Ike Turner

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Ike Turner
Turner performing at the
Long Beach Blues Festival in 1997
Background information
Birth nameIzear Luster Turner Jr.
Also known as
  • Ike Wister Turner
  • Icky Renrut
  • Lover Boy
Born(1931-11-05)November 5, 1931
Clarksdale, Mississippi, U.S.
DiedDecember 12, 2007(2007-12-12) (aged 76)
San Marcos, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • arranger
  • bandleader
  • talent scout
  • Guitar
  • piano
  • organ
  • vocals
Years active1951—2007
Associated acts

Izear Luster "Ike" Turner Jr. (November 5, 1931[1][2] – December 12, 2007) was an American musician, bandleader, songwriter, arranger, talent scout, and record producer. An early pioneer of fifties rock and roll, he is best known for his work in the 1960s and 1970s with his then-wife Tina Turner in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.

Turner began playing piano and guitar when he was eight years of age. He formed a music group, the Kings of Rhythm, as a teenager.[3] Turner employed the group as his backing band for the rest of his life. His first recording, "Rocket 88" (1951) (credited to "Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats"), is considered a contender for the distinction of "first rock and roll song." Relocating to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1954, he and the Kings became one of the most renowned acts on the local club circuit.[4] There, he met Ann Bullock, who he renamed Tina Turner. He then formed the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, which over the course of the 1960s became a soul/rock crossover success.[5] Turner recorded for many of the key R&B record labels of the 1950s and 1960s, including Chess, Modern, Trumpet, Flair and Sue.[6] He progressed to larger labels such as Blue Thumb, Liberty, and United Artists with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.

Turner's cocaine addiction and legal troubles, together with accounts by Tina Turner of domestic violence (published in her autobiography I, Tina and the portrayal of him in its film adaptation What's Love Got to Do with It), impacted his career in the 1980s and 1990s.[7] Addicted to cocaine for at least 15 years, Turner was convicted of drug offenses and served 18 months in prison (Feb. 1990 – Sept. 1991).[8] He spent the rest of the 1990s drug-free, but relapsed in 2004. Near the end of his life, Turner revived his career with live performance as a front man and returned to his blues roots. He produced two albums that were critically well-received and award-winning.

Turner has been hailed as a "great innovator" of rock and roll by contemporaries such as Little Richard and Johnny Otis.[9][10] Phil Alexander, then editor-in-chief of Mojo magazine, described Turner as "the cornerstone of modern day rock 'n' roll."[11] David Fricke, senior editor at Rolling Stone magazine, ranked Turner #61 on his list of 100 Greatest Guitarists. He noted that "Turner was one of the first guitarists to successfully transplant the intensity of the blues into more-commercial music."[12]

In the course of his career, Turner won five Grammy Awards, including two competitive awards and three Grammy Hall of Fame Awards.[13][14] Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Tina Turner in 1991.[15] In 2001, he was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. He is also inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, and the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame. In 2018, "Rocket 88" was one of the first songs inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Singles.[16]

Early life[edit]

Ike Turner's birthplace and childhood home at 304 Washington Avenue in the Riverton neighborhood of Clarksdale, Mississippi.[17]

Turner was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on November 5, 1931, to Beatrice Cushenberry, a seamstress, and Izear Luster Turner Sr., a Baptist minister. The youngest of their two children, Turner had a sister named Lee Ethel Knight who was "some ten years" his senior. When he applied for his first passport in the early 1960s, Turner discovered his name had been mistakenly registered as Ike Wister Turner.[18]

Turner said that when he was very young he witnessed his father beaten and left for dead by a white mob. His father lived for three years as an invalid in a tent in the family's yard before succumbing to his injuries.[18][19] Writer and blues historian Ted Drozdowski told a different version of the story, stating that Turner's father died in an industrial accident.[20] His mother then married a man named Philip Reeves. Turner said his stepfather was a violent alcoholic and that they often argued and fought. After one fight Turner knocked out his stepfather with a piece of wood. He then ran away to Memphis, where he lived rough for a few days before returning home. He reconciled with his stepfather years later, buying a house for him in the 1950s around the time Turner's mother died.[21]

Turner recounted how he was introduced to sex at the age of six by a middle-aged lady called Miss Boozie. Walking past her house to school, she would invite him to help feed her chickens and then take him to bed. This continued daily for some time. Turner claimed not to be traumatized by this, commenting that "in those days they didn't call it abuse, they called it fun."[22] He was also raped by another middle-aged woman, Miss Reeny, before he was twelve.[23]

External video
Oral History, Ike Turner shares moments of his life story and career. interview date December 1, 2005, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library

In the eighth grade Turner began working as an elevator operator at the Alcazar Hotel in downtown Clarksdale. During breaks he would watch DJ John Friskillo play records at the radio station, WROX, located in the hotel.[23] WROX is noted for being the first radio station in Mississippi to employ a black DJ, Early Wright.[24] One day Friskillo spotted Turner watching and put him to work; teaching him the ins and outs of the control room.[25] Turner described this as "the beginning of my thing with music."[26] Soon he was left to play records while Friskillo took coffee breaks.[27] This led to Turner being offered a job by the station manager as the DJ on the late-afternoon shift. The job meant he had access to all the new releases. On his show he played a diverse range of music, playing Roy Milton and Louis Jordan alongside early rockabilly records.[21]

Turner was inspired to learn the piano on a visit to his friend Ernest Lane's house, where he heard Pinetop Perkins playing Lane's father's piano. Turner persuaded his mother to pay for piano lessons, but he did not take to the formal style of playing. Instead, he spent the money in a pool hall and learned boogie-woogie from Perkins. He taught himself to play guitar by playing along to old blues records.[28][29] At some point in the 1940s, Turner moved into Clarksdale's Riverside Hotel, run by Mrs. Z.L. Ratliff.[30] The Riverside played host to touring musicians, including Sonny Boy Williamson II and Duke Ellington.[20] Turner associated with many of these musicians, and at 13 years old he quit school to backup Sonny Boy Williamson II on piano.[10]


1946–1951: Formation of the Kings of Rhythm[edit]

As a teenager, Turner joined a local rhythm ensemble called the Tophatters who played around Clarksdale, Mississippi.[3] Members of the band were Clarksdale musicians and included Turner's school friends Raymond Hill, Eugene Fox and Clayton Love.[31] The Tophatters played big-band arrangements from sheet music. Turner, who was trained by ear and could not sight read, would learn the pieces by listening to a version on record at home, pretending to be reading the music during rehearsals.[3] At one point, the Tophatters had over 30 members and eventually split into two,[32] with one act who wanted to carry on playing dance band jazz calling themselves the Dukes of Swing and the other, led by Turner, becoming the Kings of Rhythm. Turner said, "We wanted to play blues, boogie-woogie and Roy Brown, Jimmy Liggins, Roy Milton."[3] Turner kept the name throughout his career, although it went through lineup changes over time. Their early stage performances consisted largely of covers of popular jukebox hits. B.B. King helped them to get a steady weekend gig and recommended them to Sam Phillips at Memphis Recording Service.[33] In the 1950s, Turner's group got regular airplay from live sessions on the radio stations WROX in Calrksdale[24] and KFFA in Helena, Arkansas.[34]

Sun Studio at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, where in 1951 Turner and the Kings of Rhythm recorded Rocket 88, one of the first rock and roll records. Turner would later work at the studio as in-house producer for Sam Phillips.

Around the time he was starting out with the Kings of Rhythm, Turner and Lane became unofficial roadies for blues singer Robert Nighthawk, who often played live on WROX. The pair played drums and piano on radio sessions and supported Nighthawk at blues dates around Clarksdale. Playing with Nighthawk allowed Turner to gig regularly and build up playing experience.[35]

He played gigs alongside other local blues artists such as Howlin' Wolf, Charley Booker, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, and Little Walter.[26] Performances typically lasted for about twelve hours, from early evening to dawn the next day. Turner described the scenario to an interviewer:

We played juke joints; we'd start playing at 8.00 pm and wouldn't get off till 8.00 am. No intermissions, no breaks. If you had to go to the restroom, well that's how I learned to play drums and guitar! When one had to go, someone had to take his place.[26][36]

In March 1951, Turner and his band recorded the song "Rocket 88." Turner's vocalist Johnny O'Neal had left to sign a solo contract with King Records, so Jackie Brenston, a saxophonist in the Kings of Rhythm, sang lead vocals. Turner played piano on the recording, and his intro was later used note-for-note by Little Richard "Good Golly, Miss Molly."[23] Phillips licensed the recording to Chess Records in Chicago, who released it under the name "Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats" instead of "Ike Turner and His Kings of Rhythm Featuring Jackie Brenston." Turner blamed Phillips for this misrepresentation.[23] The single, released in April 1951, reached number one on the Billboard R&B charts in June 1951; spending 5 weeks on top of the charts.[37][38] The record sold approximately half a million copies. Turner and the band were paid $20 each ($193 in 2018[39]) for the record. The exception was Brenston who sold the rights to Phillips for $910.[40] Phillips used profits from the success of the record to launch Sun Records in February 1952.[41]

The success of "Rocket 88" caused tension and ego clashes in the band which culminated with Brenston leaving to pursue a solo career, causing the band to fall apart. Turner, without a band and disappointed his hit record had not created more opportunities for him, disbanded the Kings of Rhythm for a few years.[36]

1951–1954: Session musician and talent scout[edit]

After recording "Rocket 88," Turner became a session musician and production assistant for Philips and the Bihari brothers, commuting to Memphis from Clarksdale. He began by contributing piano to a B.B. King track, "You Know I Love You", which brought him to the attention of Modern Records' Joe Bihari, who requested Turner's services on another King track, "3 O'Clock Blues" which became King's first hit.[4] However, according to Bihari, Turner brought King to his attention years prior. He said, "Ike wasn't more than sixteen then. He would send dubs of things he cut to us, and if we'd like them we'd make a seal or sign the artist. That's how we acquired B.B. King." [42] King also maintained that Turner introduced him to the Biharis.[43]

During this time unbeknownst to Turner he met Elvis Presley who was a truck driver in Memphis. He recalled, "[Presley] was just a white boy that would come over to black clubs. He would come in and stand behind the piano and watch me play. I never knew he was no musician." Turner discovered his identity many years later when Presley approached him at the International Hotel and said, "Hey! Do you remember me?"[44]

Turner, who was also a freelance talent scout, had Howlin' Wolf record for Sam Phillips at Sun Records (which licensed its recordings to Chess Records) in 1951.[45] Wishing to exploit Turner's Delta music connections, Bihari contracted him as a talent scout, paying him to find southern musicians who might be worth recording.[36] Turner, unaware of songwriter's royalties, also wrote new material which the Biharis copyrighted under their own name.[23] They often purchased or claimed co-writer credit of songs written by artists on their labels using pseudonyms.[46][47] Turner estimated he "wrote 78 hit records for the Biharis." Artists Turner discovered for Modern included Bobby Bland, Howlin' Wolf, and Rosco Gordon. He played piano in sessions with them and lesser-known artists such as the Prisonaires, Ben Burton Orchestra, Little Milton, Matt Cockrell and Dennis Binder.[4]

Turner was contracted to the Bihari brothers, but he continued to work for Phillips, where he was effectively the in-house producer. This sometimes created conflicts of interest. Turner cut two Howlin' Wolf tracks, playing piano on "How Many More Years" and "Moanin' at Midnight," which Phillips sent to Chess. Turner then took Wolf across the state border, rerecorded the tracks without Phillips's or Chess's knowledge, and sent the results to Modern/RPM. Turner also attempted to poach Elmore James from Trumpet Records and record him for Modern. Trumpet found out and Modern had to cancel the record. However, James did eventually sign for Modern, with Turner playing piano on a James recording at Club Desire in Canton.[4][48]

While in Helena, Turner tried to recruit Marion Little Walter to record for Modern in January 1952, but Little Walter was on his way to Mississippi.[49] In 1952, Turner discovered Little Junior Parker and played piano on his first release, "You're My Angel"/"Bad Women, Bad Whiskey," credited to Little Junior Parker and the Blue Flames.[42] That summer Turner recorded with the new vocalist and pianist in his band, Marion Louis Lee, resulting in "My Heart Belongs To You" / "Looking for My Baby." The records were released from RPM Records as Bonnie and Ike Turner; they married in September 1952.[50]

Turner began playing guitar in sessions in 1953,[23] and by 1954 with the assistance of Joe Bihari he built a makeshift recording studio at a defunct greyhound bus station in Clarksdale. Turner used his Kings of Rhythm as session musicians. They played on many recording for Bihari's Modern, RPM, and Flair labels.[23] Some of the artist Turner backed on piano and guitar during this period include Elmore James, Johnny Ace and the Flairs.[51] Around this time Turner discovered Billy "The Kid" Emerson in Greenville. He brought Emerson to record at Sun Records and backed him on guitar in 1954.[52]

1954–1959: St. Louis[edit]

In 1954, Turner visited his sister Lee Ethel Knight in St. Louis, Missouri. During his stay, he went clubbing at Ned Love's in East St. Louis, Illinois. Love asked Turner and his band to play at his club.[53] Eventually, Turner returned with his reformed version of the Kings of Rhythm,[23] including Willie Kizart on guitar, Willie "Bad Boy" Sims on drums, vocalist Johnny O'Neal, Turner's nephew Jessie Knight Jr. on bass, and Turner's wife Annie Mae Wilson Turner on piano and vocals. Turner moved over to playing guitar to accommodate Annie Mae, taking lessons from Willie Kizart to improve.[54]

Turner maintained strict discipline, insisting they live in a large house with him so he could conduct early-morning rehearsals. A teetotaler at the time, he avoided drugs and insisted all band members also adopt this policy, firing anyone he even suspected of breaking the rules.[55] He also fined or physically assaulted band members if they played a wrong note and controlled everything from the arrangements down to the suits the band wore onstage. Starting off playing at a club called Kingsbury's in Madison, Illinois, within a year Turner had built up a full gig schedule, establishing his group as one of the most highly rated on the St. Louis club circuit, vying for popularity with their main competition, Sir John's Trio featuring Chuck Berry. The bands would play all-nighters in St. Louis, then cross the river to the clubs of East St. Louis, and continue playing until dawn. In St. Louis for the first time, Turner was exposed to a developing white teenage audience who were excited by R&B. Turner played in St. Louis clubs including Club Imperial, which was popular with white teenagers, the Dynaflow, the Moonlight Lounge, Club Riviera and West End Walter's. In East St. Louis, his group played Kingsbury's, Club Manhattan and the Sportsman.[54]

In between live dates, Turner took the band to Cincinnati to record for Federal Records in 1956. One of the Federal releases, "I'm Tore Up" / "If I Never Had Known You" featuring Billy Gales, became a regional hit. Like Brenston years prior, Gayles left Turner's band to pursue a solo career.[40] In 1958, Turner took the band to Chicago for Cobra/Artistic, as well as fulfilling his contract as a session musician back at Sun. While in Chicago, Turner backed Otis Rush; playing the signature vibrato guitar parts on "Double Trouble."[56] He also helped Buddy Guy record his second record;[57] resulting in the single "You Sure Can't Do" / "This Is The End" which Turner played guitar, and he composed the latter.[58]

He befriended St. Louis R&B fan Bill Stevens, who in 1959 set up the short-lived record label Stevens financed by his father Fred.[59] Turner released two singles on the Stevens label (#104 and #107) under the anagram "Icky Renrut" because he was still under contract with Sun for several more months and did not want to cause friction with Phillips. He also contributed vocals and/or guitar on 5 additional Stevens singles: Johnny Wright (#1001), Bobby Foster (#102 and #106), Chuck Wheeler (#103), and Little Cooper and the Drifters (#105). Additionally, Turner contributed vocals and/or guitar on numerous "lost" sessions that remained unreleased for decades. None of the Stevens singles were widely distributed when released and have since become collectible among vinyl record enthusiasts and deejays.[54]

1960–1976: The Ike and Tina Turner Revue[edit]

Ike & Tina Turner performing in Hamburg, Germany in November 1972

In 1957, Ann Bullock accompanied her sister Alline to watch Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm at Club Manhattan in East St. Louis.[60] Her sister was a barmaid at the club and was dating Turner's drummer, Eugene Washington.[61] After seeing the band, Bullock asked to sing with the Kings of Rhythm. During an intermission she sang "You Know I Love You" by B.B. King. Impressed by her voice, Ike Turner invited her to join the band, giving her the stage name "Little Ann".[5][62] In 1958, she sang background on Turner's song, "Boxtop," for Tune Town Records, and also gave birth to her son Craig, fathered by Ike's saxophonist Raymond Hill.[40][23]

In March 1960, Turner used her voice on a recording of his self-penned song "A Fool In Love" to lay down a guide track for Art Lassiter, who did not attend the scheduled recording session. A local DJ suggested he send the record to Sue Records in New York, where label owner Juggy Murray insisted on putting out the track with Bullock's vocal. Murray offered a $20,000 advance for the song, and suggested Turner "make her the star" of his show.[63] He then named her "Tina" because it rhymed with Sheena. He was inspired by Sheena, Queen of the Jungle and Nyoka the Jungle Girl to create the stage persona "Tina Turner."[64] Turner had the name trademarked so that in case she left, another singer could perform under the same name.[23]

In July 1960, "A Fool In Love" was released by Ike and Tina. It became a national hit, selling a million copies. The single peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot R&B Sides chart and #27 on the Hot 100. Turner added a backing girl group he renamed the Ikettes, and along with the Kings of Rhythm they began performing as the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. The success of the single was followed by a string of hits including "I Idolize You," "Poor Fool," and "It's Gonna Work Out Fine" which gave them their second million-seller and their first Grammy nomination.[65]

In 1961, Turner played piano on Albert King's first hit record, "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong." The single, released on King Records, peaked at #14 on the R&B chart.[66]

The Revue performed rigorously on the Chitlin' Circuit and built a reputation as "one of the hottest, most durable, and potentially most explosive of all R&B ensembles."[67] To assure he always had a record out while on tour, Turner formed multiple labels such as Sputnik, Teena, Prann, Innis, Sony and Sonja.[68] He produced singles by the Ikettes, Jimmy Thomas, Fontella bass, George Jackson, and others on his labels.[23][69]

After the duo's deal with Sue ended in 1964, Turner moved the band around to different labels. For the next five years they recorded on Warner Bros./Loma, Modern/Kent, Cenco, Philles, Tangerine, Pompeii, Blue Thumb, Minit and A&M.[6] Between 1964 and 1965, the duo scored three top 40 R&B hits with "You Can't Miss Nothing That You Never Had," "Tell Her I'm Not Home," and "Good Bye, So Long."

Phil Spector, impressed by their performance on The Big T.N.T. Show, sought out Turner to produce Tina, resulting in "River Deep – Mountain High." Spector offered to pay Turner $20,000 for creative control over the production.[70] The single was not successful in the US, causing Spector's retreat from the music industry, but it was a hit in Europe, reaching #3 in the UK Singles Chart.[71] Following their success in the UK, Mick Jagger invited them to open for the Rolling Stones during their 1966 British Tour.[72][73] bringing them to a wider audience outside of soul. Soon they were booking bigger venues, and by 1969 they were headlining in Las Vegas.

In 1969, Turner and the Kings of Rhythm released the album A Black Man's Soul on Pompeii Records. The album earned Turner his first solo Grammy nomination for Best R&B Instrumental Performance at the 12th Annual Grammy Awards.[14] Ike and Tina released the blues oriented albums Outta Season and The Hunter on the Blue Thumb label. Turner and Bob Krasnow, founder of Blue Thumb, co-produced Earl Hooker's 1969 album Sweet Black Angel. That fall, Ike and Tina opened up for the Rolling Stones on their 1969 American Tour.[70] In January 1970, they performed on The Ed Sullivan Show and released their rendition of "Come Together" which reached #21 on the R&B chart. Their cover of "I Want to Take You Higher" by Sly & the Family Stone was also successful on the charts in 1970, followed by the release of "Proud Mary" in 1971 which became their biggest hit. "Proud Mary" reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #5 on the R&B chart.[74] It sold more than a million copies, and won the duo a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group at the 14th Annual Grammy Awards.[14]

Their mainstream success provided Turner with the finances to create his own recording studio, the Los Angeles-based Bolic Sound in Inglewood. The studio name was a reference to Tina's maiden name, Bullock.[10] Turner had two sixteen track studios built, a large one to rent out and a smaller one for his personal recordings. He fitted them out with state-of-the-art equipment, two 24-input 16-output mixing desks custom built by John Stephens and Daniel Flickinger, IBM mix memorizers, an early Eventide digital delay.[75] The studios were opened to the public in March 1972. Artists who recorded there included Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Duane Allman, Little Richard and Gayle McCormick.[10] Frank Zappa recorded his Overnite Sensation and Apostrophe (') LPs at Bolic Sound in 1973 and 1974.[76]

In 1973, they released "Nutbush City Limits" penned by Tina. The single peaked at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #11 on the R&B chart. In 1974, the Turners received the Golden European Award, the first ever given, for selling more than one million records of "Nutbush City Limits" in Europe.[77]

During this time, Turner released a few solo albums for United Artists Records, including Blues Roots (1972) and Bad Dreams (1973). Reviewing the latter LP in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), Robert Christgau wrote: "After twenty years of raking it in from the shadows, he's finally figured out a way of applying his basically comic bass/baritone to rock and roll. Studio-psychedelic New Orleans, echoes of the Band and Dr. John, some brilliant minor r&b mixed in with the dumb stuff. My God—at the moment he's more interesting than Tina."[78]

Turner produced singer Judy Cheeks' self-titled debut album in 1973,[79] and the last Ikettes album (G)Old & New in 1974. Between 1974 and 1975, Ike and Tina released the charting singles "Sweet Rhode Island Red," "Sexy Ida" and "Baby, Get It On."[74]

Their musical partnership ended abruptly in 1976 when Tina left after they had a violent altercation.[63] According to his book, Turner had plans to leave United Artists Records for a five-year, $150,000 deal with Cream Records. The deal was to be signed on July 6, 1976. On July 1, the Turners were en route from Los Angeles to Dallas where they had a gig at the Dallas Statler Hilton. They got into a fight during their ride to the hotel. Tina fled shortly after arriving at the hotel. Turner claimed that Tina initiated the conflict by purposely irritating him so that she would have a reason to break up with him before they signed the new contract.[18]

United Artists responded to their separation by releasing albums of complied recordings from their last sessions together, Delilah's Power (1977) and Airwaves (1978). Two years after their divorce was finalized, Turner released the single "Party Vibes"/"Shame, Shame, Shame" from the album The Edge (1980) which peaked at #27 on the Billboard Disco Top 100 chart.[80]

1977–2007: Personal problems and later solo career[edit]

After his breakup with Tina, Ike struggled to find success as a solo artist due to his cocaine addiction and run-ins with the law.[81]

Holly Maxwell replaced Tina in Turner's band from 1977 to 1985 and again for eight months in 1992. Maxwell reported a positive working relationship with Turner.[82]

In 1991, while Turner was in prison following a drug conviction, Ike & Tina Turner were inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.[15] Tina did not attend; Phil Spector delivered a speech at the ceremony on their behalf.[83] After his release from prison, Turner said he was nervous about returning to performing, but had plans to return to the studio. He sold 20 unreleased Ike & Tina Turner recordings to independent label Esquire Records.[8]

In 1993 Salt-n-Pepa sampled Turner's hit composition "I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song)" for their 1993 single "Shoop." The track went to #4 in the Billboard Hot 100, earning him around half a million dollars in royalties.[81] He rerecorded the song in a duet style with singer Billy Rogers. Produced by Rogers, the remake received favorable reviews.[84] He also appeared on the song "Love Gravy" with Rick James on the album Chef Aid: The South Park Album, the soundtrack to the TV series South Park. Turner also made an appearance on MADtv in 1997.

Turner credited Joe Louis Walker with encouraging him to return to his roots in blues music. Turner played guitar and assisted in production on Walker's 1997 album Great Guitars and toured internationally with him.[85] Walker paid him $5,000 a night for six songs.[86] The positive response to the tour encouraged Turner to reform the Kings of Rhythm, taking them on a U.S. tour in 2001. The group headlined a showcase at South by Southwest and were hailed as one of the highlights of the conference.[87] His then wife Jeanette was the lead singer. Turner's work on the tour led to the recording and release of his Grammy-nominated album Here & Now (2001)

In September 2003, the PBS documentary series Martin Scorsese's The Blues included interviews and performances by Turner. He was featured in the episodes "The Road to Memphis" and "Godfathers and Sons."[88]

Turner appeared on the Gorillaz's album Demon Days (2005); playing piano on "Every Planet We Reach Is Dead." He also performed the track with the Gorillaz at the Manchester Opera House from November 1–5, 2005; his performance is featured in the live concert movie Demon Days: Live at the Manchester Opera House.[89]

In 2006, Turner released the album Risin' With the Blues. The album was mixed at Future Sound Studios by Rene Van Verseveld. The album was nominated in the 7th Annual Independent Music Awards for Blues Album of the year. Jerry D'Souza wrote of the album: "Turner has it all in the palm of his hand, his phrasing breathing life into the words. He still has the power to turn the blues into an unforgettable experience."[90] He won his first solo Grammy Award in 2007 when the album received the Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album.[14]

Before his death, a collaboration between Turner and the rock band the Black Keys was planned by Gorillaz's producer Danger Mouse in 2007. The Black Keys recorded tracks for Turner to work with.[91] Although Turner does not appear on the album, Attack & Release, music magazine Pitchfork noted his influence in the production.[92]

Artistry and legacy[edit]

Musical style[edit]

Turner performing in 1974

Turner grew up playing boogie woogie piano, which he learned from Pinetop Perkins. In his professional career, he originally worked in the style of 1950s R&B, or post-jump blues. Though primarily known as a guitarist, Turner began his career playing piano and personally considered it his main instrument. He decided he was not meant to be a frontman when at 12 years old he was coerced into giving a piano recital at high school. He found the experience terrifying and from then on preferred to be in the background, controlling every aspect of the music and choreography, but not being the focus of attention. At most times in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue he played with his back to the audience.[63] Donald Fagen has written: "[T]alented as he was, there wasn't anything really supernatural about Ike's skills as a musician... What Ike excelled at was leadership: conceptualization, organization, and execution."[93]

Turner's guitar style is distinguished by heavy use of the whammy bar to achieve a strong reverb-soaked vibrato, string bending, hammer-ons and triplets in his blues phrasing.[94] Turner was an early adopter of the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, buying one from O.K. Houk's Piano Co. store in Memphis the year of its release in 1954.[95] Unaware that the guitar's tremolo arm could be used to subtle effect, Turner used it to play screaming, swooping and diving solos that predated artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck by a decade.[96] In The Stratocaster Chronicles, Tom Wheeler writes that Turner's "inventive style is a classic example of an artist discovering the Stratocaster, adapting to its features and fashioning something remarkable."[97] Turner himself said of his tremolo technique: "I thought it was to make the guitar scream—people got so excited when I used that thing."[96] Dave Rubin wrote in Premier Guitar magazine:

All those years of playing piano and arranging taught him a considerable amount about harmony, as he could certainly navigate I-IV-V chord changes. Ike modestly terms what he does on the guitar as "tricks", but make no mistake, he attacked his axe with the conviction of a man who knew precisely what he wanted to hear come out of it.[94]

In 1951, Turner's Kings of Rhythm recorded one of the first instances of use of amplifier distortion. Rocket 88 is notable amongst other things for Willie Kizart's distorted guitar sound.[98] In 2004, Fender manufactured a limited edition Ike Turner Tribute Stratocaster. The model has an alder body in Sonic Blue with an Ike Turner signature in gold ink on the body under the clear-coat, with a maple neck in a 1960s "C" shape with a rosewood fingerboard, with 21 vintage frets. It had three custom single coil 1960s Strat pickups. Only 100 specimens were made, retailing at $3,399.99.


Robert Palmer wrote, "perhaps he [Turner] played the behind-the-scenes Svengali too seamlessly for his own good. To the fans who bought the records and concert tickets, his contribution was practically invisible. With his creative work of the '50s largely forgotten and his more recent efforts overshadowed by Tina's larger-than-life presence, he was easily dismissed as a purely exploitative figure riding on his wife's coattails." However, to contemporaries and blues fans Turner's contribution to music was substantial. Johnny Otis said, "Ike Turner is a very important man in American music. The texture and flavor of R&B owe a lot to him. He defined how to put the Fender bass into that music. He was a great innovator."[10] B.B. King was a great admirer of Turner, describing him as "The best bandleader I've ever seen".[99] Turner was also a big influence on contemporary Little Richard, who wrote the introduction to Turner's autobiography.[9] Richard was inspired to learn to play the piano after hearing Rocket 88, and he used the introduction for his hit "Good Golly Miss Molly."[100] [101]

"It ain't Little Richard, it ain't Chuck, it ain't Fats Domino — no, we came on later. This man was playing the blues, rhythm and blues. Rock 'n' roll came from rhythm and blues: rock 'n' roll ain't nothing but rhythm and blues up-tempo. Ike Turner was the innovator, for rhythm and blues and for rock 'n' roll. We just came and took it home."

Little Richard (1999)[102]

Phil Alexander, editor-in-chief of Mojo magazine, has credited Turner arrangements of blues standards as being an influence on 1960s British Invasion groups: "He proceeded to influence British rockers from the mid-1960s onwards. Without Ike you wouldn't have had the Stones and Zeppelin. People like that wouldn't have had the source material on which they drew."[11] Speaking of Turner's claim to have written one of the first rock 'n' roll records, broadcaster Paul Gambaccini said:

In musical terms [he was] very important. "Rocket 88" is one of the two records that can claim to be the first rock 'n' roll record, the other being "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino from 1949. But "Rocket 88" does have a couple of elements which "The Fat Man" did not. The wailing saxophone and that distorted electric guitar. It was number one in the rhythm and blues chart for five weeks, it is in the Grammy Hall of Fame and it was an indisputable claim to fame for Ike Turner... To critics he will be known as a great founder, unfortunately to the general public he will always be known as a brutal man... He was always on the road and he drove himself as well as punishing others.

Nigel Cawthorne—coauthor of Turner's autobiography—said:

Although there had been black rock 'n' rollers who had made it big already, they really only played to a white audience. Ike and Tina played to a mixed audience and he deliberately desegregated audiences in the southern states and he wouldn't play to any segregated audiences at all. Because he had such a big band and entourage he desegregated a lot of the hotels because the hotel chains wouldn't want to miss out on the money they would make from him touring the southern states.[11]

Turner's songs began to be sampled by hip hop artists, most notably Salt-n-Pepa sampling "I'm Blue" for use in their 1994 hit "Shoop"[81] and Jurassic 5 used "Getting Nasty" from A Black Man's Soul on the 1997 track "Concrete Schoolyard". Main Source also sampled "Getting Nasty" on the track "Snake Eyes" as well as Ike & Tina's "Bold Soul Sister" on "Just Hanging Out"; both featured on their 1991 album Breaking Atoms. The track "Funky Mule", also from A Black Man's Soul, has been sampled extensively by jungle DJs, with the drum introduction being a very popular break. It was sampled by producer Goldie for his 1994 hit "Inner City Life", in the same year by Krome & Time on "The License", and by Paradox in 2002 on track "Funky Mule".[103]


Turner won two competitive Grammy Awards. In 1972, Ike & Tina Turner won Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group for "Proud Mary." In 2007, he won Best Traditional Blues Album for Risin' With the Blues.[90] Turner also has three songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame: "Rocket 88," "River Deep – Mountain High," and "Proud Mary."[13]

Ike & Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.[15] Turner is inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame. He is also inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame.[104] He was honored with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 2001.[105]

Turner won Comeback Album of The Year for Here and Now at the W.C. Handy Blues Awards in 2002. In 2004, he was awarded with the Heroes Award from the Memphis branch of the Recording Academy,[106] and the Legend Award at the 2007 Mojo Awards.[107]

In 2003, the album Proud Mary: The Best of Ike & Tina Turner was ranked #212 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (#214 on 2012 revised list).[108][109]

On August 5, 2010, Turner was posthumously recognized by his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi.[110] Clarksdale officials and music fans gathered to unveil two markers on the Mississippi Blues Trail in downtown Clarksdale honoring Turner and his musical legacy.[111][112]

Although Turner considered himself a pianist rather than a guitarist,[23] Rolling Stone magazine editor David Fricke ranked him #61 on his list of 100 Greatest Guitarists in 2010.[12]

In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked Ike & Tina Turner #2 on their list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.[113]

In 2018, "Rocket 88" was chosen for the inaugural class of influential songs inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Singles.[16]

Portrayal in popular culture[edit]

In Tina Turner's autobiography, I, Tina, she described Ike's volatile behavior. He received intense negative publicity that was exacerbated in 1993 by the release of the film adaptation What's Love Got to Do with It. The film rights to the book were acquired by Disney's Touchstone Pictures. Turner stated he had mistakenly signed papers waiving the right to sue Touchstone Pictures for his depiction after accepting a $50,000 payment in exchange for the right for them to depict him in any way they saw fit.[114] Ike was played in the movie by Laurence Fishburne, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance (losing to Tom Hanks). Tina, commenting on the historical accuracy of the film, said: "I would have liked then to have more truth, but according to Disney, they said it's impossible, the people would not have believed the truth."[101] In 2018, Tina told Oprah that she only recently watched the film, but she couldn't finish it because she "didn't realize they would change the details so much."[115] Phil Spector criticized Tina's book and called the film a "piece of trash" during his eulogy at Turner's funeral.[116] However, Robert Palmer noted that "long before Tina Turner cast him as the devil incarnate... that was Ike Turner's show business persona."[36] In 2006, Vibe named the character of Ike Turner from What's Love Got To Do With It at #4 in their list of the 20 best movie "bad guys."[117]

After the release of the film and Turner's drug conviction, the fictionalized version of Turner from the movie was seized on by comedians, who reused it in sketches. On the 1990s sketch comedy show In Living Color, Turner was parodied by David Alan Grier. In one skit, he sang a parody of Tina's song "What's Love Got to Do with It", in which he sings proudly of his abusive personality. The video also parodies Tina's video: whereas in her video Tina walks around stopping couples who are fighting, Ike walks around to couples and gives the men weapons.[118] He was portrayed on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update by Tim Meadows in a pageboy wig. This incarnation of Turner is played as desperate, making verbally derisive remarks to Kevin Nealon, later trying to win back Kevin's "love" with gifts and a cake, and finally shoving Kevin's face into the cake. On the John Boy and Billy radio show, cast member Jeff Pillars regularly performed an impersonation of Turner in a segment called "Ax/Ask Ike". He offered advice on interpersonal relationships, which always resulted in him giving inappropriate and humorous advice. These sketches were collected in a 2008 comedy album Ike at the Mike.[119]


In 1999, Turner published his autobiography Takin' Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner. It was written with Nigel Cawthorne and Little Richard wrote the introduction. In part, the memoir was a rebuttal of the public image presented of him in Tina Turner's book and the film.[23] In 2003, John Collins published Ike Turner: King of Rhythm about the life and musical contributions of Turner.[120]

Material loss[edit]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Ike Turner among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[121]

Personal life[edit]


Turner was married at least ten times. He sometimes claimed to have been married fourteen times,[122] often marrying another woman before divorcing his previous wife. Speaking on his early marriages he said: "You gave a preacher $2, the papers cost $3, that was it. In those days blacks didn't bother with divorces."[10]

Early marriages[edit]

Turner was first married at 16 years old to Edna Dean Stewart from Ruleville, Mississippi on April 10, 1948. Records show he added four years to his age.[50] Edna didn't want to stay in Clarksdale, so she left him and returned to Ruleville.[18]

Turner's second wife Velma Davis (née Dishman) is the elder sister of former Ikette Joshie Armstead.[123] They met at the Cotton Club on Camplin Avenue in Yazoo City, Mississippi in 1948. Turner had a gig on Yazoo City's radio station WAZF. Velma has claimed that Turner is father of her daughter Linda born in 1949.[124] Turner acknowledged she was pregnant in his book, but mentioned not by him.[23] They married on September 19, 1950.[50] Velma and Linda attended Turner's Mississippi Blues Trail marker unveiling in 2010.[125]

Turner then married Rosa Lee Sane in West Memphis. Rosa had mental issues, so her family put her in an insane asylum. Turner tried to get Rosa out, but he never saw her again.[18]

Turner married Marion Louis Lee (Bonnie Turner) in Clarksdale on September 24, 1952.[50] Bonnie was a member of the Kings of Rhythm as a pianist and vocalist. In 1952, under the alias Mary Sue, she released the single "Everybody's Talking" / "Love Is A Gamble," on Modern Records. She co-wrote both tunes with Turner. The couple also recorded for RPM Records and Sun Records.[50] Turner recalled, "Bonnie played piano. It was a job staying ahead of this chick, man, cos' she was always trying to outdo me."[23] While they were in Sarasota, Florida for a gig, she ran off to New York with another man in 1953. Their divorce was finalized in 1955.[50]

After Bonnie, he married a woman named Alice in Helena, Arkansas. According to Turner, they didn't consummate their marriage. Alice was dating his vocalist Johnny O'Neal, but Turner liked her so he married her to avoid locking heads with O'Neal. "If I married her, he couldn't do nothing," he said.[23]

After Alice, he became involved with Annie Mae Wilson from Greenville, Mississippi. She was a pianist in his band, and they married in the mid-1950s. Annie Mae left Turner for a policeman after they moved to East St. Louis, Illinois.[18]

In East St. Louis, Turner met Lorraine Taylor who became his live-in girlfriend and then his common-law wife. Her parents owned the Taylor Sausage Company in St. Louis. Lorraine already had two children of her own, and she had an additional two more with Turner. Their son Ike Jr. was born in October 1958 followed by another son Michael in February 1960.[23]

Tina Turner[edit]

In 1957, Turner met Ann Bullock (Tina Turner) at Club Manhattan in East St. Louis.[69][23] They became close friends and she began dating his saxophonist Raymond Hill. When Bullock became pregnant by Hill, they lived with Turner and his common-law wife Lorraine Taylor. Hill injured his ankle and left Bullock before their son Craig was born in August 1958. During Bullock's pregnancy, Taylor became suspicious that Bullock was pregnant by Turner and threatened her with a gun before shooting herself; her injuries were nonfatal.[40] However, Turner and Bullock eventually began having an affair and she became pregnant in January 1960.[40]

Following the formation of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue and the birth of their son Ronnie in October 1960, they were married in Tijuana in 1962. At the time Turner was still legally married to Alice Bell who he located in Chicago and divorced.[23] Turner claimed on more than one occasion that he had never been officially married to Tina.[10] He contributed to her autobiography, I, Tina, stating that they went to Mexico to see "sex shows and whores."[40] In a 1996 radio interview on Fresh Air, Turner said he gave her his name in order to discourage her ex-boyfriend, Raymond Hill, from returning to her. He also claimed that Tina's birth name is Martha Nell (not Anna Mae) Bullock.[126] He reiterated this on The Howard Stern Show in 1993 and 2007.[122] His claim was later supported when a contract from 1977 was put up for auction by Heritage Auctions which Tina signed her legal name as Martha Nell Turner.[127]

Tina left the relationship after a violent altercation on the way to a concert in July 1976.[10] She filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences; the divorce was finalized in March 1978.[64][128] Years later, Tina accused him of spousal abuse in her 1986 autobiography. "It was my relationship with Ike that made me most unhappy. At first, I had really been in love with him. Look what he'd done for me. But he was totally unpredictable," she said.[40] Ike stated in his autobiography: "Sure, I've slapped Tina. We had fights and there have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I never beat her." In 1999, Roseanne Barr coaxed him to publicly apologize to Tina on The Roseanne Barr Show.[129] In 2018, Tina told The Sunday Times that "as an old person, I have forgiven him, but I would not work with him. He asked for one more tour with me, and I said, 'No, absolutely not.' Ike wasn't someone you could forgive and allow him back in."[130][131]

Ann Thomas[edit]

Turner married Margaret Ann Thomas in Las Vegas on April 11, 1981; they divorced in 1989. They had met in the mid-1960s at a concert in Bakersfield, California. According to Turner, Tina suggested Ann fill in as an Ikette because although she could not sing, she was attractive. Eventually she moved in with them. Turner stated, "I loved Tina, but I was in love with Ann Thomas."[18] Their daughter Mia was born in January 1969. They rekindled their friendship years after their divorce. She found Turner unconscious at his home the day he died.[101]

Jeanette Bazzell Turner[edit]

Turner was introduced to St. Louis native singer Jeanette Bazzell by his son Ike Jr. in 1988.[132] She started as an Ikette before becoming his lead vocalist. Turner married Jeanette in a private ceremony at Circus Circus Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas in 1995.[133] They divorced in 2000, but later rekindled their friendship. According to Jeanette, he called her his "backbone." She was with him through a difficult period in his life. In 2019, she told Palm Spring Life that the movie What’s Love Got To Do With It "assassinated Ike’s career. But more than that, it broke his heart. It hurt him... because he helped a lot of big artists make it." She added, "Ike doesn't get any recognition because of all the negative things [shown] in that movie and in his relationship with Tina... I went through things with Ike, too, but there's a time to forgive and to let go. To strip him from having the opportunity to get recognition in an area where he was entitled to deserve it, it's so wrong to me."[134]

Audrey Madison Turner[edit]

Turner met Audrey Madison in 1993; she started as an Ikette before becoming his lead singer. They married on October 8, 2006 in Las Vegas at A Special Memory Wedding Chapel,[135] but he filed for divorce two months later on December 22, 2006. After the divorce was granted they reconciled before his death.[101] In 2011, Audrey appeared as a contestant on The X Factor.[136] In 2016, she released a memoir titled Love Had Everything to Do with It, which details her volatile relationship with Turner due to his bipolar disorder. She told The Afro, "I decided to write it because it was like a cleansing and it released all of the trauma. Also, I wanted the general public to have a better outlook and perspective on where Ike was mentally and emotionally, because so often, as a nation, we turn on people who have mental health issues and define them by their behaviors rather than their condition."[137]


Turner had at least six children: sons Ike Turner Jr. born in 1958 and Michael Turner born in 1960 (with Lorraine Taylor), Ronald "Ronnie" Turner born in 1960 (with Tina Turner), daughters Mia Turner born in 1969 (with Ann Thomas), and Twanna Melby Turner (with Pat Richard).[55][138] Tina's son Craig Turner born in 1958 (fathered by Raymond Hill) was adopted by Turner and therefore carried his surname. Craig died in an apparent suicide in 2018.[139]

Turner's second wife Velma Davis (née Dishman) claimed that Turner is father of her daughter Linda Turner Bullock born in 1949,[124] but he refuted that assertion in his autobiography (Velma is mistakenly referred to as Thelma): "I met Thelma Dishman, who, at that time, I thought was a pretty girl. Thelma was pregnant, not by me, but I liked her."[23]

Turner discovered he had a daughter named Twanna Melby when he was in prison.[140] He was paroled into her custody in 1991.[8] Her mother, Pat Richard, was dating Turner in St. Louis when he met Tina Turner. Pat attended Sumner High school with Tina.[55]

Ike Jr. won a Grammy Award for his involvement with Turner's 2006 album Risin' with the Blues.[141]

Ronnie played bass guitar in his mother's band after his parents split up, and he later played in a band with his father.[18] He married Afida Turner in 2007.[142] After his father's death he told Jet magazine:

I loved my father very much. He's done a lifetime achievement. You can talk 5 or 10 minutes about the bad he's done. You can talk all night about the achievements he's had. He was successful with my mom and after my mom. He won a Grammy before he died. That's a lifetime achievement.[143]

Legal difficulties and drug addiction[edit]

In 1959, Turner was charged with what he described as "interstate transportation of forged checks and conspiracy" and was forced to stand trial in St. Louis. At the first trial, the jury failed to reach a verdict, and at the retrial a year later he was found not guilty.[144]

In 1974, Turner was arrested for using illegal blue boxes at Bolic Sound studio to make long-distance phone calls.[145] He was cleared of the charges.[10]

Before the age of 30, Turner did not use drugs or drink alcohol. He was noted for firing anyone in his band who used substances. That changed when Turner claimed that he was first introduced to cocaine by "two very famous people I'd been working with in Las Vegas at the same hotel," later alleged in his 2015 Unsung documentary to be singer Elvis Presley and comedian Redd Foxx.[146] He took the cocaine home and tried it one night while writing songs at the piano.[101] Turner said he liked the reduced need for sleep the drug gave him which allowed him to write more music.[23] By the early 1970s, he was heavily addicted to the drug, buying it in large quantities and sharing it with friends. Turner later estimated that he had spent $11 million on cocaine.[147] His addiction caused a hole through his nasal septum, which he relieved the pain by using more cocaine. He eventually began freebasing crack cocaine.[148][101]

By 1985, Turner's finances were in disarray and he owed the state of California $12,802 in back taxes.[10] He later settled his account. He had tried to sell his studio Bolic Sound in 1980 to raise funds to avoid foreclosure, but the studio burned down on the day a potential buyer was scheduled to view it in January 1981.[10]

During the 1980s, Turner was arrested multiple times for drug and firearm offenses which resulted in two convictions.[148]

  • In 1980, a SWAT team raided his Bolic Sound studio, finding a live hand grenade and seven grams of cocaine. Turner received his first conviction for cocaine possession. He was sentenced to thirty days in the L.A. county jail with three years probation.[10]
  • In April 1981, Turner was arrested for shooting a 49-year-old newspaper delivery man. He accused of the man of assaulting his wife Ann Thomas and of kicking his dog. Turner said he only fired a shot to scare him off and that the man had injured himself when he climbed over the fence to get away. Turner was found not guilty of assault in 1980.[10]
  • In June 1985, Turner was arrested and charged with conspiracy to sell $16,000 worth of cocaine, possession and maintaining a residence for selling or using a controlled substance.[149] The police took $1,000 worth of rock cocaine from his North Hollywood apartment. Record producer Eddie Coleman Jr. and music company writer Richard Lee Griffin were also arrested and charged. Turner was released on a $5,000 bond.[150]
  • In 1986, Turner was arrested for cocaine possession, concealed carry of a handgun and traffic violations; he was released on bail.[151]
  • In January 1987, Turner was arrested for trying to sell 10 ounces of cocaine to an undercover police officer; he pleaded not guilty.[152]
  • In May 1989, Turner was arrested on drug charges in West Hollywood. He was convicted of cocaine intoxication and driving under the influence of cocaine in January 1990.[153] The next month he was sentenced to four years in prison.[154] He was released on parole in September 1991 after completing 18 months of his sentence at California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo.[148][8][140] Larry Kamien, associate warden of the California Men's Colony, said Turner was a model inmate.[8] In prison he became a trustee working in the library and saved $13,000 by selling cigarettes, candy bars, and coffee to other inmates.[140][155]

Turner managed to break his dependency on cocaine while in prison and remained clean for more than ten years. While trying to help an acquaintance from crack addiction at a crack house, he had a relapse in 2004.[101]

Health problems[edit]

In 2005, Turner revealed he had been diagnosed with emphysema,[156] which required him to use an oxygen tank. His daughter Mia Turner said, "He was too weak from the emphysema to do anything. He'd go in the studio for a couple of minutes and play a couple of bars and say he had to go lay down."[157] Despite his ill health, he collaborated with the Gorillaz on their album Demon Days and performed the track with them at the Manchester Opera House in November 2005. The year before his death, he was hospitalized several times after accidentally falling.

After his death in 2007, Turner's autopsy and toxicology report showed he was taking Seroquel at the time of his death. The medicine is most commonly used as treatment for bipolar disorder, Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. Hi ex-wife Audrey Madison claimed Turner was bipolar and that she was helping him with his illness, a claim supported by Turner's personal assistant and caretaker, Falina Rasool. Rasool said she talked to Turner about his bipolar disorder and witnessed its effects. "I would come in the room and see him change like a lightbulb, switch on and switch off. I did ask him about it. He said he made a song about it and we started laughing," said Rasool, referring to "Bi Polar" from the Grammy-winning album Risin' With The Blues. "I know I'm bipolar....And I've been bipolar, but a lot of people is bipolar," he told her.[101] However, Turner's daughter Mia Turner disagreed with this diagnosis and felt he was being over medicated.[101]


In the weeks leading up to his death, Turner became reclusive. On December 10, 2007, he told personal assistant Falina Rasool that he believed he was dying and would not live until Christmas.[101] As he predicted, Turner died two days later, on December 12, at the age of 76, at his home in San Marcos, California, near San Diego.[7][158] He was found dead by his former wife Ann Thomas. Rasool was also in the house and administered CPR. Turner was pronounced dead at 11:38 am.[101]

The funeral was held on December 22, 2007, at the City of Refuge Church in Gardena, California. Among those who spoke at the funeral were Little Richard, Solomon Burke and Phil Spector. The Kings of Rhythm played versions of "Rocket 88" and "Proud Mary." Turner was cremated after the funeral service.[101]

On January 16, 2008, the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office reported that Turner had died from a cocaine overdose. "The cause of death for Ike Turner is cocaine toxicity with other significant conditions, such as hypertensive cardiovascular disease and pulmonary emphysema", Supervising Medical Examiner Investigator Paul Parker told CNN.[159] His daughter Mia was said to be surprised at the coroner's assessment, believing his advanced stage emphysema was a bigger factor.[157]

Turner died without a valid will. Less than a week after his death, his former wife Audrey Madison Turner filed a petition stating that he had penned a handwritten will naming her as a beneficiary. In 2009, a judge ruled that it was invalid, and by law his children were the direct heirs of his estate.[160]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Turner has received various awards in recognition for his significant role as one of the pioneers of rock and roll.

Blues Foundation Awards[edit]

Blues Music Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1981 Ike Turner's Kings Of Rhythm Reissue album Nominated
2002 Here and Now Comeback Album of The Year Won
2002 Here and Now Soul Blues Album Nominated
2002 Ike Turner Soul Blues Male Artist Nominated
2002 Ike Turner Blues Entertainer of the Year Nominated

Blues Hall of Fame[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1991 "Rocket 88" Classic of Blues Recording - Single or Album Track Inducted
2005 Ike Turner Performer Inducted

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1962 "It's Gonna Work Out Fine" Best Rock & Roll Recording Nominated
1970 A Black Man's Soul Best R&B Instrumental Performance Nominated
1972 "Proud Mary" Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group Won
1975 "Father Alone" Best Soul Gospel Performance Nominated
1975 The Gospel According to Ike & Tina Best Soul Gospel Performance Nominated
2002 Here and Now Best Traditional Blues Album Nominated
2007 Risin' with the Blues Best Traditional Blues Album Won

Grammy Hall of Fame[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1998 "Rocket 88" (as Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats) Hall of Fame (Single) Inducted
1999 "River Deep – Mountain High" Hall of Fame (Single) Inducted
2003 "Proud Mary" Hall of Fame (Single) Inducted

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1991 Ike & Tina Turner Hall of Fame - Performers Inducted
2018 "Rocket 88" (as Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats) Hall of Fame - Singles Inducted

Selected discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]

  • 2002: The Resurrection: Live Montreux Jazz Festival, Isabel IS 640202
  • 2006: Ike Turner & The Kings Of Rhythm: Live In Concert, Charly Films CHF-F1014LF [DVD/2CD]


Recordings as a sideman[edit]

Howlin' Wolf[edit]

Albert King[edit]

Earl Hooker[edit]

The Gorillaz[edit]

Ike and Tina Turner[edit]


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