Ike Turner died last week from so far, unexplained circumstances. The first thought that popped into my mind was drug overdose, or some illness related to a life of drug over indulgence. Like most people. I don’t really know. Like most people, I only knew Ike through his ex wife’s book and movie and his music.
His music came first for me. When I was a kid listening to radio, I discovered Ike and Tina Turner. Their music was alive. It was electric. It made you want to get up and move, and I did whenever I heard it. And this was before the Proud Mary cover.
Tina’s voice was unmistakably in the front. But Ike was the foundation. That bass line, his deep voice laying down the tempo, keeping everyone on pace, while she soared on high. You felt rather than heard Ike and that was the way it should have been. It was a visceral feeling that evoked movement deep within the listener. Ike worked his rhythmic magic from the inside out.
Historically, he was a legend in the music industry. Ike is credited with recording the very first rock and roll record, before Bill Hailey’s ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK, or anything Elvis did. But being a black man he didn’t get the money or credit due him as a founder of a music genre.
He even discovered Tina. Built his game around her. Gave her, her name. She gives him all credit for that. Yet to most people, he is still only her husband, the man in the background. It’s a shame that all most folks will remember him for is his abuse of Tina.
I’m not justifying what he did to her. If even half of what was said in her book and movie is true then he was an ugly human being. No one should abuse another person, especially their spouse, for any reason.
But it is sad, because he was a talented and very creative person who was a man of his time, but at the same time, ahead of his time musically. He visualized where rhythm and blues could go, by surfing on the back of an electric guitar. His musical distortions ultimately gave birth to Jimi Hendrix, Ernie Isley, Slash, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Pete Townsend, and Sheryl Crow, to name just a few.
As recently as last year, he won a grammy and was nominated again this year. He is already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
But that is not what people will remember. They will remember that scene in the movie when Tina fought back and they both ended up bloodied. I cheered when she finally fought back. I hollered when she kicked him with her high heels. He was finally getting what he deserved. People will remember that Tina exited that limo a new person while Ike left it a surprised and beaten bully. She has gone on to superstardom, he to a drug fueled oblivion, if the stories are true.
He never recovered from that moment. Judging from his subsequent statements afterward, he never, even understood what happened to him. He thought of himself as the victim and on so many levels he was. A musical genius, and a member of the rock and roll hall of fame who despite the accolades from his peers, spent the last half of his life as a footnote in his ex wife’s bio.