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Tina Turner’s legendary life, career, and 34-year relationship with Erwin Bach were the focus of 2021 HBO documentary, Tina, before the icon passed away at age 83 on May 24, 2023. The film captured her transition from Anna Mae Bullock, her given name, to Tina Turner, the icon whose anthems we’ve all sung in the shower—and whose life has taught us a good deal about resilience.
Much of Tina focuses on how Turner healed following her 14 years in a toxic relationship with musician Ike Turner. They met at a St. Louis nightclub, when 17-year-old Turner impressed Ike with her unique voice, and later made it big as a husband-and-wife performance duo. But exuberant hit songs like “Proud Mary” and “River Deep—Mountain High” masked the truth of their union: Ike was physically and emotionally abusive to Turner, and their four children bore witness.
After she left the marriage in 1976, Turner was haunted by constant questions about her ex-husband. “People continued to ask about Ike, even after she had huge solo success. They’d bring the same old stuff up over and over in every interview. We couldn’t stop it,” her former manager, Roger Davies, said in the documentary. “I don’t love that it’s always talked about,” Turner said in footage from 1993, explaining why she hadn’t seen the movie based on her life.
Turner’s husband, Erwin Bach, who is now 67, said in the documentary that she still has nightmares about that time. “When you talk to journalists over and over for 20, 30, 40 years, memories come back. She has dreams about it that aren’t pleasant. These are the things that come back to her when she opens that box. It’s like when soldiers come back from the war. It’s not an easy time to have in your memory. You try to forget.”
According to Tina, Bach—a German record company executive and Turner’s longtime love—was the light at the end of the so-called tunnel. “I really needed to love. I needed to love a person,” Turner said to the camera. Their romance constitutes the documentary’s fifth and final chapter. But for more details, read on for Turner and Bach’s complete story. In Turner’s iconic words, it was “simply the best.”
1985: Tina Turner and Erwin Bach met when he picked her up from an airport in Germany.
Turner and Bach’s meet-cute is something out of a rom-com. Bach, a 30-year-old music executive with EMI, was assigned to pick up Turner, a 47-year-old global megastar, from the airport before a concert.
For Turner, the connection was instant. Speaking to Oprah on Oprah’s Next Chapter, Turner described the moment as “love at first sight.” In the documentary, Turner explained: “He had the prettiest face. You could not miss it. It was like saying, ‘Where did he come from?’ He was really that good-looking. My heart went bu-bum. It means that a soul has met. My hands were shaking.”
She elaborated with more cinematic detail in her book, Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good.
“The day I first met Erwin, at an airport in Germany, I should have been too tired from my flight, too preoccupied with thoughts of my concert tour, and in too much of a hurry to get to my hotel to pay much attention to the young music executive who came from my record company to welcome me.
“But I did notice him, and I instantly felt an emotional connection,” she continued. “Even then, I could have ignored what I felt—I could have listened to the ghost voices in my head telling me that I didn’t look good that day, or that I shouldn’t be thinking about romance because it never ends well. Instead, I listened to my heart. I left my comfort zone and made it a priority to get to know Erwin.”
Bach said in the documentary that love, for him, wasn’t as instant: “I was working,” he explained. Despite being in the back of a car with one of the world’s most famous women, Bach said he “wasn’t nervous.” In short, they got along well.
1985: Erwin visited Turner in the United States.
Not long after meeting, Erwin heard that Turner was interested in him. He visited her in Nashville, per the documentary. Turner recalled the cheeky proposition she made to him about a future trip: “‘When you come to L.A., I want you to make love to me.’ He looked at me like he didn’t believe what he was hearing,” she said with a smile.
Their relationship began in the Music City—and yes, Bach did visit her in Los Angeles. When reflecting on what she liked about Bach, Turner said, “He was so different. So laid-back. So comfortable. So unpretentious.”
Bach characterized their relationship in the documentary as well. “It’s love. It’s something we both have for each other. I always refer to it as an electrical charge. I still have it. Even though when I left her two hours ago, I still have that feeling. It’s in my heart. I feel very warm about this.”
1989: The couple celebrated Turner’s 50th birthday in London.
Speaking to Oprah, Turner revealed that Bach proposed marriage around her 50th birthday. “I said, ‘I don’t have an answer.’ It wasn’t yes, it wasn’t no,” Turner recalled. She said she was wary of feeling controlled. “Marriage says ownership. I didn’t want that ‘my’ anything, anymore. I had enough of that.” She added that three years into their relationship, she still “didn’t believe” that he was committed, although he said otherwise.
Years later, she would change her mind.
1995: Turner and Bach moved to Switzerland.
When Turner was 57, she moved to Switzerland with Bach. They lived in the Zurich suburb of Kuesnacht, per Forbes. In 2013, Turner formally relinquished her U.S. citizenship. If you’re wondering, she did not speak German.
In a profile for the New York Times, reporter Amanda Hess described the couple’s home, which is named the Chateau Algonquin, as having “cartoon palace energy.” The home, which overlooks Lake Zurich, has “ivy snaking up the walls, gardeners manicuring the shrubs, a life-size two-legged horse sculpture suspended from a domed ceiling, a framed rendering of Turner as an Egyptian queen, [and] a room stuffed with gilded Louis XIV style sofas.”
Fun fact: Once, Turner flew in from Switzerland to surprise Oprah for her 50th birthday party.
2009: Turner retired from performing.
Turner ended her performance career with a world tour. The six-month, 90-date 50th Anniversary Tour—marking her half-century performing music—came to a close in Sheffield, England, on May 5, 2009. Turner was nearly 70 when she completed her final stage performance.
“No one knew how tired I was of singing and dancing. It’s work,” Turner told Oprah. She said the successful tour allowed her to retire in peace. “I wanted to retire and not worry. That is what that tour did for me. I got to my goal. I received at that moment a revelation of, ‘This is it. I’m going home now.’ I was going back to a place that I’d decided in my last stage that’s where I wanted to be.”
In her book My Love Story, she wrote about returning home with Bach the day after her final show: “I knew this was it. I got up the next morning, didn’t see anybody, and boarded the plane with Erwin. I sat there, still, calm, resolute. I took a deep breath and told myself, ‘I’m not going back.’”
2013: Turner and Bach got married 27 years after they began dating.
“There comes a time in life where you must put things in place,” Turner told Oprah in 2013, weeks after she got married. One of those things was marrying Bach, nearly 30 years after they met.
More than 200 friends—all clad in white—joined the couple at their Swiss estate, which was adorned with a wall of roses. Bryan Adams performed “All for Love” as the couple walked down the aisle. “I wanted to be the best I could be. I wanted my garden and my guests to be the best they could be. And they were,” Turner said.
2017: Bach donated a kidney to Turner.
After she retired, Turner endured a slew of health difficulties. She survived intestinal cancer and a stroke. Then, in December 2016, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer.
“I faced two choices: either regular dialysis or a kidney transplant,” she wrote in My Love Story. “Only the transplant would give me a good chance of a near-normal life. But the chances of getting a donor kidney were remote.”
According to her memoir, Turner considered assisted suicide, as her chances of survival were slim without a kidney transplant. That’s where Bach stepped in. “He said he didn’t want another woman, or another life,” wrote Turner. “Then he shocked me. He said he wanted to give me one of his kidneys.”
Turner wrote she was “overwhelmed by the enormity of his offer.” When the transplant surgery was successful, she wrote that she felt “happy, overwhelmed and relieved that we’d come through this alive.”
2018: Bach supported Turner during the premiere of her Broadway musical.
Turner’s life had already been adapted into a movie starring Angela Bassett. In 2018, her journey inspired a jukebox musical called Tina. During its Broadway opening in November 2019, Oprah and Bach escorted Turner past crowds and into the theater.
2019: The couple used the HBO documentary as “closure.”
Turner, at 82, expressed the desire to retreat from the public eye. “How do you bow out slowly? Just go away?” she asked in the documentary.
According to Bach, this HBO documentary is part of Turner’s way of saying goodbye. “She said I’m going to America, I’m going to say goodbye to my American fans, and I’m going to wrap it up. I think this documentary and this play—this is it. This is a closure,” he said.
2023: Turner passes away.
On May 24, 2023, Turner passed away after reportedly fighting a “long illness,” her rep told People. While Bach and her family have not yet released a statement, the news was first shared on Turner’s official Instagram account.
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