Thursday, December 13, 2007

See Ya, Ike

Ike Turner died at the age of 76 on Wed., Dec. 12, 2007. With the release of his song "Rocket 88" in 1951 he heralded a new form of popular culture called Rock 'n' Roll. That alone is a massive achievement for which he should always be remembered. He was a remarkable songwriter with a canny ability to read what the public wanted before they knew they wanted it. His bringing aboard Annie May Bullock, AKA Tina Turner, to handle lead vocals and look fucking amazing doing it is a testament to this and the collaboration led to both of their finest work. He continued working until the end of his life, garnering accolades and awards along the way. Quite an impressive feat.

Unfortunately, for me at least, this becomes a case of the artist overshadowing the art. There's no question Ike routinely beat the shit out of not only Tina, but his other female back-up singers as well. He must have had one hell of a Svengali thing going on to convince them to stick around as long as they did. It wasn't for the money - these gals were notoriously under-paid. Even worse, Ike would pimp out the women after shows to bring in more cash to feed his drug habit. My dad saw The Ike and Tina Turner Review at a frat party in the early 60's in which this happened. He didn't recall if Tina was one of the girls on offer, but the fact that any of them were is utterly repulsive whether or not Ike's wife was involved. Even though my dad's an attorney I've never known him to lie or even exaggerate details. There's certainly no percentage in him lying about this - he loved The Review and wouldn't sensationalize his experience by inventing a sordid detail like that. One can be relatively certain that, if it happened at an OU frat party, it probably happened all the time.

Ike denied these things ever happened, but it always smacked of him protesting it a little bit too much. In interviews, were he not asked about it, he would find a way to work in the fact that he never abused Tina or any other woman he worked with. Who would want to own up to something so reprehensible?

If he had owned up, apologized, and tried to make amends, I wouldn't be facing the dilemma I find myself in now. I love the guy's music, but can't listen to it without thinking about what a horrible human being he was. Overlooking the excesses of my musical idols typically comes pretty easily for me, as long as it's not unabashed, obvious greed, cold blooded murder, or child abuse, and I can enjoy the art in spite of the words or actions of its creator. Turns out I can't get past Ike's excesses. More's the shame. He was one motherfucker of a songwriter.

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