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From Picking Cotton to a $76 Million European Estate: How Tina Turner Left One Career With Two Cars and Her Name to Rebuild Another 100 Times More Successful

At 82 years old, Tina Turner continues to be at the top of her game, overcoming a life of extreme poverty and public domestic abuse to become one of the most influential singers in music history.

Now, the American-born Swiss icon (who has renounced her U.S. citizenship) has retired from music with an estimated net worth ranging between $250 million to $335 million, recovering in her older age from a kidney transplant and working through bereavement caused by the death by suicide of her son, Craig.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – MAY 23: Tina Turner performs at Shoreline Amphitheatre on May 23, 1997 in Mountain View, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

It seems like her life has always been a series of highs and lows, starting from when she was a little girl in Brownsville, Knoxville, and Nutbush, Tennessee after the great depression. As a child, she picked cotton to help her family make do and saw her mother, Zelma, get beaten by her father, Floyd. This laid the groundwork for two things: a life where she was also abused and a “can’t be outdone” attitude towards working.

In reflection on her life, Turner said, “It wasn’t a good life. The good did not balance the bad.”

“I had an abusive life, there’s no other way to tell the story,” she continued. “It’s a reality. It’s a truth. That’s what you’ve got, so you have to accept it.

The Early Years

A lively child, her religious family noticed early on that she had a natural gift for singing and performing. However, it was not until the late ’50s and the early ’60s, that she linked with her former husband, Ike Turner, to start a career as a professional entertainer — transforming Anna Mae Bullock into the superstar persona of Tina Turner.

Turner became the lead vocalist in “Ike and Tina Turner Revue (featuring the Ikettes and Kings of Rhythm)” which gave her her first taste of success and financial security.

The group’s first single, which made it to No. 2 on the national Hot R&B sides chart, was “A Fool In Love.” The song changed her and Ike’s life, earning them their first Grammy Award nomination for “Best Rock and Roll Performance” in 1960.

Over the next two years, in addition to getting married, she also released her debut studio album titled “The Soul of Ike and Tina Turner,” including songs like “I’m Jealous” and “I Idolize You.”

Becoming Mrs. Turner

Success came in heaps, as Tina and her husband released 22 studio albums, eight live albums, and more than 31 compilation albums, according to Wealthy Genius. This was topped off with a show in Las Vegas, that put her amongst the elite club of African-Americans that had successful shows out there in the middle 20th century. And with the success and tours, came money.

However, by the ’70s, there began to be cracks in Ike and Tina’s empire.

Ike Turner’s drug addiction, jealousy, and abusive ways started to become demonstratively monstrous, leading to the couple’s split in 1976. At the time of the split, Ike was reportedly expected to sign a five-year contract with a new record company, Cream Records, for a reported yearly amount of $150,000. The deal didn’t go through since Tina had left Ike and the group and filed for divorce. Ike and Tina’s divorce was finalized in 1978.

According to The Sun, Turner admitted to trying to kill herself as a way to free herself from her then-husband. In 1968, she tried to end her life by taking a lot of sleeping pills. When talking about those times, she and her current husband, Erwin Bach, says it’s like she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“She has dreams about it, they’re not pleasant. It’s like when soldiers come back from the war. It’s not an easy time to have those in your memory and then try to forget,” her new love says.

Turner said, “That scene comes back. You’re dreaming it. The real picture is there, it’s like a curse.”

In the star’s 2018 biography, “My Love Story” she said, “My relationship with Ike was doomed the day he figured out I was going to be his moneymaker. He needed to control me, economically and psychologically, so I could never leave him.”

In the split, she walked away with hardly anything: two cars and the right to use her own name.

 “The divorce, I got nothing. No money, no house,” Turner says in “Tina.” “So I said: I’ll just take my name.”

The Bounceback

After trying to figure out her next moves, Turner decided to do a total revamp of her life — abandoning her soulful roots to step into a world as a bona fide rock goddess.

In the 1980s, she reinvented herself at 44 and produced classic albums such as “Private Dancer” (1984) and “Break Every Rule (1986).”  Between the two projects, she starred in Mel Gibson’s “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome,” dropping a hit song on the soundtrack titled “We Don’t Need Another Hero (1985).”

“Private Dancer” had a slew of hits. “Let’s Stay Together” was the first song released from the album, and was followed up by “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”

“What’s Love ….” shot to No. 1 on Sept. 1, 1984, making her the oldest woman in history to get a No. 1 song.

This run afforded her more success than ever before, with a mind-boggling 12 Grammy Awards, getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and becoming the first Black artist and the first woman to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

A Bankable Brand

Turner stopped doing music in 2009 and officially retired in 2020, earning an estimated total career income of $450 million. Her wealth is not just from selling over 200 million albums worldwide, but from tours like “Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour” which earned gross revenue of $132.5 million and sold her publishing and the use of her image and likeness to BMG Rights Management.

An interesting fact about her career income and her living in two different countries, the United States and Switzerland, she has paid nearly 40 percent in taxes to both governments. After taxes, experts believe she has in her account about $270 million.

After marrying Bach in 2013, the best-selling author and over 160 awards-winning musician, purchased her first European estate for $76 million dollars, a lakefront mansion overlooking Lake Zurich.

Sources report that she has about $100 million in investments, bumping her net worth in 2022 to $335 million.

After experiencing such deep lows and soaring highs, there are lessons, Turner has learned.

She told the “Today” show via email, “The silver lining was that through the hardships and heartbreaks, I discovered within me a strength that I could survive even the worst situations.”

“I just needed to find a way to tap that strength and increase it, because then I knew I would find the courage to stand up for myself and lead the life that I wanted and deserved,” she concluded.

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