My Love Story by Tina Turner, Atria Books, US $28.00, Pp 272, October 2018, 978-1501198243
Tina Turner — born Anna Mae Bullock — is a living legend of rock & roll. An American-born Swiss singer, dancer, and actress who rose to international prominence as a featured singer with Ike Turner’s ‘Kings of Rhythm’ before she recorded her hit singles. She sold more than 200 million records worldwide. She is the iconic singer of ‘A Fool in Love,’ (1960) ‘It’s Gonna Work Out Fine’ (1961), ‘River Deep — Mountain High’ (1966), ‘Proud Mary’ (1971), and ‘Nutbush City Limits’ (1973). In My Love Story, Tina Turner tells her story from her early years in Nutbush, Tennessee, to her rise to stardom alongside Ike Turner and beyond. Tina candidly talks about her life, from her darkest hours to her happiest moments.
As a little girl, Tina says she loved being a country girl, and that’s how she learned to be independent. She writes, “My father was the overseer at a farm and my parents left me at home while they went to work in the fields. I was young — small enough to need a chair to get my glass of milk and a snack — but old enough to entertain myself, although not always in the best way. If there was a tree, I climbed it, never giving a thought to falling down.” She narrates a very interesting incident that shows the kind of girl she was. She writes, “It seemed that on every farm, there was a horse that didn’t like children. We were told to stay away, but one day, I was tired of playing alone and wanted to run across the way to my grandmother’s place. I thought maybe I could sneak past that nasty horse.” As she opened the door quietly, the horse… came charging after her. Mama Georgie’s house wasn’t far, but for a little girl running from an angry animal, it seemed like a mile. She writes, “I managed to reach the fence, yelling because the horse had gotten to me and was about to pull me down and trample me.” She was lucky as, suddenly, one of the bill goats ran over and distracted the horse, “bleating his little heart out like a Disney character.” When the horse looked away, her cousin Margaret rushed in at the last minute to pull me to safety.
Tina writes that she changed later in life when her doctor told her there was a reason why she had difficulty learning. She writes, “It had something to do with my frontal lobes. The creative part of my brain was ablaze and working overtime, but I would never be good at counting or reading. I finally got over my lifelong sense of inadequacy when Princess Beatrice, Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter, discussed her dyslexia in a number of interviews… There was something about the way she explained it that made me pay attention. She said that she wasn’t able to count and that she had a hard time learning how to read. She could have been describing me…”
In January 2016, she was diagnosed with early-stage intestinal cancer. She talks about how she and the family felt at that point, “We didn’t know if cancer could be removed, let alone if there would be any next steps. The days of uncertainty were dreadful. I crept around the house, restlessly moving from one room to another… ‘Aren’t you sorry you married an old woman,’ I cried to Erwin because we seemed to spend all of our time going from one doctor to another. Fortunately, he had a really good attitude. Erwin always radiated confidence, optimism, and joie de vivre, and he was like that from the first time I met him. With his help, I tried to keep calm during this upsetting roller-coaster rider…”
Luckily, cancer had been detected early and it proved to be slow-moving. But the toxins in her body had started taking over. She couldn’t eat. She had little pimples all over her stomach. She describes the situation like this, “I was surviving, but not living. I guess that is what happens when you die… I didn’t mind the thought of dying — I have always been curious about the afterlife — but I was concerned about how I would go. One of the benefits of living in Switzerland is that assisted suicide is a legal act.” It didn’t come to that, luckily. In 2017, as the holidays approached, she started feeling more energetic. She writes, “I was looking forward to my birthday on November 26, which we planned to celebrate with our closest friends at our country house… But I am still here — We’re still here, closer than we ever imagined — and that is cause for celebration.
My Love Story is an inspiring autobiography of one of the leading music icons of our times. It shows she did not give up easily and tried to cross every obstacle in her life with courage. Tina Turner talks about herself, her music and her life in a very frank way. She sheds a light on many previously unknown corners of her life. It is an essential read to better understand her person and art. It is one of those rare biographies we cannot easily put down. It is surely more entertaining than I, Tina. As you read it, you feel as if Tina Turner is talking to you. It is a treat for the fans of Tina Turner and a must-read for music lovers.