OPRAH: To my mind, no one deserves the label “rock royalty” more than Tina Turner, the artist whose legs launched a thousand gym visits and whose songs are tattooed on all our hearts.

tina turner oprah interview now 2018 2019 book biography

In her brand new memoir, My Love Story, the eight-time Grammy winner explores her painful childhood, her victorious career resurrection after an infamously abusive relationship, her much-happier current marriage to her longtime partner, the musical based on her story (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical), and the array of serious illnesses she’s conquered.

But when I recently caught up with her over Skype, it was under tragic circumstances: Her 59-year-old son, Craig, had ended his life mere weeks before. Nonetheless, Tina opened up to me about loss, a lifesaving gift, and the spirit that propels her forward.

It’s been 20 years since our first conversation I was then—and will forever be— your biggest fan. 

Well, thank you, Oprah.

I want to thank you for being the goddess of rock ‘n’ roll and for the inspiration you’ve brought to my life and to countless others. The last time I saw you in person was five years ago at your wedding, which was such a magical day: thousands of roses; your handsome groom, Erwin. I think people would be shocked to learn that since then, you have suffered through many life-threatening medical challenges that all started soon after.

When I came back from my honeymoon, I was determined to find out what was causing a painful feeling in my chest. I went to the hospital, and two days later, the stroke came. That was the beginning of the sickness.

Tina Turner Erwin Bach - TINA The Musical - London 2018 - Promo at 11.59.18at 12.06.54
Tina Turner & Erwin Bach – TINA The Musical Premiere – London March 2018

 You say in My Love Story: “The stroke had delivered a powerful blow to my body… I would have to work with a physiotherapist to learn how to walk again.” It’s so hard for any of us to image you, fearless Tina—who climbed the Eiffel Tower for that famous photo and danced in concerts on a giant care—having to relearn how to walk.

In the hospital, I didn’t believe that I couldn’t walk. I said, “Bull crap.” Then I stepped out of bed and flopped to the floor and said, “Oh my God, what have I done?” But I wasn’t depressed—I was just determined to fix it.

You say you weren’t depressed then, but once you were recovering from the stroke and retraining yourself to walk, you found out you had intestinal cancer. Then you found out that your kidneys were failing. At what point did you get depressed?

I never did. I don’t know why. When the doctors said, “Both kidneys are out,” I said, “I guess it’s my time to go.” I was in my 70s. In my thinking, I’d lived long enough, and I didn’t want to be on a machine for the rest of my life. My mother and sister were both gone. But then Erwin chimed in, very emotional, and said, “I don’t want another partner.” He was 150 percent ready to give me his kidney.

What was that moment like for you? Your beloved, Erwin, whom you’d been with more than 25 years at that point, was saying, “I want you to have my kidney.”

After I realized he was serious, I had to lie there and think, Maybe he does love me. I always had a phobia about not being loved, so to believe it took a lot of doing. I had to really come to grips with what he was about to do.

tina turner now 2018 2019 interview
TINA Interview in Zurich (Oct 2018)

He was going to an organ from his body to extend life to you. 

Yes. I know it sounds dramatic, but it was dramatic.

You say in the book that during this time, you thought a lot about Ike. And that you’ve still never seen What’s Love Got to Do With It

I watched a little bit of it, but I didn’t finish it because that was not how things went. Oprah, I didn’t realize they would change the details so much. The musical is how things actually were.

But I know you were reluctant to do the musical. 

Yeah, because it’s not a good feeling to remember some of those times. I didn’t want to talk about them because I knew I’d have bad dreams. But I thought, There’s no one else to tell this story because everyone is gone. Now I’m so proud of it.

tina turner dominik wichmann deborah davis interview book biography
TINA with Dominik Wichmann & Deborah Davis at Chateau Algonquin

I felt such a range of emotions seeing the musical—I was trying not to do the ugly cry—because of everything you’d been through and because of your mantra, before you knew what a mantra was, was “I’ll go on.”

There was nothing else to do. When I met Ike, I had nowhere else to go. After I left him, because I got nothing in the divorce, I had to make myself and my family secure.

Has chronicling your story in a book and a musical made you see your life in a new way?

I’ll tell you one of the things that occurred to me: At the time I was creating the image I had in the ’80s—the hair situation, the clothes—I had to make myself pretty because I didn’t see myself as a beauty. Everything I did is what got me here, even though I might not have been as glamorous as other people. But it was mine.

Now everybody’s got a wig or a weave, but you turned your wigs into your own thing. You cut them, clipped them, added, and subtracted. 

I did make those wigs look good.

Do you have a room for all of them?

Yes, and they’re pretty.

I actually had several Tina wigs. Eventually, Stedman had to say, “You are not Tina Turner. You can let those wigs go.” That was a lesson for me. What lesson has taken you the longest to learn?

In my next lifetime, I want to be smarter. The hardest part of my childhood was school. There was violence in my family when I grew up, and that’s something that can make you lose the brain power you might normally have.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on trauma, and if you’re raised in an environment where there is chronic violence and chaos, the synapses in your brain can’t form optimally, so you start at a disadvantage. 

You’ve said it perfectly—that was how I came into the world. That was my karma this lifetime, but I’m finishing it with flying colors.

Tina Turner performing in 1985. GETTY IMAGES
 What are you most grateful for?

That I survived without hating or blaming anyone. I’m very grateful that I had really honest, good, genuine people to help me. I’ve been saying that my new birthday is April 8 because that’s when I got the kidney from Erwin.

You’ve grieved in so many ways—for the mother who abandoned you, for the pain you suffered in your marriage to Ike—and now you are grieving the loss of your son. How did Craig’s suicide impact you?

Well, at first I didn’t believe it, because not long ago, Craig told me, “Mother, I’m really happy now.” He had a new woman in his life, and he’d just redecorated his apartment. But during our last talk, he said, “I just want to hear your voice and that laugh.” He had never said something like that. I think that was his goodbye to me, but I didn’t realize it at the time. I’m still trying to find out why he did it. Maybe something from his childhood followed him through life and was still weighing on him, and he just couldn’t handle it anymore. I don’t know.

Where do you think he is now? As a Buddhist, what do you believe happens to us when we die?

According to Buddhism, you come back to earth and do life again until you get it right. I believe his next life will be easier. I think he’s in a good place.

You’ve said that every one of us has our own song in our heart.

Yeah. We all have one, and it comes from the soul. That song is what soothes us in heavy moments. But you have to work toward it. That’s the wisdom you acquire over a lifetime.

Thank you so much for your time on the day before you have to lay your son to rest.

 I said I wouldn’t do it with anyone except Oprah. Thank you for all of it. I give you a big, big kiss.

This story originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of O.


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10 Replies to “T.T Talks To O.”

  1. Sending our love from the heart : Mrs. tina turner-bach is much more than a great singer,performer and

    actor. Read today about her son Mr Craig who served in the Navy after he graduated from High School

    and received full military honours at his funeral and his mother was so moved by the tributes …(we had

    family members, friends who served in the police and the tributes at the funerals are the last respect

    for them and for their families) so understanding what she felt

    Wish MRS.& MR.Bach more years together with good health and to get lots of love back from all the

    fans that love and care about them.Good Luck in everything



  2. Much love to you i am glad you were reborn an aries happy birthday april 8. From Bakersfield view park ,baldwins hills ,Hollywood hills . Injoy your new world. See you in paradise.


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