Nearly 40 years ago, legendary music icon Tina Turner first met her husband, Erwin Bach. Turner, who sadly passed away May 24th, 2023, found the love she deserved in Bach and detailed their relationship in her memoir, My Love Story. In it, the Queen of Rock n' Roll spoke candidly about her previous health struggles and the priceless gift her husband gave her, giving fans insight into her epic romance.
Singing in the choir
Turner was born in Nutbush, Tennessee in November 1939. Her birth name was Anna Mae Bullock. The now 78-year-old started singing in the choir at church as a child, but it was when she was a teenager that her career began.
When Turner was 17 years old, the singer saw Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm perform at a Missouri nightclub. Believe it or not, she was invited to sing with them after Eugene Washington, the band’s drummer, heard her voice. The teen then became a guest singer for the band and even performed backing vocals on one of Ike’s songs. He created the stage name Tina Turner for her and their first single, “A Fool in Love,” was released in 1960.
The relationship begins
Turner had been dating the band’s saxophone player, Raymond Hill, in the late 1950s and fell pregnant with his child. They had a son named Craig, who Ike later adopted, but he sadly took his own life in 2018 at age 59. After her relationship with Hill disintegrated, the singer became romantically involved with Ike.
The couple welcomed son Ronnie in 1960 and they married two years later in Tijuana, Mexico. However, the marriage soon became strained as Ike was abusive towards Turner. “Sure, I’ve slapped Tina,” he wrote in 1999 autobiography Taking Back My Name. “There have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I have never beat her.”
Turner filed for divorce from Ike in 1976 after his cocaine habit and the abuse had become intolerable. She continued her career as a solo artist and is now considered one of the most successful singers in history. The star is known for hits such as “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” “Private Dancer” and “The Best.”
The love she deserves
Nearly ten years after her separation from Ike, Turner met Bach in 1985. The music executive from Germany was 16 years younger than her, but the chemistry was evident right away. “Erwin, when you come to America, I want you to make love to me,” the 78-year-old recalled telling him in My Love Story. “He just looked at me, as if he couldn’t believe his ears. I couldn’t believe what I said either!”
Wary of marriage
In the early 1990s, the couple moved to the German town of Cologne, where they lived together in Switzerland. Although their love for each other was indisputable, Turner still had reservations about remarrying. The first time Bach asked her to be his wife, she declined.
Following her fairytale
However, when Bach proposed for a second time, Turner accepted. The singer and the music executive finally married in 2013 after dating for over 25 years. But less than a month after the wedding, she had a stroke that left her needing to re-learn how to walk.
Then in 2016, the star received some heartbreaking news. Turner was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. The news was frightening, but Bach was her constant support. “Erwin always radiated confidence, optimism, and joie de vivre,” she wrote in her autobiography. “With his help, I tried to keep calm.”
Turner sought homeopathic treatment to manage some of the side effects. But her decision to shun conventional medicine turned out to be a disastrous one. As a result, she was soon in danger of total kidney failure. “The consequences of my ignorance ended up being a matter of life and death,” the singer explained.
Loyal through it all
Fortunately, Bach was by her side. Turner continued, “At this terrible moment of guilt and self-recrimination, I learned something wonderful about Erwin. He never reproached me for my mistake. Instead, he was loyal, kind, and understanding – and determined to help me get through all this alive.”
Two difficult choices
By the end of 2016, Turner’s kidneys were functioning at only 20 percent and the outlook was bleak. “I faced two choices: either regular dialysis or a kidney transplant,” she shared in her book. “Only the transplant would give me a good chance of a near-normal life. But the chances of getting a donor kidney were remote.”
Considering sobering options
The singer didn’t want to go on dialysis because she had no desire to “live on a machine.” However, Switzerland’s level of organ donation is among the lowest on the continent. The star began to accept that her days may be numbered – and even joined a group that helps with suicide, known as Exit.
"When it's time, it's really time"
“If my kidneys were going, and it was time for me to die, I could accept that. It was okay. When it’s time, it’s really time,” she wrote. The singer had come to terms with what she believed was her fate. But Bach couldn’t do the same.
Bach's moving act
That’s when Bach offered his wife a gift to save her life. “He said he didn’t want another woman, or another life,” Turner recalled in My Love Story. “Then he shocked me. He said he wanted to give me one of his kidneys.”
Turner, who in 2018 received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and even gave up retirement to work on a musical about her life, admitted she was amazed by what Bach did for her. “I could hardly believe it then, and there are times when I still can’t believe it. I was overwhelmed by the enormity of his offer,” she wrote.
Giving the gift
After a test confirmed Bach’s compatibility, they proceeded with the operation in 2017. The music executive recovered from the procedure, and Turner took immunosuppressants to prevent her body from rejecting the kidney. Then when the music icon revealed the life-saving gift her husband had given her, fans were moved by the heartwarming tale.
Restored faith in love
“This story restores my faith in true love. [Turner] is blessed to have such a loving and devoted husband,” one commenter shared. Another agreed, “What an inspiring story. Her husband Erwin is such a good man. Love has no boundaries!” The singer’s book was released in October 2018 with hopes that her experience would encourage more people to sign up for organ donation.
“I lived through a hellish marriage that almost destroyed me, but I went on. I know that my medical adventure is far from over. But I’m still here – we’re still here, closer than we ever imagined,” she wrote in My Love Story. “I can look back and understand why my karma was the way it was. Good came out of bad. Joy came out of pain. And I have never been so completely happy."
Tina's triumphant return
And come the superstar’s 80th birthday, she wanted to share that message of happiness with her fans. So Turner appeared in a video uploaded to YouTube, which may have surprised some who had followed her health struggles. In fact, the singer looked absolutely radiant in the clip, and what she had to say was heartwarming.
"Not like this"
Reflecting how low Turner had gone as her kidneys failed, she asked the viewers a rhetorical question. The star asked with a smile, “How did I think I would be at 80? Not like this.” She then gestured at herself – and she definitely did look amazing, belying her age and past illnesses.
She acknowledged her illnesses
Then Turner confirmed that what you saw in the video was not an illusion. She said, “How is this? Well, I look great, I feel good.” The star then acknowledged that her health had suffered in the past when she noted, “I’ve gone through some very serious sicknesses that I’m overcoming.”
She was "happy" to be in her 80s
Confirming that the Private Dancer creator now has a fresh outlook on life, she suggested that it’s like having a rebirth. Turner said, “It’s like having a second chance at life. I’m happy to be an 80-year-old woman.” And with that, the beaming superstar signed off, leaving the video as a marker of the milestone.
Fans loved seeing Tina again
Turner’s birthday message garnered a lot of interest when it was uploaded to YouTube. It attracted more than 300,000 views, and at least 8,400 of those liked what they saw, giving it the thumbs up. And more than 1,100 users left a comment, many of them glowingly positive.
"Just the greatest"
A good example of those sentiments came from Shinethan Littlefoot, whose comment was most popular. He wrote, “‘Yes, I’m 80 years old and I LOOK GREAT! hahhahah.’ Tina is just the greatest!” MrMafalda72 agreed, writing, “There will NEVER be a woman, an entertainer like you. You have shown the world how it goes. If I could turn back the time I would.”
Praise from fellow celebs
Meanwhile, celebrities queued up to wish Turner well on her birthday. Some of the biggest names in showbusiness took to Twitter to celebrate with her. Several made videos of their own to share, while others included favorite pictures and clips from the star’s long, glittering entertainment career.
Tina is part of music history
Among the stars to post a tribute was Missy Elliott, who wrote of Turner’s importance to female musicians. She tweeted, “We Celebrate your 80th today! It’s so IMPORTANT for us to KNOW OUR HISTORY in music because of artists like #TinaTurner who KICKED DOWN DOORS & left them open for artist like MYSELF & MOST of your FAVS.”
Cher called Tina her friend and hero
Another female superstar who wanted to salute Turner was Cher. She gushed, “My amazing friend. We’ve been through a lot, magical one. I will always love you, you give me strength, you are a force, a hurricane, a lightning strike, a legend, an icon, you are my hero, you are my friend.”
"One of the greats"
These stars were joined by Sir Rod Stewart, who didn’t hold back. He said, “Happy Birthday to one of the greats, always my friend, the one and only.” And those sentiments were echoed by Who legend Pete Townshend and dad rock icon Bryan Adams, both of whom created video tributes to the singer.
Stars react to her death
Despite her boundless optimism, Tina's illnesses caught up to her in 2023. When her passing was announced on social media, stars from all walks of life made sure to honor Tina and her indomitable spirit. "She was inspiring, warm, funny and generous," Mick Jagger tweeted. "She helped me so much when I was young and I will never forget her."
The "Queen of Rock and Roll"
Dan Rather called Tina the "Queen of Rock and Roll," and Diana Ross said that she was "shocked and saddened" by the news. John Fogerty, whose song "Proud Mary" Tina famously covered, said that he "loved [Tina's] version of Proud Mary! It was different and fantastic." As the condolences rolled in, it quickly became clear that Tina's resilience in life will translate to her legacy.
"I'm a happy person"
Despite a lifetime of ups and downs, Tina Turner was always focused on gratitude. As she told Gayle King later in her life, “I have everything. When I sit at the Lake Zurich in the house that I have, I am so serene. No problems. I had a very hard life. But I didn’t put blame on anything or anyone. I got through it, I lived through it with no blame. And I’m a happy person.”
An end to the love story
Of course. Turner's incredible life and love story came to an end on May 24th, 2023. Fans across the globe mourned the icon's incredible legacy but also paid tribute to her once-in-a-lifetime romance. While her journey may have closed sooner than expected, Turner left the world knowing she had "simply the best" marriage for 40 happy years.