Tina Turner's Life Explored In New Documentary HBO's documentary on Tina Turner is presented as the 81-year-old singer's final word on her expansive life and career — a history she finds difficult to talk about.
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Tina Turner's Life Explored In New Documentary

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Tina Turner's Life Explored In New Documentary

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Tina Turner's Life Explored In New Documentary

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The history of Tina Turner gets a fresh examination in the new HBO documentary "Tina." NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says the film, which debuts tonight, seems intended as the final word on a career that defines the notion of triumph over adversity.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: For many years, Tina Turner's life story has stood as an inspirational tale - overcoming early poverty, a difficult childhood and an abusive husband to become one of the most successful female artists in rock 'n' roll.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TINA TURNER: (Singing) Ask me how I feel. When things are going wrong, ask me how I feel. The night is awful cold...

DEGGANS: Turner's life has inspired several books, an Oscar-nominated biopic, a Broadway musical and now an HBO documentary. So it's surprising to hear Turner, now at age 81, say in HBO's film that she may be done speaking about her life in public after this movie rolls out.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "TINA")

TURNER: Some people say the life that I lived and the performances that I gave - appreciation is lasting with the people. Yeah, I should be proud of that. I am. But when do you stop being proud? (Laughter) I mean, when do you - how do you bow out slowly, just go away?

DEGGANS: Turner's husband, Erwin Bach, spoke more bluntly.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "TINA")

ERWIN BACH: She said, I'm going to America. I'm going to say goodbye to my American fans. And I wrap it up. And I think this documentary here - this is it. It's a closure, a closure.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: "Hollywood A Go-Go" presents Ike and Tina Turner.

TURNER: Do you like good music?

DEGGANS: HBO's "Tina" digs up loads of archival footage and film clips of Tina Turner in her performing prime, along with new interviews with everyone from Oprah Winfrey to the singer herself. Born Anna Mae Bullock in Tennessee, she caught Ike Turner's eye and joined the rock 'n' roll pioneer's band in the 1950s, earning hits with songs like "A Fool In Love" and "Proud Mary." But Ike Turner was also physically abusive. Tina Turner revealed details of the abuse after her divorce in a landmark 1981 interview with People magazine. HBO's film features audio of the singer's conversations with music editor Carl Arrington.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "TINA")

TURNER: I went through basic torture.

CARL ARRINGTON: Torture? You would call it torture?

TURNER: I was living a life of death. I didn't exist.

DEGGANS: Tina Turner thought the interview, along with detailed stories in her memoir, "I, Tina," would stop people from asking her about the abuse. But the public was instead inspired by her example, especially after Angela Bassett brought her story to life in the Oscar-nominated film "What's Love Got To Do With It." HBO's film shows that talking about those subjects is still difficult for Turner, who says it makes her relive her worst moments.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "TINA")

TURNER: That scene comes back - you dreaming. It's - the real picture's there. It's like a curse.

DEGGANS: There's a lot in HBO's "Tina" that's new, even for those who think they know her story - Turner's difficult relationship with a mother who she felt never really liked her; that she initially hated the song which would become her biggest hit, "What's Love Got To Do With It"; and her feeling, until she met Erwin Bach in 1986, that she would never find real love. HBO's "Tina" is, in many ways, a triumph, a compelling exploration of the history of one of rock's most important performers. And it's told in such incisive emotional detail that now, finally, perhaps, she'll no longer be asked to relive it in future interviews.

I'm Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TURNER: (Singing) I'm electria (ph).

(CHEERING)

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