Tina Turner Museum – Tina Turner to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Magnetic. Magnet. Beautiful. A force of nature. These are just a few of the compliments interior designer Stephen Sills extends when he describes his client-turned-dear friend, Tina Turner. The two met decades ago through Turner’s musical director and, says Sills, âIt was one of the most magical days of my life, because I was such a fan of her. ” He would go on to help Turner decorate his villa in the south of France and his Swiss palace, the Algonquin Castle. So, naturally, when Turner married her longtime boyfriend, Erwin Bach, she felt comfortable asking Sills for a singular wedding gift: would he help her build a museum? His response was: “Of course!”
In October, Turner will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. (Thirty years ago, she and her ex-husband Ike Turner were inducted as a duo.) For her fans, this commendation is long overdue. Few artists have contributed as much to the music industry as Turner; still less justify an entire museum. Nestled in a renovated one-room schoolhouse built by Turner’s great-great-uncle in 1889, the Tina Turner Museum showcases the many accomplishments that made her one of the most influential performers of all time.
âThere is so much history in this building,â says Sonia Outlaw-Clark, director of the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center and the Tina Turner Museum. Flagg Grove School, which Turner attended from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s, was once in his hometown of Nutbush, Tennessee, but was saved from demolition in 2012 and moved to the Delta land. Heritage Center in nearby Brownsville. . The clapboard structure houses original desks, benches, and wood floors. âWe really wanted to preserve the legacy of this school, because not only did Tina attend it, but for so many black children in this part of the county, it was their only chance to have an education in the 1800s. ”
The 800-square-foot space is also filled with memorabilia from Turner’s life and career: gold and platinum records commemorating the more than 200 million records she has sold in her six decades of career ; a letter from Prince Charles thanking her for a charity show; photographs of Turner receiving the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor; her high school directory. âThey love to see her photo from her senior year,â Outlaw-Clark says of visitors to the museum. “They asked all the students that year to say what they wanted to be, and she listed ‘artist’.”
And, of course, there are the costumes, impeccably preserved, dazzling and beautifully presented on mannequins. Sequin Bob Mackie numbers, a hand-sewn Armani dress in Swarovski crystals, the short silver jumpsuit she wore during an unforgettable duet with BeyoncÃ© Knowles at the 2008 Grammys. the outfit she wore in the post-apocalyptic thriller Mad Max beyond the dome of thunder, with colossal earrings and a blonde wig three feet long. Turner wore the replica dress, designed by Mackie, throughout her 2008-2009 50th anniversary tour. The original is made of chain mail, says Outlaw-Clark, âso it’s heavy and heavyâ (about 70 pounds).
Turner chose all of the items on display in the permanent exhibit, according to Sills. The glazed glamor juxtaposed with the weathered pine exterior of the museum seems quite appropriate for a singer who sang, “We like to do it pleasantly and brutally.” Before the pandemic, more than 30,000 people a year flocked to the museum, coming from as far away as Australia to revel in the glory of the legend who brought us classics such as “Proud Mary”, “What’s Love Got to Do With It, ââ Simply the best âandâ Better be kind to me. â
âIt’s not uncommon for them to spend two or three hours looking at every detail,â says Outlaw-Clark, who led the restoration efforts. And, she adds, “they always quit dancing.”
Born Anna Mae Bullock, Turner, the daughter of sharecroppers, grew up singing in church and yearned for a life on the big stage. She became an R&B star in her twenties when she teamed up with Ike Turner, and a supernova when she finally divorced after enduring decades of domestic violence. She left with just 36 cents in her pocket and an indomitable will to survive. In the years that followed, the singer toured the world, successfully transitioned to acting and wrote two memoirs. His story has been immortalized again in theaters (the 1993 Oscar nominated biopic What does love have to do with it), in a Broadway musical and, most recently, in an HBO documentary.
As renowned for her hoarse, mesquite-smoky voice as for her thrilling, high-octane performances, million-watt smile and enviable playing, Turner has risen to the top of the charts as an artist. solo in the 1980s, triumphing over racism, sexism and ageism; she was 44 when she released her comeback album, Private dancer. The list of artists who owe Turner a debt of gratitude is endless, from Janis Joplin and Mick Jagger to Janelle MonÃ¡e and BeyoncÃ©. In a birthday tribute, Knowles, from Texas, told Turner, âI’ve loved you a lifetime. You paved the way for another country girl to follow her dreams.
21 years ago, I had the privilege of watching Turner perform at the launch party for Oprah Winfrey’s eponymous magazine, and it remains one of the highlights of my career. Turner looked gorgeous in a leather micromini, sheer tights, and her signature scarlet lipstick. And although she’s already 60, she put on a sweat-soaked show worthy of an artist a third of her age. Winfrey, another grown country girl, was overjoyed. The audience was delighted. Turner was glowing.
Sills says Turner shines even more behind the scenes, and he beams as he remembers their afternoons strolling through Paris flea markets and heart to heart late night. âShe has tremendous energy and she is so smart. She’s five steps ahead of you, âsays Sills. âShe doesn’t consider herself the biggest rock & roll star in the world. She is very humble, but at the same time very powerful.
Every year on the fourth weekend in September, Outlaw-Clark and her Turner fan friends come together to celebrate the singer’s extraordinary legacy (September 26 is Tina Turner Heritage Day in Tennessee). Outlaw-Clark calls Turner’s rise from the cotton fields of the rural south to the peak of pop culture the epitome of “American dream story.” âIf she can do it, anyone can do anything,â she said. “You just have to have that persistence and that sense of who you want to be.” Visit westtnheritage.com for museum hours and information.
This story appears in the October 2021 issue of City Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW