Although she may be the queen of rock ’n’ roll, Tina Turner had to fight hard to enjoy the success she knows today. But, unfortunately, the singer’s life isn’t now free of pain. As she was attending Paris Fashion Week in 2018, for instance, an event was about to take place across the Atlantic that would change her family’s life forever.
And Turner had faced considerable odds even before finding fame. As a child, the future star – born Anna Mae Bullock – was raised by her grandmother after her parents’ separation. However, tragedy struck early on in Turner’s life after her sole guardian passed away when she was a teenager.
Following her grandmother’s death, Turner moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where she became heavily involved in the local music scene. Joining up to become vocalist for the band the Kings of Rhythm, she began dating the group’s saxophonist Raymond Hill. However, the pair shared a fraught relationship. And after band members intervened in an argument between Hill and Turner – resulting in the men badly injuring Hill – he ended up relocating to Clarksdale, Mississippi.
But it proved to be Ike Turner – with whom the Kings of Rhythm regularly played – who would eventually steal the singer’s heart. The pair married in 1962, and their professional relationship flourished, too, thanks to hits like “Proud Mary.” Meanwhile, the arrival of son Ronnie in 1960 – who had been preceded by Turner and Hill’s son Craig – gave the couple a family. Turner also adopted two of Ike’s children: Michael and Ike Jr.
However, like Hill, Ike proved to have his own dark side. As recounted in her 1986 autobiography I, Tina, Turner apparently suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband. The alleged mistreatment was so severe, in fact, that the star had even attempted suicide in 1968 as a result.
And Turner’s son Craig was also left severely traumatized by Ike’s behavior. During a 2005 interview with Oprah Winfrey, the singer recounted how her eldest had reportedly reacted to his step-father’s abuse. She said, “[He] was a very emotional kid. He’d always look down in sadness. One day when Ike was fighting me, Craig knocked on the door and said, ‘Mother, are you all right?’”
Turner’s decision to leave Ike reportedly came after a particularly violent attack on her in Dallas in 1976, and she divorced him two years later. After that, the singer set out on a solo career, but she initially met with little success. And the single parent of four was left so poor that she resorted to food stamps just to get by.
But despite initially struggling following her divorce, Turner eventually found success as a solo artist in the 1980s. The entertainer went on to sell over 20 million units of her album Private Dancer, picking up four Grammy Awards along the way. And within a few short years, her popularity was so great that she was performing to 184,000 fans during a record-breaking 1988 gig in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
And it wasn’t just Turner’s professional fortunes that changed during this time. Due to her previous troubled relationships, the artist seems to have steered clear of romantic pursuits for a while in favor of working on her career. In 1986 this all changed, however, when Turner became involved with Cologne-born producer Erwin Bach. Over three decades later, the couple are still together, and they tied the knot in 2013.
Since finding her footing, Turner has been living far from the bright lights of show business in Switzerland. And while the star herself has scaled back her career, her children have been working hard to keep their family’s entertainment tradition alive. Youngest son Ronnie, for example, has become an actor and musician. Meanwhile, stepson Ike Jr. has gone on to work as a record producer.
But not every member of the Turner family has kept a high profile; Turner’s eldest son, Craig, managed to live out of the spotlight for years, for example. And that was pretty much the case until 2018, when his name entered the public consciousness in the most heartrending of ways.
On the afternoon of July 3, 2018, medical officials were called to the real estate agent’s Studio City, Los Angeles, home. There they found Craig unresponsive, with what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the head. And despite their best efforts, the paramedics called could do little to help and so pronounced the 59-year-old dead.
Then, as medical professionals examined Craig’s body, it soon became apparent that his passing was no accident. Speaking to Variety, the Los Angeles County coroner confirmed that the wound was indeed self-inflicted. Meanwhile, sources within the Los Angeles Police Department also hinted to TMZ that the realtor’s shooting was intentional.
And Craig’s mother – who was photographed attending the Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris mere hours before his death – was no doubt deeply affected by his passing. But although word of her son’s apparent suicide spread quickly through the media, the singer herself declined to comment on the event.
Furthermore, Craig’s death was likely a devastating blow to a family already experiencing its fair share of pain. And the tragedy had come just two months after Craig’s adoptive brother Ike Jr. had badmouthed his relatives to the press. Speaking to The Mail on Sunday in April 2018, the musician had even accused his step-mother of neglecting her family.
“My mother is living her life… in Europe,” Ike Jr. claimed. “She doesn’t want anything to do with her past.” After claiming that his mother hadn’t spoken to him in around 18 years, the producer also insinuated that Turner was giving a similarly cold shoulder to her other children. “I don’t think any of my brothers have talked to her in a long time, either,” he said.
But while Ike Jr.’s assertions are certainly damning, his brother’s social media account told somewhat of a different story. During his life, Craig uploaded several photos of himself and his mother sharing loving embraces to his Facebook account. And a shot of the pair smiling to the camera – taken at Turner’s 2013 wedding – suggests that the two were far from estranged.
In the weeks following her son’s passing, Turner remained silent to press and the public alike. It was only on July 27, 2018 – nearly one month after the tragic event – that the singer made an announcement. In a tweet, accompanied by a photo taken at her son’s memorial service one week earlier, the bereaved star revealed the true extent of her heartbreak.
“My saddest moment as a mother,” she wrote underneath a picture showing the singer dropping a rose into the sea. “On Thursday, July 19, 2018, I said my final goodbye to my son, Craig Raymond Turner, when I gathered with family and friends to scatter his ashes off the coast of California. He was 59 when he died so tragically, but he will always be my baby.”
Sadly, the death of Turner’s son is just one tragic episode in a life filled with a lot of hardship and hurt. And though the music icon faced incredibly tough odds in her journey to the top, she still isn’t immune to personal tragedy. Certainly, it shows that even the most resilient of us must never give up fighting.