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Music Legend Tina Turner Dies at 83. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 24, 2023 - 15:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: We're joined by Stephanie Elam who, of course, just told her story there. And I wonder if you could describe that legacy because it's certainly written with musical success, but also a difficult, abusive relationship with Ike Turner.

And she has the rare honor of having been twice inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a solo act in 2021, but also 30 years before with Ike Turner as a pair.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's true, Jim. I mean, she has a legacy that is beyond where she grew up, how she grew up, the relationship she was in with Ike Turner, she really expanded beyond that.

And the thing that I think is really amazing about Tina Turner is the fact of her musical legacy and how many decades, as you were speaking to, she was putting out music.

And at a time when people wanted to silo black music, she was like, no; this is the kind of music I'm going to do. I'm going to be the queen of rock and roll and I'm going to do songs in this way, in this genre.

She was iconic in the way she performed and for how long she performed. Her positive outlook, despite what she may have gone through before, and I'd be remiss if I did not mention her energy performing and those legs. Tina Turner was known for those fantastic legs and those dance moves, right? Her iconic hair.

She was always, always true and honest to herself, as she evolved as an artist and you saw that even with the kinds of songs that she did like doing, and the songs that spoke to her simply the best, which was a fantastic song.

I mean, the song from Mad Max and also GoldenEye. She did iconic songs for film, for TV, but also just her songs are timeless. You could still listen to them now and they still get you in a groove.


SCIUTTO: A portrait of strength, right? Portrait of strength through it all through those years and those decades.

KEILAR: Yes, strong.

Stephanie, on her own terms and doing so decade after decade, I think it taught so many people and women about sort of what they could find in themselves as well, just how self possessed that she was through all the years.

ELAM: Completely. I mean, think about the fact that this woman was still touring. She was still performing into her 80s. That says a lot about just her fitness, her ability. Her ability to still sing those songs to still connect with an audience. There's not many people who are built like Tina Turner, and just able to - look at the energy you're looking at right here.

I mean, well, this was actually Angela Bassett being Tina Turner, but she's being her because - that's the kind of energy that she performed. I looked up too quickly, I got them confused.

But it's that energy that she brought to the stage and to her music and that that sort of, gravelly, gruff voice that she had that could always hit those notes, but also make you feel it in your chest, make you want to move but also just understand what she is singing about and giving it a feeling that maybe nobody else could with their voice.

SANCHEZ: Such an iconic voice and an iconic story as well overcoming so much in her personal life.

Stephanie, please standby.

Let's bring in Chloe Melas, because Chloe you have a statement online that was put out by Tina Turner's family, I understand detailing her passing.

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Right and if you go on the Instagram or her official Facebook page, you'll see this beautiful portrait of her with the following caption which reads, "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Tina Turner.

With her music and her boundless passion for life, she enchanted millions of fans around the world and inspired the stars of tomorrow. Today we say goodbye to a dear friend who leaves us all her greatest work: her music. All our heartfelt compassion goes out to her family. Tina, we will miss you dearly."

We don't know exactly what has caused her death. But we know that she was 83 years young. She had some health issues in recent years, being diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016, having a kidney transplant in 2017. But like Stephanie was saying, this was one of if not the hardest working woman in show business. And she was a pioneer, and was the first for so many things.

I mean, Stephanie put it so perfectly in the piece that she did and what she just said now, but her music touched so many lives. And some of the things that I just want to point out is that look in 1988 she set a Guinness World Record for the largest paying audience for a solo performer. She's had 12 Grammy Awards. She was the first black artist and first woman to be on the cover of Rolling Stone.

I mean, just like the statement says, she inspired the artists of today and tomorrow. She broke the ceiling for so many. SCIUTTO: The range of styles through time to think back to a song like

"A Fool In Love" or "River Deep - Mountain High" and then through the '80s "Private Dancer," "What's Love Got to Do with It," up to "You're Simply the Best."

We have Nischelle Turner, Entertainment Tonight host and contributor joining us by phone as well.


Nischelle, good to have you.

I wonder if you could help folks just to give the span of her career through time and then what she's symbolized through all those decades.

NISCHELLE TURNER, HOST, "ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT": Yes. Well, you were just kind of touching on it and talking about it. Her range in just about everything she did. I mean, so many people - of course, she was born as Anna Mae Bullock and so many people knew her as Tina Turner, because that's the name that Ike gave her during the Ike & Tina years and the Ike & Tina Turner review.

But it wasn't until she really stepped up that shadow and shed the weight of that, where she really just started to blossom. And I remember hearing it with her once when they were talking about her new style when she kind of stepped into her own. And she was saying I'm tired of singing the blues, I want to sing rock and roll. I want to dance. I want - she was free in a lot of ways.

And you heard that in her voice. You heard that in her music. I mean, so many people have so eloquently been talking about how she was the epitome of resilience, the epitome of a strong woman, not only was she a mother and raised her children, she raised the children that Ike had before. She was just kind of a mother to so many.

Oprah Winfrey, she revered her as well, one of her favorite kind of a mother figure to her in so many ways. But she set the table for so many of these pop stars that we see today and her story is just one of strength and resilience. I mean, there's no other way to put it.

I heard Chloe saying that she was one of the hardest working women in show business. I would argue that she was the hardest working woman in show business. And what we saw, her story, we saw it, of course, play out on the big screen when Angela Bassett so brilliantly portrayed her and "What's Love Got to Do with It."

We saw her fight for everything she ever had and she fought down to the very end. I mean, it's a very sad day in the music world. It's a sad day in American history, because she was a trailblazer in just about every avenue that she ever decided to take on.

SCIUTTO: Yeah. I mean, if you go through your mind now what's your favorite Tina Turner song one that might ...

TURNER: Oh, gosh.

SCIUTTO: ... help describe her career. We're playing a little clip of it, I think it's fitting right now.

TURNER: Mm-hm.


(Simply) The Best by Tina Turner


SCIUTTO: There you go, "Simply The Best."

SANCHEZ: A song that speaks to her broad appeal. It's a song that you hear on sitcoms, at family parties, even Trump rallies, it was constantly blaring. And it's fascinating because early in her career, as many other African-American artists were, she was pigeonholed and she had to break through so many barriers to make a name for herself, and establish the legacy that we're now honored.


KEILAR: And that was her personal favorite.


SANCHEZ: That song.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's funny. She said she did say she wasn't a fan of "What's Love Got to Do with It," which was her only number one song.


SCIUTTO: The way I remember her as a kid in the '80s, that was like the first time I think I heard of Tina Turner as a major star, but her favorite was this one.

KEILAR: And that was obviously the name of the movie.


KEILAR: That was her biography that I snuck into in 1993, because it was in fact R rated.

SANCHEZ: Obviously, such big stars carry weight in our personal lives because of significant moments like that.

We also have with us Marc Malkin. He's a senior editor at Variety.

And Marc, first and foremost, just your reaction to someone who was an icon in music and film passing away.

MARC MALKIN, SENIOR CULTURE & EVENTS EDITOR, VARIETY: I mean, this - she was an icon. She was simply the best.


MALKIN: I mean, I started to sing that as you were playing the song. This is someone - "Private Dancer," well, we have to remember I'm a child of the '80s also. This was one of the greatest comeback stories ever.


MALKIN: And I remember as a kid ...


MALKIN: ... thinking about the music now, these songs you listen to and as a kid, I remember loving them, but I didn't really understand them. That's how great this music is now as an adult. They take on such different meaning.

Obviously, we know her story. I don't think we could talk about Tina Turner without talking about the fight she took on to save her name and her career way before Me Too and Time's Up.

This was a woman who was a trailblazer, who stood up and said, I am going to own my womanhood. You are not going to control me, Ike Turner, men are not going to control me. I'm going to do things the way I want to do that is iconic, that is going to be one of her greatest legacies.

SCIUTTO: It's a great point, because part of her story is sadness, right? That physical emotional abuse at the hands of Ike Turner in the '70s. And here, she turns it around, as you say, a great comeback story in the '80s with that album, "Private Dancer" as well - that put her back into the headlines, right, and into the minds of folks who didn't know her from the '60s and '70s and were able to appreciate her once again.

SANCHEZ: We also have ...

MALKIN: When you ...

SANCHEZ: ... please go ahead.

MALKIN: ... when you see any of \her performances, you feel that courage, you feel that strength, those legs, gorgeous legs, but those are strong like legs with (inaudible). And what I want to know tonight is when I'm going to look up, where's Beyonce playing, because I want to hear what Beyonce has to say about Tina Turner tonight at her concert. There is no doubt whenever Beyonce is playing next, which may be tonight because she's on tour, I feel like she's going to come out in a little gold dress and pay tribute to the queen.


SANCHEZ: I have a feeling we're going to hear a lot of references to her legs, part of her iconic image. And her hair, obviously, such a singular artists known for her voice as well.

We have Dominic Patten with us, too. He's a senior editor for Deadline. Dominic, she is someone as we've seen with transcendent artists over

generations who's had to reinvent herself over the course of her career.

DOMINIC PATTEN, SENIOR EDITOR, DEADLINE: Yes, certainly. I mean, one of the things about Tina Turner who not only a legend in the musical business, but also someone who exemplifies the true scope of the last century.

This is a woman who was born in the small town of Nutbush, Tennessee, she picked cotton as a child, sang in the church choir and eventually met up with a man who was her husband, the abusive, Ike Turner. And her life transformed into something which now we will enjoy for the ages in her music.

Importantly, so though, she transcended all these genres from R&B to rock and roll, touring with the Rolling Stones being seen in the company with the likes of Bowie and others. I will always say we talk about our favorite Tina Turner songs. And I think that there's - I never like to make a list, because simply the best has to be up there.

But for me in many ways, you can never take the song away from the performance and Tina Turner at Live Aid in Philadelphia 1985 doing "State of Shock" and "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" with Mick Jagger, she simply showed the boys who was the best.

And that was always the thing about Tina Turner from where she came, the battle she fought, the song she sang, the pain she showed, the joy she gave, the dance moves that left everybody else on the floor. She was simply someone who never gave up.

And though she went through this terrible long illness we hear over many years, she was also someone who at one point in her life after being on film, on stage, there's a musical now about her life, a film made about her life obviously with the great Angela Bassett in it. She was someone who also stepped back from the spotlight to live out her last years in dignity. And that of course is a testament for her strength.

KEILAR: Yes. I want to play another one of her hits. This is missing you by Tina Turner.


Missing You by Tina Turner


KEILAR: Are we going to?


I think, Nischelle Turner, that may be the best cover of that song.

TURNER: Yes. KEILAR: She's someone who just put her own spin on something. And

whether you were watching her in "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome," she was someone who - when she played a role, it was no one else could be what she was. No performance that she did was like what anyone else did. She was so special in that way and I think that's how we're remembering her as we remember her today.

TURNER: There was only one Tina. There will ever only be one Tina. The voice, the strut, the walk, all of it just one. And I've heard everybody kind of go through and talk about how she made them feel and what she did for the landscape of music, what she did for women and women's rights and empowerment and all of those things are true.

And I just - I'm not sure about you all, but when the news broke, my phone started going nuts and blowing up. And if you just see the wide range of people who have been sending text, saying not Tina, she's my favorite, old, young, black, white, man, woman, everyone. She is one of those artists that transcends everything. She always did and she always will.

And I just think, it is a sad day. But as you all are playing this music, I'm sure that so many people are like me and I heard Marc saying the same thing, I'm singing along. My shoulders are shaken, because she just brought a lot of joy to all in song and appreciated that.

SANCHEZ: Her energy was infectious, just watching her perform and strutting in front of cameras on a red carpet.

And to that point of people reacting to her loss, let's go back to Chloe Melas because, obviously, a transcendent star like this influences and informs so much of the art that comes after her.

MELAS: Exactly, and people are just finding out and reacting in real time. And obviously it's such a blow to so many because we all grew up with her. I want to start with Magic Johnson. And here is what Magic Johnson just put out on Twitter.

He says, "Rest in peace to one of my favorite artists of all time, the legendary queen of rock n' roll Tina Turner. I've seen her many, many times and hands down, she gave one of the best live shows I've ever seen. She always gave you your money's worth."

Bryan Adams, he actually went on tour with her. He writes: "My condolences to Erwin and Tina's family. I will be forever grateful for the time we spent together on tour, in the studio and as friends." Bryan Adams goes on to say, "Thank you for being the inspiration to millions of people around the world for speaking your truth and giving us the gift of your voice. It's Only Love and that's all."

You have George Takei who calls her a true legend. He says, "She was our River Deep and our Mountain High, the Private Dancer in our hearts. She showed us that love really does have everything to do with it," so true, "and that we really did need another hero. And she was it. Rest now, Proud Mary. Raise your voice high in the heavens." I think that Marc Malkin makes a great point is how are these female

trailblazers like Beyonce and others going to address this, and that is what I am keeping my eye out for is what is Taylor Swift going to say? What is Beyonce going to say? What are all the different music legends who are still with us, both young and older going to be saying.

I was just talking to Ringo Starr over the weekend who is turning 83 this summer and he's on tour. Eighty-three for all intents and purposes is still young. And we know that Tina Turner had some serious health issues that some of us have touched on.

So hopefully we'll hear some more details from her family as to what happened. But in the meantime, there is a lot of love being shown for her right now from both celebrities, and everyday people where her music changed and touch their lives.

SCIUTTO: Stephanie Elam, can you tell us what her music and what her life meant to you? Because her life was about more than music. It was about overcoming pain and hardship, her childhood and abusive marriage. What did she mean to you as an icon of strength beyond as an icon of just fantastic music and a fantastic voice?

ELAM: Well, you know some people have beautiful voices, but they don't necessarily sound like they've lived enough life.

SCIUTTO: It's pretty - that's pretty.

ELAM: That was not Tina Turner. When Tina Turner sang a song, you know knew she had lived some life.


Like I just was recently listening to "Private Dancer." You listen to her sing that song, she's embodying this character in that song and saying what she's going through in those moments. You look back through even the "Mad Max" song, you could feel her - that pain, even this - the idea of her doing a cover and making it completely her own song is because she infused it with the gravel, the beauty, the ups and downs of living.

And that is part of what made Tina Turner so iconic, besides the fact that she made you get - want to get up out of your seat and move and dance. But it was also because she came to music in a place that not everyone could come to it for.

She took all of it, all of her life, all of the good all of the difficult times and she put that into every bar she sang. And that is what made Tina Turner so strong and so beautiful.

And if you look back, I remember being a kid and the first time seeing her sing "Proud Mary" and how it starts off slow and you know it's going somewhere, and it builds up. And her performance level in that song, just spectacular.

And that's not just that time, it's every single time you saw her perform "Proud Mary." It was just unbelievable. It's one of those songs that people learning to sing, tried to sing like her because they know that they can do that. They've done it. It's that good. It's that amazing. And that's what made Tina Turner just in a class upon her - by herself - all by herself, because not everyone can do it the way she did.

SCIUTTO: It's a great line to say that she's sang her life, right? It's what people say about Billie Holiday, right, that her style, and her songs, and the emotion that came across in her songs was partly driven by this difficult life that she had, right? I mean, she felt stuff and that came across in her singing. She experienced stuff.

KEILAR: Yes. This was actually just brought up at the White House briefing.


KEILAR: Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about it and she said it was the first that she had heard about it, when - but she said that certainly it was incredibly sad and she said it was a massive loss. And I think she said she's echoing what we're hearing from so many people where she said, there were so many stages and so many moments in Tina Turner's career.

That's just what she said off the cuff as she was learning about it, Nischelle Turner. I think that's what we're all sort of feeling is this is a person who transformed herself over and over. She was an illuminating figure. She challenged even the idea of who an abuse survivor was, of who ...


KEILAR: ... someone who went through that could be of - who's someone who could get past that was to, honestly, the benefit of so many people who walked after her and then just - I mean, looking at these pictures of her moving, and the strength, it just really speaks to that to me, especially when

TURNER: You see and you know, the story and you've seen the images, and we've heard the story behind it, to where we know the abuse that she took, we know the beatings that she took, we know that it would happen and she would go - still go out on stage that night, and sing her heart out and so we know that.

And then to see the woman that we all fell in love with is such a remarkable story of strength, and comeback and resiliency and what a woman really is. I mean, all of those things, she just is and was and it - Oprah says this that Maya Angelou taught her, she makes me proud to spell my name, W-O-M-A-N.

And I think that we all feel that way about Tina Turner, who she was, who she is, what her music meant to us. I don't know about you all, but I remember the first time I saw - I was nine years old when "Private Dancer" came out. And I remember seeing this woman that I thought was most beautiful woman I'd ever seen with that jean jacket on strut on that stage. It was mind blowing to me. And then I remember hearing the stories where my mother - I grew up in

Missouri - my mother used to say, yes, the Ike & Tina revue used to come to our little town and I go see them at the Missouri Theater.

And just then realizing the breadth of this woman's work and what she lived, and how she overcame. I mean, it's a story that all of us should revere and we should all tip our hat to her today and I know we are giving her the love and the flowers that she deserves.

SANCHEZ: And no question about that. Also inspiring because she refused to let the darkness that she lived through define her. Even at the very end ...


SANCHEZ: She wanted to distance herself from those years with Ike Turner and being seen as someone who endured abuse. She wanted to be defined for what she produced later on in her life, even though we still respect and idolize some of the earlier music including this song "Proud Mary." One of the tunes that made her a household name. Let's listen.



Proud Mary by Tina Turner


SANCHEZ: I mean, that is the definition of iconic ...

SCIUTTO: The energy.

SANCHEZ: ... her energy ...


SANCHEZ: ... the song itself, the spirit that she brings to it.

We have Brian Balthazar with us now. He's an entertainment journalist.

And we've been speaking about how in this phase of her career for black artists, it was still a challenging period, they were pigeonholed and marginalized. And she broke through repeatedly at different stages of her career to make a name for herself.

BRIAN BALTHAZAR, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: She really did. Oprah Winfrey asked her in 2013 what she thought her core legacy would be and Tina Turner said endurance. And I mean, what better word could you think about outside of talent, which I think comes to all of our minds.

But we tackle a lot about her strength and her being a fighter, but this - and we often convey Ike with that that story. But really she's been fighting her whole life and being strong for her whole life, abandoned by her parents at 11 years old, then moved with her grandmother, eventually back with her mother.

So this is this is a woman who really learned to be strong at a very young age. But it took her a while to emerge from that to become the artist and the person that she later became. But through - the thread through all that is an incredible amount of determination and an incredible amount of talent. I mean, you cannot deny the strength and talent in every performance that she gives.

KEILAR: Yes. And we are remembering her at this moment. Today, the iconic, self-made, legendary, timeless Tina Turner who has passed away at the age of 83. We'll be right back with more.