If you rightly believe Tina Turner is the Queen of Rock and Roll, then the new documentary Tina is an incredible coronation ceremony. The two-hour film, which features new interviews with Turner and several close friends and collaborators, is packed with fact after fun fact about her extraordinary career, from its humble beginnings, to its terrifying lows and blissful highs.
Her stage name was inspired by a television show. Bandleader Ike Turner christened his star singer (and later wife) Anna Mae Bullock "Tina" because it rhymed with a show he liked, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. He felt it matched her untrained ferocity as a live singer and dancer.
One of her most classic recordings was initially a flop. Though it's considered a rock and roll classic today, Ike & Tina's "River Deep - Mountain High" charted no higher than No. 88 on the Billboard Hot 100. (It fared far better in England, getting to No. 3.) Ike isn't even featured on it: he was convinced to stay out of the studio by producer Phil Spector - which unfortunately did nothing to quell his paranoia that others were stealing his talent (he received no credit for Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88," considered one of the earliest rock and roll singles). Nor did it stop his physical and emotional abuse of Tina.
Tina's faith got her through the hard times. Tina discovered Buddhism in 1974 from a woman named Valerie Bishop, who'd worked for Ike. "Buddhism was a way out," she says in the documentary, repeating her mantra - Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō - to help find her inner strength.
After declaring independence from Ike, she only asked for one thing in return. Tina finally escaped Ike's brutal treatment in 1976, filing for divorce. The split left her with almost nothing, except for the rights to her name: Tina Turner. Katori Hall, the co-writer of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, describes this decision in the documentary as such: "To keep [the name] is to reclaim it, to reshape it, define it."
She hated her biggest hit. After struggling as a solo artist, new manager Roger Davies finally secured her a record deal in England - but one of the songs brought to her was a pop tune by British group Bucks Fizz that she thought fairly little of. "I was rock and roll...that was a pop song," she said of "What's Love Got to Do with It." When encouraged by co-writer/producer Terry Britten to sing the song as only she would sing it, she found her fire - and had the second-biggest single of 1984 for her trouble.
Reclaiming her history wasn't easy for her. Tina opened up about Ike's abuse to People in 1981 and in her bestselling memoir I, Tina (1986), which was later adapted into the Oscar-nominated film What's Love Got to Do with It (1993). But she found herself secretly frustrated with how often journalists still wanted to ask her about that period. "It's like a curse," she says in the film. "If you don't address the wounds of your past, you continue to bleed."
But her story has a happy ending. The documentary concludes with a look at her relationship with Erwin Bach, a music exec tasked with greeting her at a German airport in the '80s. Bach pleasantly describes the spark he still gets from seeing her today, years after their belated wedding and move to Switzerland in 2013. And who can blame him? As the film clearly underscores, Tina Turner is simply the best.