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Ike Turner and Tina Turner
By: Ehimwenma E. Aimiuwu
Dec 2007


  I thought that the only instrument that could talk by repeating exactly what human beings say or sing was the African talking drums of Nigeria, until I heard Ike Turner play his guitar in the 1960s on radio.  I never could imagine that anybody could actually make the guitar to talk or sing word for word like a human would till this day.  BB King, one of the Blues greats, recently said that Ike Turner is one of the three artists that could make a star out of anybody. 

I have never heard of Ike Turner or followed his music until I saw the movie his former wife, Tina Turner, put out.  The movie would make any person hate such a man, because he was portrayed as a beast.  It was only about two years ago that I saw him on a “History of Blues” documentary and heard his music on radio.  His energy was not only different from the man I saw in the movie, but he was portrayed as a celebrated Blues and guitar guru.  This does not mean that he is innocent of what he did to Tina, assuming it is true.

The purpose of my article is to ask what the purpose of the movie (What love got to do with it) was.   Was the purpose to make Ike Turner look bad, make Tina Turner some extra money, or to encourage women that they can rise above all obstacles?  I do not think money was an issue for Tina Turner and I do not think Ike was an obstacle in preventing Tina from singing or hindering her dream, but the movie did make Ike Turner look bad.  Despite the fact that he was abusive and violent in the movie, Ike Turner was like an abusive dad encouraging his family members to excel forcefully.  I am not trying to defend Ike because any form of violence is wrong, but people treat others the way they learned to treat others. 


A professor at Kent State University once explained to us what many Black artists were going through during the time.  It was a time of high frustration for Black artists who would not get exposure, money, radio time, or recognition for their unique and original work.  It was a time that any White musician could take your song and remake it to become a hit through radio exposure and not a single penny went to the original Black artist.  Many Black artists got to abusive modes when they felt that their singers and instrumentalist were not living up to expectation to beat the racist music market.  Usually, the closet to them got the biggest share of the frustration like in most circumstances in any family. 

We never heard or saw Ike Turner’s version of the movie, so we cannot let the movie be the main definition of Ike Turner.  We cannot let the condition of Black musical enterprise and the frustration of the time overshadow his musical genius.  Believe it or not, Tina Turner is still a product of Ike Turner.  A building is only as strong as its foundation.  May your soul rest peacefully and thanks for giving us Tina Turner, even if she might never say it.  Sleep well.

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