Tina Turner looks back on her hor­rific first mar­riage — and much more — in ‘My Love Story’

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Books -

Tina Turner’s sec­ond mem­oir, fol­low­ing 1986’s “I, Tina,” is filled with the lessons that can only be de­liv­ered by some­one who has been around the block a few times and lived to tell about it.

The first les­son is, run from snakes. Born Anna Mae Bul­lock in Nut­bush, Tenn. in 1939, the coun­try girl who would be­come a rhythm and blues icon learned early that when a snake reared its head, it was time to skedad­dle. “Some­thing al­ways told me when to run,” Tina says in a pro­logue to “My Love Story,” though read­ers will some­times wish she’d lis­tened to that voice more.

Be­cause hov­er­ing over this book is the out­size fig­ure of the late Ike Turner, also a sem­i­nal mu­si­cian (his “Rocket 88” is of­ten cred­ited as the first rock ’n’ roll song) yet best known for hav­ing married, man­aged and nearly killed his more fa­mous wife. Like the de­monic fig­ure in Dis­ney’s “Fan­ta­sia,” Ike looms, leers and strikes when Tina and the reader least ex­pect it.

Tina de­scribes two wed­dings in “My Love Story.” The first is a quickie mar­riage to Ike in Ti­juana; in a por­tent of what the fu­ture holds, Ike drags her af­ter­ward to a live sex show at a brothel. (The sec­ond cer­e­mony, a Kar­dashi­ans-on­s­teroids af­fair in which Tina weds record ex­ec­u­tive Er­win Bach years later, is de­scribed much more elab­o­rately, even if it fails to en­gage reader in­ter­est as much as the Ti­juana fi­asco does.) Soon Tina is in­stalled in Ike’s L.A. man­sion along with three mis­tresses, all named Ann. “You can’t make stuff like that up,” writes Tina. “He only had to re­mem­ber one name.”

Hooked on co­caine and peach brandy, Ike threw hot cof­fee in Tina’s face, broke her jaw, gave her so many black eyes that she can’t re­mem­ber be­ing with­out one. She was a fre­quent vis­i­tor to the emer­gency room, where she was vic­tim­ized a sec­ond time by the racism of the day. The doc­tors never re­ported her “ac­ci­dents,” be­cause “they prob­a­bly thought that was just the way black peo­ple were, fight­ing like that, es­pe­cially hus­bands and wives.”

And that brings us to the sec­ond les­son of “My Love Story,” which is to pay at­ten­tion. Tina looks for her op­por­tu­nity to es­cape, and when Ike falls asleep, ex­hausted one night af­ter yet an­other beat­ing, Tina grabs a toi­letries case, ties a scarf over her head, runs out of their ho­tel and across the in­ter­state as trucks thun­der past, and seeks refuge in a Ra­mada Inn, filthy and blood-spat­tered, with 36 cents and a Mo­bil credit card in her pocket.

All along, though, she has been watch­ing how other peo­ple live and pre­par­ing for her new life. As lit­tle Anna Mae Bul­lock, she pro­vided child care for a Nut­bush cou­ple who showed her what a beau­ti­ful home and a happy mar­riage looked like. That would now be pos­si­ble, but first she had a lot of busi­ness to take care of, in­clud­ing go­ing through a court bat­tle to gain con­trol over the name “Tina Turner,” which Ike had trade­marked.

From there, “My Love Story” stops be­ing a tell-all and be­comes a DIY guide to suc­cess­ful brand­ing. There’s ac­tu­ally not a lot about mu­sic here. In her telling, Tina’s con­tri­bu­tion to rock and soul is a combi- na­tion of the strength of her per­son­al­ity and a vo­cal power to match. In a pair of pas­sages, she de­scribes how she stamped her dis­tinc­tive style on two of her biggest hits, “Proud Mary” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”. But that’s it as far the mu­sic goes.

The bulk of this book is about be­com­ing some­body and mar­ket­ing that per­son to the world. When Tina emerges from Ike’s shadow and steps fi­nally to the front of the stage, she has ev­ery de­tail cov­ered and leaves noth­ing to chance, not even the wig she de­scribes as “a crit­i­cal part of the Tina Turner look.”

She’s so good at brand­ing that pro­duc­ers of “Mad Max Be­yond Thun­der­dome” re­ferred to the movie’s larger-than-life hero­ine as “the Tina Turner char­ac­ter.” They kept say­ing, “Let’s get some­one like Tina Turner,” un­til fi­nally it oc­curred to some­one to ask the real Tina Turner to take the part.

And it’s the real Tina Turner who in­spires women who’ve gone through what she has to make their lives bet­ter. One fan at a con­cert is over­heard say­ing: “I came be­cause I was look­ing for the courage to leave the man who beats me. Tonight, I found that courage.”

The last few chap­ters of “My Love Story” will re­mind you why you should never ask an older per­son how they’re do­ing. Tina de­scribes her dial­y­sis and even­tual kid­ney trans­plant in as much de­tail as she de­votes to her wed­ding to Er­win Bach, whose quiet de­vo­tion makes him the anti-Ike of the tale. Oh, and this is the only book I have ever read in which the last page is an or­gan donor form.

Once again, Tina leaves noth­ing to chance.


‘My Love Story’

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