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Q & A with TINA TURNER

'The Lesson Is Don't Give Up'

September 24, 1996|RICHARD CROMELIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In their '60s heyday, Ike & Tina Turner were a fiery soul-music force and one of the key acts in modern pop. Their contributions were acknowledged in 1991 with their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But their role in bridging the R&B and rock genres, and the quality of hits ranging from "It's Gonna Work Out Fine" to "Proud Mary," have been overshadowed in recent years by the action behind the scenes.

The couple's stormy personal life, as described in Tina's 1986 memoir "I, Tina" and played out on the screen in 1993's "What's Love Got to Do With It," has become a modern American morality play--an account of abuse, resolve and renewal that the public shared when it watched Tina triumph with her first solo album, "Private Dancer." That record came out in 1984, eight years after she left Ike and slowly established her own musical identity.

Turner, 56, has just released "Wildest Dreams," her first album of new material in seven years, and she'll return to the U.S. for a tour next year. In a recent interview, the singer, who lives in Switzerland and southern France with her companion of 10 years, record executive Erwin Bach, looked back on the impact of her autobiography and her role as one of pop's definitive sex symbols.

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Question: In telling your life story, was it your goal to inspire people to get out of abusive relationships?

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Answer: No. . . . Actually it was something that I never planned for the people to know. Because it was shameful. I had no idea that it would do what it did in terms of inspiring a lot of women--and actually what it did to a lot of men. . . . A man at an airport came up to me and said, "I read your story, I bought your book, and I'll never beat my wife again." So it had an impact on a lot of people, and I'm happy about that, because it's almost like poison turned to medicine in some kind of way. You don't always know. You just live your life and something good comes from it. It wasn't a plan at all.

Q: What lesson would you like people to draw from your story?

A: The lesson is don't give up. . . . A lot of people are too impatient. They want things immediately. And it's a job. It's a job working in life to get what you want, both from a spiritual side and a material side. There's a lot of work to be done on yourself before you can allow someone to help you to make your life happen. So, basically, the message is determination. Tenacity in terms of staying with it, making it happen, seeing that you actually manifest what it is inside of you that you want for yourself.

I had it to a point with Ike. We lived well, we had big cars and houses and clothes, but I had not actually fulfilled my dream. It's all just knowing who you are and getting in touch with yourself and knowing precisely what you want. Basically the message is take care of yourself spiritually and mentally, and it can help you make the right decisions to get where you want to get in your life.

Q: Where did you find the strength to get through those trying times?

A: Well, I had the strength there. I'm a strong person, because I had dealt with problems when my mother and father separated when I was 11 and I went from relative to relative and had problems in school. It was tough all the way, so my skin was already toughened to the life and striving to get through. I didn't dwell on it, I just kept going. I got little odd jobs and kept looking and listening. I went to St. Louis and tried to work and surround myself with what I was interested in, a different class of people. That was what I was about. I was about trying to make myself better. I didn't know it was in those terms, but I saw things that I wanted and I went for that kind of thing. . . . If you know yourself, then you go for what your instincts are telling you.

Q: Let's turn to the music. Ike & Tina Turner was a soul or R&B act, but you always had an affinity for rock--doing songs like "Proud Mary," touring with the Rolling Stones, etc. Where did that come from?

A: When I started to sing with Ike Turner, he covered the [songs on the] charts, because he played a lot of white clubs from 5 to 9, and then he went across the bridge to a basically black audience. So my attraction to music came in the beginning from working with Ike because he always mixed the music with what was current and what the people knew. . . . It was always there. He recorded one type of music but he performed another type.

Q: How did you feel about being a sex symbol?

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