. But the real sur­prise wasn’t the car, it was the man.

My heart sud­denly started to beat BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, drown­ing out all other sounds. My hands were ice-cold. So this is what they call love at first sight, I thought. Oh my God, I’m not ready for this.

Roger hopped into a wait­ing limou­sine, while I got into the G-Wagon with Er­win so he could tell me all about it while driv­ing me to the ho­tel. I stud­ied his pro­file. He was young – about 30, I guessed – and he was very pretty, al­though not in a con­ven­tional way. Dark hair, re­ally great hands. There’s some­thing about a man’s hands.

Sud­denly I felt very in­se­cure about my own looks. I was 46, di­vorced and the mother of two sons and two step­sons, all of whom were now prac­ti­cally men them­selves.

What was go­ing through Er­win’s mind? Later, much later, I found out that he’d felt the same in­ex­pli­ca­ble elec­tri­cal charge. When he looked at me, he said, he didn’t see the “star”, or my skin colour or any other de­tails. He just saw a very de­sir­able woman.

In the G-Wagon our con­ver­sa­tion was a lit­tle strained. We man­aged to chat halt­ingly about the dash­board and other in­nocu­ous sub­jects un­til we got to the ho­tel. Af­ter say­ing good­bye I threw my­self on my ho­tel bed, and thought: “Gosh, he’s won­der­ful. Re­ally won­der­ful. What do I do now?”

AS it hap­pened I saw Er­win again at a cou­ple of din­ners or­gan­ised by EMI. On the sec­ond oc­ca­sion we were sit­ting next to each other. I said to my­self: I don’t care – I’m just go­ing to ask him. “Er­win,” I whis­pered, “when you come to Amer­ica I want you to make love to me.”

He turned his head slowly and just looked at me as if he couldn’t be­lieve his ears. I couldn’t be­lieve what I’d said ­ei­ther!

Later, he told me he’d never been propo­si­tioned by a woman. His first thought was: “Wow, those Cal­i­for­nia girls are real­ly wild.” But I wasn’t wild. I’d never done any­thing re­motely like that be­fore. I didn’t recog­nise my­self.

Even­tu­ally, Er­win did come to Los ­An­ge­les – on busi­ness – and I met him again at an­other din­ner. I in­vited ev­ery­one back to my house after­wards and that’s when our real ro­mance be­gan.

Mu­sic was play­ing, the other guests drifted away, the kiss­ing be­gan and we kissed all the way to the bed­room. Er­win stayed with me that night.

The next morn­ing he was sched­uled to go to Hawaii on a busi­ness trip. I thought about him con­stantly for two days – and then he called, ca­su­ally men­tion­ing that his trip had been can­celled. He’d been a few kilo­me­tres away in Mal­ibu the whole time, hang­ing out with his col­leagues, and hadn’t thought to tell me. I tried to stay cool, but in­side I was fu­ri­ous.

A few months passed. I ran into Er­win again while I was pro­mot­ing Pri­vate Dancer in Basel, Switzer­land, and all my feel­ings came roar­ing back. I’d rented a house in Gs­taad for the hol­i­days so I in­vited him and some other peo­ple from EMI to visit. And one night Er­win turned up alone, wear­ing a funny lit­tle Ger­man

(Turn over)

‘Gosh, he’s won­der­ful. Re­ally won­der­ful. What do I do now?’

(From pre­vi­ous page) hat and ex­ud­ing a mas­culin­ity that I found ir­re­sistible.

By the end of the evening I’d made up my mind to pack up and move in with him. From now on, wher­ever Er­win was would be my home. Thus be­gan my love story with a man who was 16 years younger than me. But that was never an is­sue in my mind, then or now.

The world may view Er­win as Tina’s “younger man” but the truth is that, at heart, he’s re­ally 60 and I’m 16. He’s al­ways been an old soul. And he’s much more ma­ture than I am: he thinks ahead and ex­er­cises cau­tion, while I’m more likely to leap with­out look­ing.

In any case, at 46 I didn’t look older than Er­win who was 30. And I don’t look older than him to­day. I never think about the age dif­fer­ence. I don’t even feel I need to work at look­ing pretty in bed – I’m past that. What’s love got to do with it? A lot!

So I made the right de­ci­sion when I packed my 10 Louis Vuit­ton suit­cases and headed for Er­win’s two-roomed apart­ment near Cologne. It con­tained a great sound sys­tem, I no­ticed, but not much else.

When I got to know Er­win a lit­tle bet­ter, I learnt that “min­i­mal­ist” is his mid­dle name: he hates stuff. Me, I’ll cover ev­ery sur­face with books, can­dles, pho­to­graphs, pot­pourri, any­thing to add per­son­al­ity.

De­spite the vast dif­fer­ence in our dé­cor tastes I was head-over-heels in love with Er­win. For the first time I felt that I was truly in a re­la­tion­ship. This is how it’s sup­posed to be, I told my­self.

In 1989 when I was about to turn 50 he pro­posed. But I wasn’t cer­tain how I felt about mar­riage. Mar­riage can change things and, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, not al­ways for the bet­ter.

For the next few years we spent a lot of time to­gether in Cologne and in a house that I bought in the South of France. Then in 1995, when Er­win was asked to run the EMI of­fice in Switzer­land, I ac­com­pa­nied him like a good Ger­man Frau. We moved into an old-fash­ioned villa on Lake Zurich called the Château Al­go­nquin, where we still live to­day.

In 2008 I em­barked on my 50th An­niver­sary tour, which cel­e­brated my half cen­tury as a singer. I was ex­cited to get back to work but I no­ticed that I wasn’t as en­er­getic as I used to be.

True, I was 69, and on a de­mand­ing in­ter­na­tional tour. Plus I had high blood pres­sure, for which I’d been tak­ing med­i­ca­tion since 1985. Was that why it was tak­ing ev­ery drop of en­ergy to make it through my per­for­mance each night?

Af­ter work­ing so hard for so many years I was ready to stop, so at the end of the tour I hung up my danc­ing shoes and went home. From the start I loved re­tire- ment. I just wanted to shop for food, take walks with Er­win, work in my gar­den, watch the sea­sons change by the lake and, most of all, en­joy the quiet.

I felt good. I’d never smoked or taken drugs. I was still in good shape af­ter 50 years of in­ten­sive stage workouts. I still looked pretty good, too: in 2013, Ger­man Vogue asked me to be on its cover. I think I can safely say that, at 73, I was the old­est cover “girl” in Vogue’s his­tory at that point.

The year be­fore, Er­win had pro­posed once again and this time I’d an­swered with an em­phatic: “Yes!” It was a com­mit­ment that didn’t come eas­ily to me but I knew he was the love of my life.

You know that won­der­ful ex­pres­sion: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”?

ON an or­di­nary Oc­to­ber morn­ing in 2013, just three months af­ter our glo­ri­ous wed­ding, I woke up and felt a light­ning bolt strike my head and right leg. I tried to speak but I couldn’t get any words out. I was hav­ing a stroke. The stroke had de­liv­ered a pow­er­ful blow to my body: my en­tire right side was numb. I’d have to work with a physio­ther­a­pist to learn how to walk again, the doc­tor told me, and us­ing my right hand would be a prob­lem. The psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects were even more pro­found. I was mis­er­able.

Also, my doc­tor was con­cerned that my high blood pres­sure might be af­fect­ing my kid­neys, so he re­ferred me to a spe­cial­ist. Dr Jorg Bleisch, an ex­pert nephrol­o­gist, broke the news that my kid­neys were per­form­ing at only 35% of their nor­mal func-

‘Er­win shocked me. He said he wanted to give me one of his kid­neys’

tion. We’d need to mon­i­tor them care­fully, he said, pre­scrib­ing yet more med­i­ca­tion to control my blood pres­sure.

Af­ter a while I was cer­tain these drugs were mak­ing me feel less clear-headed and en­er­getic. So when a friend rec­om­mended a home­o­pathic doc­tor in France I de­cided to put my faith in an­other kind of heal­ing.

The home­opath – who re­placed my con­ven­tional medicines with home­o­pathic reme­dies – sug­gested that my body was be­ing af­fected ad­versely by tox­ins in the wa­ter sup­ply at the Château Al­go­nquin. Ea­ger to try a new ap­proach, no mat­ter how far-fetched, I re­placed all the pipes in the house and had our wa­ter pu­ri­fied by crys­tals.

The new treat­ments ac­tu­ally made me feel bet­ter. The trou­ble started when I went to see Dr Bleisch for an­other checkup. I felt fine so I ex­pected good news. That’s why I de­cided it was time to con­fess to what I’d done. Big mis­take. He seemed shocked and in­cred­u­lous. My fail­ure to treat my high blood pres­sure, he told me, had es­sen­tially de­stroyed my kid­neys.

If only I hadn’t dis­con­tin­ued the med­i­ca­tion. My fool­ish de­ci­sion would con­tinue to haunt me.

Not long af­ter this blow my health be­gan to fail again. I be­came so weak I couldn’t leave the house. This time I was di­ag­nosed with early-stage in­testi­nal cancer – a car­ci­noma and sev­eral ma­lig­nant polyps. A month af­ter my di­ag­no­sis I had part of my in­tes­tine re­moved. The doc­tors were op­ti­mistic and I felt a glim­mer of hope again.

BY DE­CEM­BER 2016 my kid­neys were at a new low of 20% and plung­ing rapidly. I faced two choices: ei­ther reg­u­lar dial­y­sis or a kid­ney trans­plant. Only the trans­plant would give me a very good chance of lead­ing a near-nor­mal life but at the time Switzer­land’s or­gan-donor rate was one of the low­est in Europe – which meant that at 75 I’d prob­a­bly never rise to the top of the wait­ing list.

So Dr Bleisch sched­uled me to start dial­y­sis. It wasn’t my idea of life. But the tox­ins in my body had started tak­ing over. I couldn’t eat. I was sur­viv­ing, but not liv­ing.

One of the ben­e­fits of liv­ing in Switzer­land is that as­sisted sui­cide is le­gal. There are sev­eral or­gan­i­sa­tions that fa­cil­i­tate the process. I signed up to be a mem­ber of one, just in case.

I think that’s when the idea of my death be­came a re­al­ity for Er­win. He was very emo­tional about not want­ing to lose me. Then he shocked me. He said he wanted to give me one of his kid­neys.

I was over­whelmed by the enor­mity of his of­fer. Be­cause I love him my first re­sponse was to try to talk him out of tak­ing such a se­ri­ous and ir­re­versible step. But Er­win had made up his mind. “My fu­ture is our fu­ture,” he told me.

Ul­ti­mately our big day was sched­uled for 7 April 2017. Two op­er­at­ing the­atres were pre­pared at Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal of Basel – one for the donor and one for the re­cip­i­ent – two sur­gi­cal teams, two of ev­ery­thing. Er­win’s op­er­a­tion took place first. While I was un­der­stand­ably anx­ious about the trans­plant I was far more con­cerned about him. Af­ter about an hour it was my turn.

When I awoke I was so groggy that ev­ery­thing felt dream-like. The fol­low­ing day Er­win came rolling into my room in his wheel­chair. He some­how man­aged to look good, even hand­some, as he greeted me with an en­er­getic: “Hi, ­dar­ling!” I was so emo­tional – happy, over­whelmed and re­lieved that we’d come through this alive.

I was dis­charged af­ter only seven days, and Er­win’s re­cov­ery was even faster. He snapped right back to his old self, and he’s been full- speed ahead ever since. I, on the other hand, have ex­pe­ri­enced ups and downs. My body keeps try­ing to re­ject the new kid­ney, which isn’t un­com­mon af­ter a trans­plant. This means I have to take strong doses of im­muno­sup­pres­sants to weaken my an­ti­bod­ies and pre­vent them from at­tack­ing an ­or­gan they don’t recog­nise.

Some­times, the treat­ment – which causes dizzi­ness, for­get­ful­ness and anx­i­ety – in­volves spend­ing more time in hos­pi­tal.

Last year as Christ­mas ap­proached I started feel­ing more en­er­getic. I’m not try­ing to tempt fate, though – I know that my med­i­cal ad­ven­ture is far from over. Af­ter a trans­plant it seems that there’s al­ways an­other test, an­other ­doc­tor’s ap­point­ment or biopsy to get through.

But I’m still here. We’re both still here, closer than we ever imag­ined – and that’s cause for cel­e­bra­tion. Er­win knew that the old Tina was back at last when I got ex­cited about putting up Christ­mas or­na­ments and or­der­ing new ta­bles for the liv­ing room.

Af­ter so many years of be­ing fright­ened and sick I was rev­el­ling in the sheer joy of be­ing alive.

Tina Turner and her hus­band, Er­win Bach, at Paris Fash­ion Week. She’s 16 years older than him, but age is truly just a num­ber in their re­la­tion­ship, she says.

ABOVE: Out with Er­win in Hol­ly­wood in 1985, soon af­ter they started dat­ing. RIGHT: Tina and Er­win on their wed­ding day in 2013. With them are Tina’s eldest son, Craig (left), and her celebrity friends Oprah Win­frey and ­Gayle King.

By 2016 Tina’s kid­neys were so weak she needed dial­y­sis. Then her hus­band gave her the best gift of all by of­fer­ing her one of his kid­neys.


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