Tina Turner left a life of pain in the U.S. In Europe, she found home

LONDON — Born in Tennessee, Tina Turner is revered worldwide as the American queen of rock-and-roll. But for Turner, Europe was the place where she reached new levels of fame and happiness after a tumultuous life in the United States and an abusive first marriage.

Switzerland was the place Turner, who relinquished her U.S. citizenship in 2013, eventually called home.

“With Tina Turner’s death, the world has lost an icon,” Switzerland President Alain Berset tweeted Wednesday following the star’s passing at the age of 83. He called the singer, who lived in Switzerland since 1995, an “impressive woman who found a second home” in the country.

On Thursday, roses and candles were placed outside the gates of Turner’s home in Küsnacht on Lake Zurich’s Golden Coast. “You’re simply the best,” read one handwritten tribute to the singer, a nod to one of her most famous songs.

Turner was “a proud citizen of Küsnacht,” the municipality said in a statement, adding that she touched many with her “warmth and modesty.” The statement said Turner had sponsored a rescue boat named “TINA” and donated Christmas lights.

“She pretty much became European,” British music journalist Lloyd Bradley said in emailed comments Thursday, adding that this helped her keep up her success in Europe. UK crowds at least seemed to look on her as ‘one of our own.’”

In an interview with CNN’s Larry King in 1997, Turner described why she had left her life in the United States behind. “Basically, Europe has been very supportive of my music,” she said. “Private Dancer was the beginning of my success in England,” she said of her fifth solo studio album, which was recorded in London and released in 1984, eventually going multiplatinum.

Tina Turner sang beyond her pain

When asked by King if Europe had been more supportive of her than America, Turner replied “yes,” with a smile. “Yes, hugely.”

“But you’re a major star here, you’re a superstar in America,” King said, before Turner replied: “Not as big as Madonna. I’m as big as Madonna in Europe.”

Even when Turner was part of a musical duo with her abusive husband Ike, she found a different level of appreciation in Europe. While most of Ike and Tina Turner’s hits stayed on the R&B circuit in the United States, their songs found mainstream success in England, “which has a long history of appreciating black American music styles,” The Washington Post previously reported. The Rolling Stones opened for Ike and Tina on their first British tour in 1965.

Turner’s time in England also played an important role after she split from Ike in 1976, and made a name for herself as a solo artist.

“It was a shrewd move on her part when, in the late-1970s as she couldn’t buy a hit in the US and was pretty much relegated to cabaret, she took on Australian management who had strong connections in Europe,” Bradley said.

“The live work she got there allowed her to escape the ‘nostalgia tag’ and reinvent herself with the help of Marsh & Ware, quintessential British/Euro electronic music wizards … Interestingly this sound was big in the US and allowed her to sell herself back to her homeland as a very modern rock star.”

Turner also credits British star David Bowie with ensuring she was signed with Capitol Records. Bowie had told company officials he was going to see his favorite singer, “so they all came along and voila — there I was onstage. They signed me simply because of David,” she told The Post in a 1993 interview.

Turner also elaborated on how she found more sustained success in Europe in an interview with “60 Minutes” in 1996. “What I find with my homeland, is that nothing lasts very long,” Turner said “Europe is different.”

Turner told “60 Minutes” that many outside of Europe were stunned when she explained she was an even bigger star in Europe than she was in her homeland. “No one in America knows that. I mean, people are always shocked when I explain,” she said.

With more concert tickets sold than any other solo artist in music history, Turner performed countless times across the continent from London to Paris, Berlin to Prague, for adoring fans. “She was a genuine female rock legend and … so few of them are European, even Europe adoptees like Tina and Chrissie Hynde,” Bradley said.

Greg Rose, a British fan who loved the singer so much he had a Tina Turner-themed 30th birthday party, wrote on Facebook that the singer was “plastered across” his bedroom walls since he was a teenager and that he had seen her over 70 times in concert.

Bruno Garcez, a Brazilian journalist based in London, said his fascination with Turner began when he was a teenager. The 50-year-old said he still found her inspiring today. “Her life story summarizes the very concept of resilience, strength and overcoming. It’s unbelievable what she went through,” he said in an interview Thursday.

Beyond her career success, Europe was also significant to Turner in another way — as that was where she met her future husband, German music executive Erwin Bach. The two met in 1985 and were together for almost 40 years, marrying in 2013. They lived together in Germany, and then Switzerland.

On social media, many hailed Turner’s decision to leave American soil and settle in Europe as an inspiration.

American-born writer Joy C. Mitchell, who is based in Europe, said Wednesday that Turner was “one of the first Black American women” she saw move to Europe and find “career success and love.” Mitchell wrote that Turner “was, in certain ways, the blueprint. I always envisioned running into her whenever I was in Switzerland and telling her thank you.”

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