Writings, Essays, Lyrics, Musings, Commentary . . .

Article #10: What's Love Got To Do With It?

Tina Turner

Oh, oh, oh--what's love got to do, got to do with it? Tina belts it out as she struts about the stage in her high heeled pumps--a stage afire with lights and smoke and dancers and singers and an ass-kicking band. I am in the audience in this gigantic amphitheater screaming and dancing like a teenager. It's summer and her "next-to-last" tour. God, I love that woman! She makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. She's a tower of inspiration and courage, not to mention absolutely beautiful.

Then, in the fall of '99, with Saffire on tour in Brazil, I met Ike. He was there for a small festival. Immediately, I was struck by his size. He is a tiny man. (Of course, I'd envisioned Laurence Fishburn.) He walked with a limp and his clothes seemed to hang off him. He was as gracious as any performer I've ever met. I felt strange because he'd hurt my precious Tina. Then I met his new wife and clearly saw the love in their eyes. She was kind and gentle and so proud of her husband. She was proud that we knew and loved his music. We gave him a CD and he rushed out to his car to get one of his for us. He was starting over -- giving out promos.

Cut to Blues First in Memphis in February 0f 2001. I'm with a group in the bar of our hotel. Some folks are discussing the upcoming South by Southwest music event held in Austin, Texas, each year. It's a showcase for rising national musicians. (Saffire had the honor of performing there a few years ago.) Some in this group were planning to attend and looking forward to seeing . . . Ike Turner. He was starting over -- showcasing

A woman in our group, let's call her Marie, was upset. She really hated Ike. She, as well as myself, was in love with Tina. How could they look forward to seeing this wife beater, this womanizer, this drug abuser? To her, he was the scum of the earth. And while I'd once felt this way, I found myself coming to his defense:

You cannot take away from the fact that Ike was undeniably an important pioneering architect of Rock and Roll (Little Richard often claims that title). It was Ike who bridged the gap from jump to rock and roll, who created the guitar driven music we know today. It was Ike's band that played on what most critics agree is the first rock and roll recording: Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88." Ike was a musical genius. You got to give him credit for his many innovations, his many compositions.

Marie didn't budge. The only credit she gave Ike was that he beat Tina.

Next, I stated that Ike taught Tina how to perform. How to rock the house, pump the energy. And now, there's no acknowledgment from Tina. Part of her is God-given, part of her is self-made, but a sizable portion is Ike-made. Yet Tina won't even perform a single hit from her Ike and Tina days. I guess the pain is too deep or perhaps she doesn't want him to get any royalties (yep. . . he's the one who wrote all those wonderful songs). Whatever. . . that's her prerogative. But what really hurts is that Tina totally denounces the music of her past. She says that all the music that she performed back in the day is not "her music." That she has never liked it and she only embraces the music oftoday. Hey!. . . she's talking about rhythm & blues. . . she's talking about my blues. That's like talking about my child. Now those are fighting words.

Even though we're all blues lovers participating in this conversation, Marie, who is also a dyed-in-the-wool staunch blues lover, is unmoved. She still loves Tina with all her heart and holds the reverse for Ike.

I'm getting heated up now. My defense continues. I state that Ike has never denied what he did to Tina. He confesses that he was wrong, very wrong. This man never denied his drug addiction. He went to jail. He served lots of time. Doesn't that count for anything? He has paid his debt. Does he not deserve a second chance? No, is Marie's reply, he's not been punished enough. Then it occurs to me that this woman probably doesn't know anyone who is in jail.

I ask you, dear reader, to think on that for a minute. Do you know someone who is in jail? A friend? A relative? Do you not pray for rehabilitation? Redemption? Don't you want him/her to make it? Deep, deep down in your heart, you have to pull for them. Why kick a man when he's down? Quoting an old Ike and Tina song, "this is a mean ol' world, try living in it by yourself."

It also occurs to me that Marie might not know anyone who is a drug addict. Drug addition is so powerful. The addict loses all control. Do you not pray for rehab and redemption? Have you never done drugs? Some of us get caught up in addiction and some of us escape with our lives in tact. There, but for fortune, go you or I. I have some shame in my life and a lot of that shame can be associated with drugging. (Maybe I'll write about it one day.) Often drugging and physical abuse go hand and hand. Oh, it sounds mighty corny, but let he who is without sin cast the first stone. "This is a mean ol' world. . ."

With this understanding, I finally say to Marie that I guess she doesn't know anyone in jail. That I know too many people who have paid their dues and struggle to move on. That I guess she doesn't know drug addiction close up. Ike has suffered. Can we continue to hold his past against him just because we love Tina so very much?

Marie kinda pouts, but doesn't concede. It's time for our group to move from the bar room to a seminar. This conversation goes with me though.

A few weeks ago, I hear from a friend who lives in Austin. She was stage manager at the famous blues bar, Antones, where Ike played at South by Southwest. She wrote: "Ike's show, with his tight, tight band, rocked the house! I hung with Audrey, his wife and singer, that afternoon. Told her we'd be packin' the house that night 'cuz everyone in town wanted to come see if he'd beat her up on stage... HA! She laughed, said, "Girrrlllll, that's what my girrlllfren's back home was sayin'...". She's a sweetie. And he's a true professional. A gentleman and one hell of a performer! I mean, how long do you hold someone's past against them?? I doubt I'd have many friends if my many pasts followed me where ever I went..."

I heard from another friend who works at Sony in NYC. He saw Ike's show and said Ike set the stage on fire. Ike even played piano like he used to, like he did on Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88." Ike's showcase was all the buzz. Everyone was raving! I was happy for him, very happy for him.

A few days ago, I received my copy of Blues Revue magazine. There's an article, "In the Studio--Ike Turner Starts Over." He has a new CD coming out, "Here and Now." How appropriately titled. I pray that we can be here now. I pray that Ike can regain some of his name and some of his glory. I pray that he and his wife grow in love and spirit. I pray that Marie has a change of heart. What's wrong with loving Tina and loving Ike too? There's no contradiction in love.

What's love got to do with it???? Simple: everything. Is there anything else?

Ike with Saffire

Ann Rabson, Andra Faye and Gaye with Ike in Brazil, November, 1999.
Note: Ike is standing on steps behind Saffire, therefore he looks much taller than he really is.