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The Last Few Years of Tina Turner’s Life Were Her Happiest — Here’s Why

How the vocal powerhouse found her peace


The luminous late Tina Turner was no stranger to overcoming times of darkness — both in her career and in her personal life — and there aren’t many people who could come out blazing on the other side the way she did. The “Proud Mary” and “What’s Love Got To Do With It” singer’s incredible rise to fame and inspirational life is laid out in the special edition magazine, Tina Turner: Her Life in Pictures. In this full-color peek into her life, you’ll find the stories of her upbringing, her tumultuous relationship with Ike, her rise to superstardom, but most importantly, her strength that lead to the happiness of her later years. Here, learn how Tina climbed the peaks and endured the valleys to finally find true love and lasting peace.

Tina’s Rocky Road to Joy

Even by the low standards of the music industry, 1950s rhythm and blues artists suffered particularly miserable treatment, and Tina, who joined the rhythm and blues world with Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm in 1956, had no immunity. By the late 1970s, after she left an abusive relationship with Ike, she was feeding herself and her four children on food stamps. But she had found the strength to move on in a surprising place: “When I first received the gift of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (Homage to the Dharma of the Lotus Sutra), it marked the beginning of a new life for me in more ways than I could have imagined,” she wrote in her 2020 book Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good. “I gained the clarity and strength to make countless important changes in my life.”

It also launched her on the path to meet the love of her life, Erwin Bach. Bach, Turner had said repeatedly, was her other cornerstone. They met in 1985 at a German airport where, as a record company executive, he had been assigned to pick her up. He was 29; she was 45. A year later, they had become the couple.

Meeting Her Prince Charming

Erwin Bach, Tina Turner’s second husband, follows the playbook of Dolly Parton’s husband, Carl: He’s the shadow behind the star. He was born in Germany, moved to Switzerland, was not married before Turner and has no children. Sixteen years younger than Turner, they fell in love after he was assigned as her company escort for her 1985 European concert dates.

Bach has often professed his devotion to her, and in 2017, he saved her life with a kidney donation. But don’t look for his comments on that, or anything else. He has rarely spoken in public and has no public social media accounts — despite having had a luminous career of his own as a record company executive and music producer who worked with the likes of Paul McCartney and Pink Floyd. One thing we do know: He was not after Turner’s money. His worth has been estimated at $50 million.

Edwin Bach and Tina Turner in 2019 David Fisher/Shutterstock

When she and Bach threw a house party to celebrate their 2013 marriage, the guests included Oprah Winfrey, David Bowie, and Giorgio Armani. The decor included 70,000 red and yellow roses flown in from Holland. “Erwin and I have been a couple for over 30 years,” Turner posted on Instagram in January 2021. “Did you know that I took the first step in our relationship? I left behind the fear of rejection and spoke to him. One of the best decisions of my life. Take heart! #LoveStays.”

Facing the Past and Letting Go

If a theme emerged from the Turner-approved 2021 HBO documentary Tina, it was contentment, coupled with Turner’s wish that this become the final and definitive media word on her life. Specifically, she wished to terminate 40 years of revisiting the abuse she suffered during her 16-year marriage to Ike.

That wish, for the record, didn’t entirely come true. The first words in her Rolling Stone magazine obituary described her as “the raspy-voice fireball who overcame domestic abuse.” Still, to be fair, Turner had far too alluring a story for the world to follow her dream and remember only the good parts. Divorcing Ike didn’t divorce her past.

Less tidy and satisfying had been her relationship with her children. After Craig, she and Ike had one son, Ronnie, and she adopted Ike Jr. and Michael from Ike’s earlier relationship with Lorraine Taylor. While Ike called Turner “a good mother,” Craig said in Tina that she was attentive when she was there, but mostly she wasn’t there. “She was gone most of the time… eight months on the road, four months back,” Craig said.

That left the boys with what Turner called “the housekeeper,” and her relationship with all except Craig became what Ike Jr. called “distant.” The other three children were largely absent in Tina, and Turner touched on the strained relationships just briefly. “That was something I had to deal with,” she said. Ike Jr. and Ronnie (who died at the age of 62 in December 2022) had gone into the music business. Craig, who went into real estate, tragically committed suicide in 2018.

On the generational flip side, Turner said in Tina that her relationship with her own mother, Zelma, who left the family when she was 11, never fully healed. “She didn’t want me,” Turner said. “She wanted my success.”

Overcoming Health Scares

The Tina Turner interviewed in Tina held little resemblance to the lion-maned temptress who prowled music stages. While she seemed sharp, she suffered a stroke not long after her 2013 wedding and had to learn to walk again. In 2016, she was diagnosed with intestinal cancer, which led to renal failure. She signed up with Exit, an assisted suicide organization, but Bach turned out to be a suitable kidney donor and she had a successful transplant in April 2017.

So she rolled on, revered holder of a towering legacy that encompasses triumphs onstage, riches beyond dreams, and yet still the black eyes from which she is decades removed. “Some people only want to talk about the past,” she said in a 1989 interview. “Nothing is happening in the past. Talk about the present.”

That, presumably, was the code Mr. and Mrs. Erwin Bach followed when they bought an estate by Switzerland’s Lake Zurich, which they bought for approximately $76 million. She still chanted daily, and aside from the inevitable afflictions of age, she lived the life she earned. If being Tina Turner was the price, it was also the reward.

Tina and Edwin’s home on Lake Zurich MICHAEL BUHOLZER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Love Conquers All

In the end, Tina Turner, whose family couldn’t afford a bicycle while she was growing up, spent her last decades living life to the fullest — with it being the most full of love. Thanks to Erwin, family, and her found strength of faith, she said she had never been happier.

A version of this article appeared in our partner magazine, Tina Turner: Her Life in Pictures, in 2023.

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