Image: YouTube/Tina Turner Official

Tina Turner has had an amazing life. Rising from the bottom, she became a star on the back of a stellar voice and incredible showwomanship. But it hasn’t all been wonderful for Turner, as recent years have seen her suffer from a near-fatal illness. But she pulled through, and in 2019, celebrated her 80th birthday. And to mark the occasion, the singer shared her view on her life, health and future with fans in a video.

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Named Anna Mae Bullock when she was born in 1939, Turner changed her name after hooking up with Ike Turner. They made a highly successful musical duo until she struck out on her own, penniless and at a low. Not many people are able to remake themselves and succeed a second time, but this force of nature would once again become a household name.

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After leaving Ike, Turner eked out a living in clubs and hotel ballrooms. But if she thought her glory days were behind her, she would have been wrong. The singer reimagined herself as a raunchy solo artist, enjoying hit after hit. She even received the honor of recording a Bond song, often the preserve of the biggest star of the moment, in 1995.

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In 2008 Turner appeared at the Grammys alongside Beyoncé, and while she was there, she walked off with an award. In all, the star would win eight such gongs during her career. That same year saw her celebrate 50 years in showbusiness with a tour that ranked among the top-sellers. It was her last tour: fittingly, she bowed out at the top of her game.

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Turner has come a long way since her beginnings in the little community she would later immortalize in song: Nutbush, Tennessee. She was born into a troubled homelife in neighboring Brownsville, and spent her early years as a cotton picker in the local fields. Her family separated during World War II but settled back in town afterwards.

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The future star became a mom when still in her teens. Her son Craig was born in 1958. At the time, the young Turner’s focus was on becoming a good parent. And this may have come from the fact that her own mother, Zelma, left her when she was ten years old. And as if that wasn’t painful enough, her dad deserted her when she was barely in her teens.

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Turner’s son was the result of a fling with a member of a band that she was really keen on. Craig’s father was the saxophonist, but the young mom was fated to partner up with a different member of the group: Ike Turner. He asked her up on stage one night, where her vocal talents thrilled. She then became part of the band, but at first there was no romance between them.

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Later, when a different musician tried to attract Turner’s interest, Ike rode to the rescue. The two became a couple, even though she had misgivings from the start. The star would later say that she was aware, “He wasn’t right for me.” Still, he became her man, and in 1960 the two welcomed a son, Ronnie, together.

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In a 2019 interview with CBS’ Gayle King, Turner explained why she ended up with her first husband. She said, “When Ike asked me to marry him, I knew it was for a reason. But I had to say yes… Or it was gonna be a fight. And so then, when we drove to marry, that wasn’t my idea of my wedding.”

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But in some respects, the couple’s partnership prospered, not least in the recording studio. The Turners enjoyed success in 1966 when their single “River Deep – Mountain High” was a huge hit. In 1971 Turner would take home the first of her eight Grammys with “Proud Mary,” and the hits kept coming, including her reminiscence of her childhood home: “Nutbush City Limits.”

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Turner told CBS News that discussing her first marriage wasn’t easy. She said, “I get emotional because, in the beginning, Ike was very good to me.” But it didn’t last. She added, “He didn’t like that he had to depend on me. And I didn’t want to start a fight because it was always a black eye, a broken nose, a busted lip, a rib.”

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Despite the success the pair enjoyed as musicians, Turner’s home life was unbearable. She described the first time that Ike beat her in her 2018 autobiography My Love Story. The star wrote, “It was against the head, always against the head.” In the end, in July 1976, she escaped from the marriage with barely a cent to her name

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Ike didn’t deny assaulting his wife, but he didn’t agree about the extent of the abuse that he had handed out. In his own autobiography, he wrote, “Sure, I’ve slapped Tina. We had fights, and there have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I never beat her.” In 2007 he passed away, having overdosed on cocaine.

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Once Turner was on her own, though, she found the going tough. Her career was going nowhere, so she made a living replaying her past. Then November 1983 saw her version of “Let’s Stay Together” become a smash hit, and the follow-up album, Private Dancer, shifted 20 million units. The singer was back and bigger than ever. And her fame was cemented when she appeared in the 1985 movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

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And with Turner’s return to the star stratosphere came new love. At a party thrown by a record label in 1985, she met German music executive Erwin Bach. They certainly hit it off, becoming a couple then and staying one to this day. The singer was sufficiently smitten to not only go to Switzerland with Erwin, but to also become a Swiss citizen, surrendering her U.S. passport.

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In 2013 the pair finally made things official when they wed after nearly three decades together. The couple kept the ceremony on the down-low, marrying in Küsnacht on the shore of Lake Zurich in the north of Switzerland. So private were the nuptials that the world only found out when word leaked some days later.

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Turner described the ceremony as one of the high points of her life. But there was a dark note to the proceedings. When she and her wedding party started to assemble for photos, the singer began to feel a bit woozy. Little did she know that it was a warning sign of something serious coming her way.

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A few months after the ceremony in Küsnacht, Turner woke to a feeling in her right leg and head that was like having lightning run through her. In her autobiography, the star wrote, “I tried to speak, but I couldn’t get any words out.” The explanation for the shocking, sudden incapacity was simple. As she explained, “I was having a stroke.”

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The stroke was debilitating for the superstar, leaving her without the use of her right arm and with no ability to walk. But that, unfortunately, wasn’t the end of the bad news for Turner. The doctors then discovered that her blood pressure was so high that her kidneys could only function at 35 percent capacity.

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Unfortunately, Turner had some off-the-wall ideas about how she should treat her condition. As a result, she eschewed her prescribed medication and gave homeopathy a shot. Her practitioner believed that the problem had been caused by her local water supply, so the singer got busy replacing pipes. But doing that instead of taking her medicine nearly killed her.

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Things would get even worse for the “River Deep” singer as doctors had more bad news for her. Turner had cancer in her intestine – luckily caught in an early stage. And the treatment meant removing some of her bowel. Her kidneys, however, continued to fail. By 2016 they only worked at 20 percent, which made eating impossible.

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Turner’s thoughts then turned to ending her life. She even became a member of assisted suicide organization Exit. But as she noted in her autobiography, this outcome had no appeal for her husband. She wrote, “I think that’s when the idea of my death became a reality for Erwin. He was very emotional about not wanting to lose me, not wanting me to leave.”

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It was surely a sign of how bad things were for Turner that she would even consider suicide. And July of 2018 more bad news shook her world, when her oldest son, Craig, took his own life. The star ended up posting a photo online of the moment that she scattered his ashes, captioning it, “My saddest moment as a mother.”

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But Turner’s life would turn around from that low point. Erwin was determined that she would live, and he’d do what he could to ensure that it happened. In her autobiography, the star explained that what her husband was willing to sacrifice came as a shock. She wrote, “He said he wanted to give me one of his kidneys. I was overwhelmed by the enormity of his offer.”

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Turner battled through her kidney troubles. For her part, she saw it as just another one of life’s challenges. She explained, “My struggle started inside my mother’s womb. I suffered all the way from childhood right up until the end of Ike. What kept me on course was me, it was something I was born with.”

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The superstar had no illusions that her kidney problems might be the last challenge she faced. Turner wrote in her autobiography, “I know that my medical adventure is far from over. There’s always another test, another doctor’s appointment or biopsy to get through.” But, the star noted, there was a plus. She went on, “[Erwin and I are] both still here closer than we ever imagined, and that’s cause for celebration.”

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One thing that the “Nutbush City Limits” legend would not have to face any more would be the stage. Turner quit live performance in 2009, and told the Daily Mirror in 2019 that she would not go on tour again. The star wrote in her memoir, “I got on that plane, I took a deep breath, and I said, ‘It’s over.’ I really felt like it’s over. And I’m glad it’s over.”

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Not that Turner completely vanished from the public eye. She could be seen in November 2019 when she attended opening night of a Broadway spectacular all about her. The singer told the celebrity-laden audience in attendance, “This musical is my life, but it’s like poison that turned to medicine… I can never be as happy as I am now.”

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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 looks absolutely radiant in the clip, and what she has to say is heartwarming.

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Reflecting how low Turner had gone as her kidneys failed, she then asks a rhetorical question. The star says with a smile, “How did I think I would be at 80? Not like this.” She then gestures at herself – and certainly she does look in the pink, belying her age and past illnesses.

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Next Turner confirms that what you see in the video is not an illusion. She says, “How is this? Well, I look great, I feel good.” The star then acknowledges that her health has suffered in the past when she notes, “I’ve gone through some very serious sicknesses that I’m overcoming.”

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Confirming that the Private Dancer creator now has a fresh outlook on life, she suggests that it’s like having a rebirth. Turner says, “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 signs off, leaving the video as a marker of the milestone.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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Musical maestro Nile Rodgers also made a video, and then tweeted his keynote from that message. It read, “You are a true queen.” Another guitarist extraordinaire, Ronnie Wood, paid tribute to Turner. He posted a clip that featured a rocking and rolling Happy Birthday song backed by Wood’s electrifying strumming and some raucous R&B piano.

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After 80 years of ups and downs, Turner knows she has plenty to be thankful for. As she told Gayle King, “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.”

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