December 13, 2007 in Nation/World

Ike Turner, pioneer of rock, dies at 76

Elliot Spagat Associated Press
 
File Associated Press photo

Ike Turner performs at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in July 2002. Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

SAN DIEGO – Ike Turner, whose role as one of rock’s critical architects was overshadowed by his ogrelike image as the man who brutally abused former wife Tina Turner, died Wednesday at his home in suburban San Diego. He was 76.

Turner died at his San Marcos home, said Scott M. Hanover of Thrill Entertainment Group, which managed Turner’s career.

There was no immediate word on the cause of death, which was first reported by celebrity Web site TMZ.com.

Turner managed to rehabilitate his image somewhat in later years, touring around the globe with his band the Kings of Rhythm and drawing critical acclaim for his work. He won a Grammy in 2007 in the traditional blues album category for “Risin’ With the Blues.”

But his image is forever identified as the drug-addicted, wife-abusing husband of Tina Turner. He was hauntingly portrayed by Laurence Fishburne in the movie “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” based on Tina Turner’s autobiography.

In a 2001 interview with the Associated Press, Turner denied his ex-wife’s claims of abuse and expressed frustration that he had been demonized in the media while his historic role in rock’s beginnings had been ignored.

“You can go ask Snoop Dogg or Eminem, you can ask the Rolling Stones or (Eric) Clapton, or you can ask anybody – anybody, they all know my contribution to music, but it hasn’t been in print about what I’ve done or what I’ve contributed until now,” he said.

Turner, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is credited by many rock historians with making the first rock ‘n’ roll record, “Rocket 88,” in 1951. Produced by the legendary Sam Phillips, it was groundbreaking for its use of distorted electric guitar.

But as would be the case for most of his career, Turner, a prolific session guitarist and piano player, was not the star on the record – it was recorded with Turner’s band but credited to singer Jackie Brenston.

And it would be another singer – a young woman named Anna Mae Bullock – who would bring Turner his greatest fame, and infamy.

Turner met the 18-year-old Bullock, whom he would later marry, in 1959 and quickly made the husky-voiced woman the lead singer of his group, refashioning her into the sexy Tina Turner.

The pair would have two sons. They also produced a string of hits. The first, “A Fool In Love,” was a top R&B song in 1959, and others followed, including “I Idolize You” and “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine.”

Their densely layered hit “River Deep, Mountain High” was one of producer Phil Spector’s proudest creations. A rousing version of “Proud Mary,” a cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit, became their signature song and won them a Grammy for best R&B vocal performance by a group.

Still, their hits were often sporadic, and while their public life depicted a powerful, dynamic duo, Tina Turner would later charge that her husband was an overbearing wife abuser and cocaine addict.

In her 1987 autobiography, “I, Tina,” she narrated a harrowing tale of abuse, including suffering a broken nose. She said that cycle ended after a vicious fight between the pair in the back seat of a car in Las Vegas, where they were scheduled to perform.

© Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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