December 12, 2007 / 10:39 PM / 10 years ago

Ike Turner dead at 76

<p>Ike Turner poses with his Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album for 'Risin With the Blues' at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, February 11, 2007. Turner, who rose to fame in the 1950s and became a star performing with his ex-wife Tina Turner, has died at age 76, according to published reports on Wednesday. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Ike Turner, an influential guitarist who turned his wife Tina Turner into a superstar in the 1960s but later saw his career collapse amid drugs and claims of spousal abuse, died on Wednesday at his home near San Diego. He was 76.

The cause of death was not immediately known.

“Ike Turner passed away this morning. He was at his home,” in San Marcos, Calif., said Scott Hanover of Thrill Entertainment, the performer’s management company.

After slipping into obscurity in recent decades, Turner was on a comeback trail of sorts. He won his first Grammy since 1972 earlier this year for a blues album and was collaborating on a project with producer Danger Mouse.

While Ike Turner arguably invented rock ‘n’ roll with his 1951 song “Rocket 88” and enjoyed huge fame in the 1960s and 1970s with Tina Turner, his achievements were overshadowed when Tina Turner launched a comeback in the 1980s and accused her former husband of beating her and reducing her to servitude.

Izear Luster Turner was born in 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi, an area steeped in the traditions of blues music, and as a boy learned to play piano and was a disc jockey for a local radio station.

He formed his first band in high school and by 1951 was the man behind the Kings of Rhythm, whose 1951 song “Rocket 88” is widely regarded as the first record in the nascent rock ‘n’ roll genre. The Chess Records release was credited to the band’s saxophone player Jackie Brenston “and his Delta Cats.”

As a guitarist and pianist, Turner played with the likes of B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon in the 1950s, and his band performed in the popular style of a revue featuring different vocalists.

One of those singers, a teen-ager named Annie Mae Bullock, joined the revue in 1956, and by 1958 she had changed her name to Tina, joined the band for good and married Turner.

Together, the pair enjoyed such hits as “River Deep, Mountain High,” “Proud Mary” and “Nutbush City Limits,” and they renamed the band the “Ike & Tina Turner Revue.” In 1972, they won a Grammy in 1972 for “Proud Mary.”

Tina Turner was believed to be in Zurich and unavailable for comment.

‘STRUTTING CONFIDENCE’

“Ike’s strutting confidence, aggressive approach to rhythm, and snap-tight funkiness -- as well as his enthusiastic understanding of rock and roll showmanship -- all combined to make him a thrilling and influential guitarist,” said Michael Molenda, editor in chief of Guitar Player magazine.

But after he and Tina divorced in 1976, Ike Turner was crippled by a cocaine addiction that drained his finances. He was arrested several times mostly for drug-related offenses.

When the Turners were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, Ike Turner could not show up for the ceremony because he was serving time in prison.

As Ike’s fortunes dimmed, Tina mounted a huge comeback in the mid-1980s and had hits with songs like “Better Be Good to Me” and “Private Dancer.”

The singer also publicly denounced Ike as an abusive husband in a tell-all book, ”I, Tina,“ which formed the basis for a 1993 film about her life, ”What’s Love Got To Do With It. Turner signed away his rights to the movie, giving Hollywood wide latitude to dramatize his failures.

But Ike Turner eventually tamed his drug addiction and in 1999 his autobiography, “Takin’ Back My Name,” was published.

He won his Grammy this year for “Risin’ with the Blues.”

Editing by Dean Goodman and Cynthia Osterman

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