Archive for June, 1998

Unforgiven: The American Tragedy of Ike Turner

Monday, June 1st, 1998

Written ten years before the rock genius passed, this feature from VIBE’s June/July 1998 issue would prove prophetic. One man’s redemption.


When people talk about rock ‘n’ roll, they talk about Chuck Berry, they talk about Little Richard, and they leave the main man out… Ike Turner was the innovator for rhythm and blues and for rock ‘n’ roll. To me, Ike is one of the most underrated entertainers in the world. – Little Richard, 1997

Well, I learned a lesson / to treat my loved ones right/ ‘Cause there’s nothing but troubles and heartaches / When you fuss and fight. – Ike Turner, “Troubles and Heartaches,” 1952

If Ike Turner were to die today, most people would remember him as the cartoonish villain of 1993′s What’s Love Got to Do with It. Few people recall that in 1991, while in jail for a coke rap, Ike was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Like many other black American geniuses, Turner has been written out of the history he helped create.

In 1951, at age 20, Turner wrote and played piano on “Rocket 88,” often called the first rock ‘n’ Roll song. More than any single musician, he pioneered the expressive capabilities of the guitar. In 1956 (the year he met Tina), Ike played what might be the first rock guitar solos – searing 20-second-long gestures relying on drastic manipulations of the whammy bar. (more…)