Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ike Turner (Ava and C.I. feature)

A piece of trash died last week and wasn't it cute to see the boys come out and try to defend one of their own?

Ike Turner was born scum and died scum. B-b-but, he was an artist! That's the cry from the Ike Defenders. In between birth and death, he robbed others of songwriting credit, tormented musicians, broke all union rules by levying 'fines' on backup singers that were only designed to enrich his own pockets, recorded a ton of crap and never 'discovered' anything he wasn't led to. That's 'artistic' Ike. They know they can't make a case for the person, so the boys come out swinging and insisting that, as a musician, Ike was really something.

They've had to inflate the record to make that claim.

Danny Schechter (News Dissector), whom we like, felt the need to offer this last week:

Ike Turner was the man who discovered Tina who was born in Nutbush Tennesee. He married her and together they had one of the most innovative R & B acts in the history of rock.

That's cute. It's not reality, but it's cute. First off, Ike and Tina, if they ever did marry, married long after he 'discovered' her. Tina Turner has always claimed they were married in Mexico, Ike stated they never got married and that he was married to another woman before he met Tina and remained married to her until two years before Tina escaped his slavery. Slavery? We'll get to that.

But let's deal with this nonsense that Ike 'discovered' Tina. That's a bit like Columbus 'discovering' a populated country, isn't it? Here's reality, Tina's sister (Alline) dated a member of The Kings of Rhythm (Ike's group). Ike let many women sing onstage at Club Manhattan in St. Louis. Tina wanted to sing onstage, Alline's boyfriend passed that onto Ike who ignored it. Many nights later, Alline's boyfriend held a microphone up to the table the two sisters were sitting at, held it up for Alline to sing, Alline didn't want to but Tina grabbed her chance and began singing the lyrics to the song Ike was playing onstage: "You Know I Love You." Tina was brought on stage and was a huge, huge hit with the club audience.

Nothing in those facts demonstrates that Ike "discovered" Tina. That's why Tina got into the band to begin with. The audience reaction to her made Ike suspect she might be a pathway to success. He wasn't convinced. So when "A Fool For Love" was brought to him (no, he didn't write the song, he appropriated writing credit as he would often do), he had her sing on the demo. But, here's the thing, even then he doubted what she could do. And how she got to sing on the demo was usually told by Ike (and Tina's own version was in agreement) as he kept losing his male singers (Tina was just one more singer who happened to be very popular with audiences), the studio time was booked already and, by default, he had to use her. (The singer who he planned to use but had just left Ike was Art Lassiter.) After the recording, the alleged 'discoverer' still didn't grasp what he had and -- as he, Tina and others have noted over the years (during their time together and after) -- he intended to recut the song with a male vocal. It was the owner of Sue Records (the only label interested in "A Fool In Love") who convinced Ike that his 'discovery' had nailed the vocal and no male vocalist was needed for another take.

Though it would be a little while later before Tina found out, this is where she becomes Tina. Like a slave owner, Ike thought he could give her whatever name he wanted and the name he wanted was "Tina." (A name Tina originally didn't care for.) The single came out and sailed up the charts and Tina was hospitalized with jaundice. The 'caring' Ike wanted her out of the hospital in spite of doctor's orders (she was also pregnant at the time), so Tina snuck out.

Here's the reality on Ike. He didn't have a lot of respect for women. If that shocked you, you are truly naive. He wanted a male singer. He invested in them. But they wouldn't take his crap. They would and did leave. Suddenly, Tina has announced herself to the world (he didn't discover her) and he's got a huge hit. Whether he married her or not, he immediately began controlling her and abusing her because he thought that was his right.

Now reading some of the boys last week, it appeared that the film What's Love Got To Do With It confused them. Or possibly it was Angela Bassett's fighting figure that confused them? Her deltoids are world class and could qualify her for a bodybuilding competition, no question. While she gave an amazing performance, it was too strong to capture Tina (offstage) in the days before she left Ike. The body type was wrong as well which is why it's so very jarring when Tina takes over the performance during the last minutes of the film's final scene. It's equally true that Ike was softened by the actor performing him who also had the benefit of being attractive.

Somehow, the film's timeline?, some people seem to have the idea that he beat her up real bad in a limo in Dallas in 1976 and Tina up and left. Wrong. He beat her repeatedly. He beat her through the sixties, he beat through the seventies until she left. And when she left, this 'kind' man threatened to kill her and did a little more than threaten.

That wasn't about 'love.' What's love got to do with it? Not a damn thing.

Tina was a meal ticket and long before Ike moved into his 'open' relationship ('open' for him only, of course), Tina was well aware of his many girlfriends, mistresses and one-night-stands. When she would try to leave, he would beat her. When she did leave, he would pull her off a bus and beat her. When the song didn't sail up the charts, he'd beat her. When he was having a bad day, he'd beat her. When he thought she was getting too much credit (she was the act), he'd beat her. He'd beat her for any reason whenever he damn well felt like it. It was a non-stop abusive relationship.

And, sad to say, many of the rock press knew about it when they were together and many of them sided with Ike. That was the attitude in the rock press. It was especially the attitude at Rolling Stone and, for those who doubt it, you can comb the archives and find that attitude displayed everywhere -- even in an article on Sonny & Cher's then-new TV show, where it was 'shared': "Many of my friends favor the belief that after work Sonny beats the sh*t out of her with a tire iron." (For those too lazy to do their own research, the pig 'sharing' that bit of 'amusement' was Chris Hodenfield.)

That was the Rolling Stone attitude. It didn't disappear. In 1981, editor Brant Mewborn was screaming loudly for the magazine to feature Tina (who just done two multiple night engagements of SRO business at the Ritz and been brought on Saturday Night Live by Rod Stewart to sing a duet of "Hot Legs") and the reaction was one of indifference, one of 'she walked out on Ike.' The abuse was well known by then. Didn't matter. That was the 'feel' and 'mood' at Rolling Stone: Tina walked out on the man who beat her, she didn't matter.

Rolling Stone was long aware of what actually went on in The Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Some of the truth leaked out in Ben Fong-Torres' hard hitting piece in the magazine's October 14, 1971 issue. Rolling Stone was made even more aware after the publication of the article when the police nabbed a man who had been hired by Ike to break the legs of Ben Fong-Torres and publisher Jann Wenner. The article noted his 'flirtations' with other women and his heavy coke use.

Tina was the one who got them to update their sound when their music was dying in the sixties. So the idea that "even Tina has to" feel anything is beyond belief.

She was enslaved. She wasn't allowed to live her life. She wasn't allowed to practice her religion. She wasn't allowed to be just an artist in the revue. She would try to bargain her way out of the relationship with that and Ike would just beat her.

He beat her because he was damn lucky she presented herself in his life. He beat her because he couldn't beat men and he couldn't make the male singers stay. He beat her because she was his ticket to big money and big fame. Even with all her talents provided him with, he still beat her and that was because he really couldn't take the fact that no one really considered it "Ike and Tina," it was just Tina. Which is why the Who wanted Tina for their film (Tommy) and not Ike. Which is why Phil Spector wanted Tina (and not Ike) for "River Deep Mountain High." By the end of the act, he couldn't even keep it together in the studio.

He beat her over and over for their entire relationship. He beat her with his fists, he beat her with wire hangers, he beat her with whatever was handy. An electrical cord could and would do. He threatened her with death (repeatedly) if she left him.

After her long climb back to the top (and to a height higher than she'd ever been before), Ike would sometimes begrudgingly admit that maybe he did hit her a few times, minimizing his behavior, justifying it. A lot like some of the men did last week as they sang his praises.

If Tina had died, she nearly did several times, at the hands of Ike, if he had killed her, would it have been different? Would murder shock them the way longterm abuse didn't?

Ike was a sleazy little ass -- to his own children -- the ones with Tina and the ones by other women as well. Ike was pure gutter.

Elijah Wald shared at CounterPunch:

Most modern pop fans probably wouldn't know Ike's name if he hadn't discovered, developed and showcased Tina, so his treatment of her is necessarily part of his story. But by the same token, the reason we care so much about that treatment is that Tina is a superstar -- that is, in a world where other abusive male stars treated women as groupies and playthings, Ike also had the vision to recognize and musically nurture one of rock's few true female icons.

No, Elijah, Ike Turned did not "discover" Tina. And comparing the serial physical abuse Tina endured for over sixteen years to a sex act ("groupies and playthings") reveals a lot of stupid. The choice of the word "treatment" as opposed to "abuse" ("his treatment of her") is also sadly revealing. (Wald does use abuse elsewhere. But we don't think abuse is "treatment." Even "mistreatment" would be an improvement over "treatment.") As for Wald's claim in the article that a White musician's death wouldn't result in the same kind of obituary attention to his violence, give us an example? We can provide one who would get the same treatment: Phil Spector.

And that would have been true if he'd died long before Lana Clarkson was murdered. He was another control freak and he was abusive to Ronnie Spector. Not on an Ike scale but few people in the world will reach that kind of scale while in the spotlight.

Jim asked us to write about this and showed an e-mail explaining why this topic needed to be addressed. A reader of two years had been on the AOL message boards and saw Ike's abuse minimized by guys with man-crushes on Ike who repeatedly down-played the physical abuse of Tina Turner, the beatings, the crimes. The reader said it brought back for her the denial she was met with when she brought charges against her then husband for abuse.

Boys, it's sad when your heroes have feet of clay, we understand. It must be even sadder when your hero turns out to be an abusive crook. But that is the reality of Ike Turner. And he didn't 'just beat Tina once,' he did so repeatedly. And the message that the reader copied and pasted into her e-mail, where a man was saying that all that happened, all that caused Tina to leave, was Ike was in a bad mood and just slapped her, is a nice little fantasy for those who need their daily dose of denial. But it's not reality.

In I, Tina, Tina describes that last beating:

The plane arrived at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, and we were walking out the gates and Ike was just staring at me -- one of these real evil looks, trying to work on my mind. There was a car and driver waiting there to take us to the Hilton, and as soon as we got in, Ike hit me again -- whap! Another one of those backhand licks. And then I started fighting back. He kept hitting me, but I didn't cry once. I was cursing him out: He was going, "F**k you," and all of that, and I'd keep talking right back to him. He was amazed! He was punching me and saying, 'You son of a b**ch, you never talked to me like this!" I said, "That's right -- but I am now!" And then pow, he'd hit me again. And then he reached down and got his shoe off his foot and pow, pow, pow! But I kept fighting him. I didn't care what he did, because I was flying -- I knew I was gone.
By the time we got to the Hilton, the left side of my face was swollen out past my ear and blood was everywhere -- running out of my mouth, splattered all over my suit. Ike used his usual story: said we'd had an accident. The people at the Hilton looked at me and I could tell they were wondering how I'd ever get onstage that night looking the way I did, all beat-up and battered, with my one eye swollen almost shut. I think Ike knew, too, that this was really the end.

Long before that, Tina had been beaten over and over and, like many women in physically abusive relationships, was a regular at her local hospital (Daniel Freeman Hospital, in Tina's case).

Bob Dylan is widely credited with saying trust the art, not the artist. While we see no 'art' produced by Ike Turner, we're more than willing to allow that others may differ in their taste and see him as a musical genius (we'll assume that they are overlooking the many songs he stole over the years and put his own name to). But we're not willing to allow that Tina, who announced herself at Club Manhattan, was 'discovered' by Ike. Nor are we willing to allow that Ike got a bum deal because his abuses, his crimes, were noted in his obits. He was an abuser who regularly beat Tina, made her live in fear (to the point that she once tried to take her own life just to be free of him -- a detail that got left out by the Ike Defenders) and really only controlled her because she was a woman. He thought it was his 'right' and when men defend him, they, intentionally or not, further that message. The reader who wrote saw her then-husband convicted of violent abuse (some of which he admitted to in court but tried to justify it with the 'pressure' he was under) and yet, even with that, nearly a decade later, she still encounters people who feel the 'need' to sing his praises to her and say they hope someday she can put her 'issues' behind her. Her 'issues.' Had she been assaulted by a stranger would the same 'caring' people stop to wonder when she and the criminal could be in the same room together? No.

Here's the thing, if Ike had beat a woman he wasn't involved with even once the way he regularly beat Tina, his ass would have been hauled off to jail and it's doubtful that people would be writing "Poor Ike" pieces today. But because it was his wife (or 'wife'), we're supposed to allow for something. What, we're not sure. But there's a lot of minimizing going on about the fact that he 'only' beat his wife. (And for the record, he also beat many of his mistresses. Ann Thomas is only one of the many women who've gone on record explaining how Ike also beat them.) As if it's somehow 'different' if the woman you physically attack is your wife. Almost as if they're saying, she probably asked for it.

The American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic Violence notes that 1.3 million women "are physically assaulted by an intimate partner" each year in the US. That's nothing to minimize. We heard from a reader about what the "Poor Ike" commentary made her feel like. The flip-side of the coin is how the "Poor Ike" commentary could be received by an abuser. Maybe he reads it and thinks, "Yeah, they get me. They understand what I'm going through." Maybe he thinks of it the next time he beats a woman?


For the record, men are the victims of domestic violence as well -- at the hands of women and at the hands of men. We're not addressing that because our focus for this piece is the way a man who regularly abused his partner is getting glossy treatment. Also for the record, we don't link to trash. We've noted our disappointment with Danny Schechter and Elijah Wald joining the chorus but we don't consider them trash. We do think they missed the point.

Added December 23rd from "Roundtable:"

C.I.: Last week's "Ike Turner (Ava and C.I. feature)" dealt with the wave of justifications for torture stemming from the death of serial torturer Ike Turner who beat Tina Turner and many other women and created, for the children in his orbit as well as the women, a constant sense of violence about to emerge. It was unhealthy, it was disgusting and it was criminal. It was torture.

Ava: Out of all the ones taking part in that wave, we noted only two writers because we felt the rest were trash. The two we exceptions were Danny Schechter and Elijah Wald. Five journalists wrote to complain and Elijah Wald also e-mailed.

C.I.: Ty read us points from Wald's e-mails and we replied via Ty. Elijah Wald's piece at CounterPunch originally appeard in The Los Angeles Times where it was meant to represent one take and rock critic Ann Powers was intended to represent another view. In addition, Wald is a musical historian. He's identified as a "musican" and a "journalist" at CounterPunch but really what he is a musical historian. He is going to be grappling with Ike Turner's death, Turner's place in history and other examples of torture in music history for some time.

Ava: Wald, as Ty told us over the phone, appeared to be attempting a genuine dialogue so we were more than happy to reply. Our time is very limited and we don't read the e-mails at this site unless Ty's on vacation. Jess, Dona, community members Martha, Eli, Shirley, C.I. and myself are attempting to deal with the huge number of e-mails coming into The Common Ills when we're in inboxes. Inboxes are not C.I. and my first priority, we're on the road every week speaking with various groups about Iraq and how to end the illegal war. Wald didn't ask that anything be noted but C.I. and I were talking about throughout last week and both agreed that, putting aside the fact that he was commissioned to write one point of view piece that was to compliment another writer's point of view piece, he is a historian and he's going to be evaluating and re-evaluating Ike Turner and others throughout his career so we thought that was very different from the multitude of men weighing in with the Ike wave.

C.I.: Wald and Danny Schechter made public statements and we weighed with our own take. We noted in the piece that they weren't trash. We try very hard not to link trash. Once, we linked to Rush Limbaugh in a review and only did that because we knew Ty, Dona and Jim would face a slew of e-mails of saying, "That's not true!" We, Ava and I, went back and forth over linking to that piece of trash but we don't hit the e-mails and we didn't want the right-wing pouring in with their "That's not true!" nonsense and taking up all of Ty, Dona and Jim's time. On the piece last week, there was a wave of nonsense and we could have linked to many. We went with those two and noted they weren't trash and noted how saddened we were they were part of the wave.

Ava: We regularly link to Danny Schechter here, we have used his book for a book discussion, we have regularly mentioned his film WMD and many other things. In addition, C.I. does know Danny Schechter and, at The Common Ills, Danny has been linked to and defended repeatedly. With Elijah Wald, we're not aware of any links or mentions at this site or The Common Ills prior so we wanted to note that he was a historian and that he will be addressing the topic repeatedly over the years. Especially as a historian, that is his role. We disagree with his evaluation strongly but it needs to be noted that he will have to address this topic repeatedly due to his role. Hopefully that will include a re-evaluation.
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