Often identified as a pioneer of rock and roll of the 1950s, Ike Turner, born on November 5, 1931, was a legend often on the wrong side of history. Throughout the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, he went on from strength to strength, particularly with his then-wife Tina Turner as the leader of the routine Ike and Tina. With their subsequent divorce, Turner’s career saw a decline, only to be revived in the early 2000s with award-winning work. His death ended his career, but his legacy as a musician holds strong. Celebrate the musician’s birthday with some great insights into his life.
Born Izear Luster “Ike” Turner on November 5, 1931, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Turner was the son of Izear Luster Turner, a Baptist minister, and Beatrice Cushenberry, a seamstress. He quit school during eighth grade to work as an elevator operator at the Alcazar Hotel in Clarksdale. He developed his interest in music when DJ John Friskillo took Turner under his wing and taught him to play music in the record room of the WROX radio station in the hotel.
At just 16 years of age, Turner moved to West Memphis, and he discovered B.B. King, who introduced him to the Bihari Brothers, the founders of Modern Records. While working for the Bihari Brothers, Turner also wrote several songs that the former copyrighted under their name, thus denying Turner the royalties from them. The road to success for Turner did not come easy, but it did eventually come. Over his lifetime, Turner received several awards, including seven nominations and two wins at the Grammy Awards. He released several hit songs and albums which peaked on the Billboard R&B charts.
While Turner thrived in his musical career, his private life was not doing well. His life was marred by several controversies, most notably the accusations of domestic violence from his ex-wife, Tina Turner. His drug addiction also came to light in the 1980s, and he was charged multiple times for drug possession. While in prison, he attempted to get sober and was successful for almost a decade, during which time he also visited high schools to speak against drug use. Unfortunately, he died from a cocaine overdose in 2007. Turner was survived by six children, three sons and three daughters, from his marriages
The band records the song ‘Rocket 88’ which tops Billboard R&B but Turner does not get credited for the performance.
After discovering Tina Turner, he founds the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, whose hit song ‘It’s Gonna Work Out’ earns them their first Grammy nomination.
For the album “A Black Man’s Soul,” Turner receives his first solo Grammy nomination for Best R&B Instrumental Performance.
For their hit single ‘Proud Mary,’ the duo win the Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group.
With former wife Tina Turner, he is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Titled “Risin’ With the Blues,” the album wins him his first solo Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album.
Why We Love Ike Turner
He was open about his struggles with drug abuse
Despite a career that was marred with his struggles with drug use, Ike Turner was open to talking about it. In many interviews, he spoke about wanting to get sober and admitted to his flaws.
He was a legend
Even with all the controversies which surrounded him, Turner will be remembered as one of the pioneers of rock and roll. He was responsible for several innovations in music for which he continues to be acclaimed.
He struggled to rise to the top
His childhood was fraught with severe struggles, not the least of which had to do with race. Yet, Turner put them behind him and went on to become one of the legends of the R&B genre.
5 Surprising Facts
Laurence Fishburne played him in a movie
In the biographical movie based on Tina Turner’s book, Laurence Fishburne portrayed Ike Turner.
He claimed he was married 14 times
In an interview, Turner once claimed that he had been married 14 times!
He spent 18 months in jail
On a conviction for drug possession, he was sentenced to four years in prison in 1990 but was released after one and a half years.
He knew Elvis before he was famous
Sometime in the 1950s, Turner met Elvis Presley in West Memphis, when the latter was a truck driver.
He missed his Hall of Fame induction
Serving a jail term for drug possession, Turner was absent during his induction into the Rock Hall of Fame and Phil Spector accepted his award.
Ike Turner FAQs
What was the age difference between Ike and Tina Turner?
There was an age difference of eight years.
Who inherited Ike Turner’s estate?
Turner passed away without leaving a will and after a court case, his estate was passed on to his children as his legal heirs.
Did Ike Turner threaten Tina with a gun?
Turner never threatened his former wife with a gun.
Ike Turner’s birthday dates