Ike Turner, the musician, bandleader, talent scout and record producer best known for his work with former wife Tina Turner, died at his home on Wednesday (December 12), according to The Associated Press. He was 76.
Turner’s death was confirmed by his manager, Scott Hanover. “He did pass away this morning,” Hanover said. There has been no official announcement of the cause of his death, but TMZ.com reports that Turner died in his sleep at his San Marcos, California, home.
Turner, who, along with Tina, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, released his last solo album, Risin’ With the Blues, in 2006; the effort won a Grammy Award. He was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 2001.
“There is no doubt that Ike Turner was one of rock and roll’s great architects with his genre-defying sound as an instrumentalist and bandleader,” Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy, said in a statement issued Wedneday. “His innovative musicality helped lay the foundation for rock and roll and R&B more than 50 years ago. As a bandleader, his well-rehearsed ensembles were some of the most exciting live groups the world had ever heard. As a two-time Grammy Award winner and recipient of the Recording Academy’s 2004 Heroes Award, Ike’s legacy as a groundbreaking pioneer in the music industry will never be forgotten.”(See photos of Ike Turner from over the course of the rock and roll legend’s career right here.)
While his contributions to the world of music have been largely overshadowed by his personal turmoil (documented in the 1993 Tina Turner biopic, “What’s Love Got to Do With It”), Turner was a true rock and roll pioneer, having released what many consider to be the first rock and roll song, “Rocket 88″ (albeit under the name of his band’s singer, Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats), in 1951.
Izear Luster Turner Jr. was born in 1931, in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He formed his first band while still in high school, and by the late ’40s had assembled an outfit dubbed the Kings of Rhythm — the group recorded “Rocket 88,” although authorship of the song has been disputed. The song became a hit and the Kings went on to work with such legendary blues musicians as Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy and many others.
Turner and the group continued performing and recording throughout the 1950s, with Tina joining the group late in the decade and ultimately marrying Turner in 1958. In the ensuing years the Ike & Tina Turner Revue built up a strong following, scoring several hits in the 1960s and becoming a top live draw. Tina’s voice caught the attention of producer Phil Spector, who cut “River Deep – Mountain High” with them in 1966; a huge hit internationally (although not in the United States), the song has since attained classic status.
In 1969, the group was invited to open the Rolling Stones’ American tour (documented in the film “Gimme Shelter”), which broke them out of genre status and led to a series of hit covers of rock songs, including Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” which won them a Grammy. However, Turner’s problems — including substance and spousal abuse — soon became untenable and Tina left him in the middle of a tour in 1975; they divorced in 1978.
Reflecting the distance that had grown between the ex-spouses over the years — and the bitter feelings that allegedly still existed between them — Tina Turner’s publicist reportedly told TMZ.com on Wednesday, “Tina is aware that Ike passed away earlier today. She has not had any contact with him in 35 years. No further comment will be made.”
While Tina’s career eventually thrived following her split with Ike, Turner’s own solo efforts failed to generate much interest. He was married four times publicly, although in October of this year, Turner was interviewed on “The Howard Stern Show” and claimed he and Tina were never actually wed.
For years, Turner denied Tina’s claims of spousal abuse, but in his 2001 autobiography “Takin’ Back My Name,” he said, “Sure, I’ve slapped Tina … There have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I never beat her.”
During the 1980s, Turner was convicted of drug-related charges; he was later sentenced to serve several years in a California state prison. When he and Tina were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, he was in prison and missed the ceremony. He was released in 1993, and claimed sobriety thereafter.
After his release from prison, Turner returned to music. In 2001, Turner’s Here and Now was nominated for a Grammy, and in 2005, he appeared on the Gorillaz’s album Demon Days, playing piano on the track “Every Planet We Reach Is Dead.”
In February of this year, Turner won his first solo Grammy in the Best Traditional Blues Album category for Risin’ With the Blues.
“I went back over my complete life, man, and I see the things that I did that was good and I see things that I’ve done that was wrong,” he told VH1’s “Behind the Music” in 2000. “I don’t wanna be remembered as the demon they made me [in the media]. … People that know me, what they really know I am, that’s what I want to be remembered for.”
[This story was originally published at 4:51 p.m. ET on 12.12.2007]