Tina Turner’s Life Explored In New Documentary : NPR

HBO’s documentary about Tina Turner is presented as the 81-year-old singer’s last word about her expansive life and career – a story she’s hard to talk about.


The story of Tina Turner is re-examined in the new HBO documentary “Tina”. NPR television critic Eric Deggans says the film, which debuts tonight, appears to be the last word in a career that defines the notion of triumph over adversity.


ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Tina Turner’s life story has been an inspiring story for many years – overcoming early poverty, a difficult childhood and an abusive husband in order to become one of the most successful rock and roll artists.


TINA TURNER: (singing) Ask me how I feel. When something goes wrong ask me how I feel The night is terribly cold …

DEGGANS: Turner’s life has inspired several books, an Oscar-nominated biopic, a Broadway musical, and now an HBO documentary. So it’s surprising to hear that Turner, now 81 years old, says in HBO’s movie that she may be done talking about her life in public after that movie comes out.


TURNER: Some people say the life I have lived and the achievements I have given – appreciation is permanent for people. Yes, I should be proud of that. I am. But when do you stop being proud? (Laughter) I mean, when do you – how do you bow slowly, just walk away?

DEGGANS: Turner’s husband Erwin Bach spoke bluntly.


ERWIN BACH: She said I’m going to America. I’m going to say goodbye to my American fans. And I wrap it up. And I think this documentary here – this is it. It’s a closure, a closure.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: “Hollywood A Go-Go” presents Ike and Tina Turner.

TURNER: Do you like good music?

DEGGANS: HBO’s “Tina” is digging up loads of archive footage and film clips of Tina Turner in her prime along with new interviews with everyone from Oprah Winfrey to the singer. Tennessee-born Anna Mae Bullock caught Ike Turner’s attention and joined the pioneering rock and roll band in the 1950s. She achieved hits with songs like “A Fool In Love” and “Proud Mary”. But Ike Turner was also physically abusive. Tina Turner revealed details of the abuse after her divorce in a landmark 1981 interview with People magazine. HBO’s film includes audio recordings of the singer’s conversations with music editor Carl Arrington.


TURNER: I’ve experienced basic torture.

CARL ARRINGTON: Torture? Would you call it torture?

TURNER: I lived a life in death. I didn’t exist.

DEGGANS: Tina Turner thought that the interview along with detailed stories in her memoir “Me, Tina” would keep people from asking about the abuse. Instead, the public was inspired by her example, especially after Angela Bassett brought her story to life in the Oscar-nominated film “What Love Has To Do With It”. HBO’s film shows that these subjects are still difficult for Turner to talk about. She says it will help her relive her worst moments.


TURNER: That scene comes back – you’re dreaming. It is – the real picture is there. It’s like a curse.

DEGGANS: There’s a lot of new on HBO’s “Tina,” even for those who think they know her story – Turner’s troubled relationship with a mother she thought she never really liked; that she initially hated the song that would become her biggest hit, “What Love Has To Do With It”; and her feeling, until she met Erwin Bach in 1986, that she would never find real love. HBO’s “Tina” is a triumph in many ways, a compelling exploration of the history of one of the greatest rock artists. And it is told in such succinct emotional detail that she may finally no longer be asked to relive it in future interviews.

I am Eric Deggans.


TURNER: (singing) I’m Elektria (ph).


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