It’s too bad that, when people remember Ike Turner, who died today at 76, they’re more likely to think “the guy who battered his wife, Tina,” than “the guy who pretty much invented rock ‘n’ roll.” He did it as the guitarist on a 1951 tune called “Rocket 88,” produced by Sam Phillips, who would later produce Elvis’ first records and those of many other rock pioneers. The disc was credited to the singer, Jackie Brenston, but it was Turner who was the song’s sonic architect and the player of its innovative, distorted electric guitar.
Later, of course, Ike would discover a teenage thrush named Anna Mae Bullock, marry her, and transform her into Tina Turner. He crafted their sound and their celebrated stage routine, and the couple’s two-decade partnership had a profound influence on every R&B/soul diva who followed in Tina’s stiletto’d footsteps (not to mention on Mick Jagger). Later still, long after Tina’s departure and her well-publicized claims of abuse (which Ike denied or dismissed), and long after most of the public had written him off, he continued to play club dates, as he had for more than 50 years, even winning a Grammy this year in the traditional blues category for his album Risin’ With the Blues. He had the respect of his fellow musicians, though he complained he never got proper credit from a public and press that had sided with Tina. Maybe now he’ll get that credit from posterity.
addCredit(“Tina and Ike Turner: AP”)