With a career spanning over six decades, Tina Turner has sold more than 200 million albums worldwide and won eight Grammy awards. She has written three bestselling memoirs and her latest, “Happiness Becomes You,” is a guide to life using Buddhist principles.
At 81, Turner is on top of the world. But she didn’t didn’t always feel that way. The iconic singer had a lonely childhood and suffered horrific emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, Ike Turner. At one of her most desperate moments, Turner swallowed 50 sleeping pills to escape the marriage.
“The silver lining was that through the hardships and heartbreaks, I discovered within me a strength that I could survive even the worst situations,” Turner, who resides in Switzerland, told TODAY via email. “I just needed to find a way to tap that strength and increase it, because then I knew I would find the courage to stand up for myself and lead the life that I wanted and deserved.”
That’s when Turner discovered Buddhism and began chanting the mantra "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo."
“Chanting helped me to go within myself and open deep sources of happiness and wisdom in my own heart and mind,” she revealed. “Soon, I realized that I already had within my everything I needed to change my circumstances and create a truly happy life. We all have that, and I want everyone to know it.”
Turner, who was nominated last month as a solo artist for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021, opens up about her remarkable life:
Is there one universal piece of advice you could give to people who wish to become happier?
Remember that happiness is an inside job. Just think about how your ego knows exactly where your weak spots are and how to tempt you into dwelling on them.
On the other hand, your inner wisdom knows how to connect you to the joy that resides within you. The bottom line is that becoming happy is up to you. No one else can make you happy. And true happiness can never be built at the expense of others.
It’s a balance of doing good for others while taking care of yourself. If you want to be happier, increase your compassion. Say a kind word to someone who is having a bad day. Get involved with a charity. Volunteer to help in your community. Compassion toward others goes hand in hand with increasing happiness in our own lives.
On top of your stellar singing career, you’ve also starred in films like “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.” Were there qualities of your character, the determined Aunty Entity, from that movie that you kept with you after filming?
Actually, it’s the other way around. I brought my real-life experiences to “Mad Max!” I had gone through some dangerous and destructive periods, especially during my first marriage and that messy divorce. So, for “Mad Max,” my sense of independence, self-reliance and hard work ethic made their way into that role and into songs that I sang, like “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” for the soundtrack.
How would you sum up your life so far, in just a few words?
Hope. Resilience. Victory.
Your other new book, "Tina: That's My Life" (Rizzoli), is like a scrapbook of joyful moments from your career — worldwide performances, legendary photo shoots, iconic costumes and fashions and more. How did you curate a lifetime's trove of memories and materials to create this photo book?
Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate to have many wonderful memories captured in photos. I suppose that’s just one of the benefits of living under a spotlight for so long! It was sheer joy choosing images for the book, which felt like traveling through a photographic time machine from the first days when I became “Tina Turner” the artist, all the way to the present. There were so many images to choose from in my archives. I focused on selecting special ones for the collection in “That’s My Life” that are particularly meaningful to me and make me smile. I hope they’ll make everyone who sees them smile, too.
As a style icon yourself, how do you think fashion can lift one’s spirits?
Appreciating fashion can add wonder, beauty, and creativity to our lives. I’ve always enjoyed expanding my personal style and exploring new fashions. Clothing can be like wearable art. And it doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive. Whether it’s homemade, secondhand or haute couture, what matters is having fun with colors and clothing styles to express yourself. Whenever you are truly being yourself, your authentic self, your spirits rise.
What are some of your happiest moments in life, professionally and personally?
Some of the happiest moments in my life were the birth of my beautiful baby boys, Craig and Ronnie, and marrying my partner and soul mate, Erwin Bach. As for my music, achieving No. 1 with my song “What’s Love Got to Do with It” and receiving multiple Grammy Awards were thrilling moments, and performing for my fans always felt so great, like I was flying. One of my early career goals was to become the first Black woman to fill stadiums around the world. At the time, it seemed impossible. But I never gave up, and I’m so happy I made that dream come true.
You’ve been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year. Congratulations! How does it feel to be considered for this as a solo artist?
Thank you! I feel very happy to be nominated by my peers. Most of my career success was as a solo artist, so it’s gratifying and humbling to be acknowledged for my work. I’m especially honored to be considered alongside the other fantastic artists nominated this year. (Voting here)
What advice would you give to female artists trying to make it in the music business these days?
It’s the same advice I’d give anyone aspiring to achieve their goals. Don’t be discouraged by anyone else’s preconceived notions about who you are or what you want to do in life. Keep your dreams alive, and never give up on yourself.
Amazon chose your inspirational new book, “Happiness Becomes You,” as an Editors' Pick. What do you most hope readers will take away from it?
I’d like people to know that you are more than your circumstances. You are more resilient than you realize, and you can overcome any challenges that come your way. I hope everyone who reads “Happiness Becomes You" will feel refreshed and recharged by the stories I share and be empowered to transform their struggles into victories. I hope this book will help everyone see that you have a wellspring of wisdom and joy within you, if you’ll only open your heart and mind to it.
How has your practice of Buddhist principles improved your state of life and happiness?
It’s improved my life in so many ways, I filled a whole book about it! I’m happier now than at any other time in my life, and it’s not because of success or money or fame. It’s because of what’s inside of me. The wisdom I found in Buddhism means more to me than an inspirational philosophy. It actually saved my life. The most valuable lessons I’ve learned are how to transform any negative situation into a positive one, and even how to change things that feel unchangeable. Now, in “Happiness Becomes You,” I share how everyone can do it, too. In a way, this book is like a parallel, behind-the-scenes story to the new HBO documentary, called “Tina,” about my life and career (premiering March 27th on HBO). I’m so excited about the film, and hope it inspires viewers to never give up on their quest for happiness.
Can you give us some top tips on changing your life for the better and being truly happy?
Share kindness with others every day. Take responsibility for your own actions and your own happiness. Remember that we reap what we sow, so be mindful of your thoughts, words, and deeds. Make each day count toward increasing your positivity. Expand your mindset and your heart and act compassionately.
What do you want your legacy to be? What would you like the world to know about Tina Turner?
That I’ve created hope where there was none, and kept moving forward, no matter what, with my chin held high. I’ve created a happy life by believing in myself. And I’ve done my best to bring love and inspiration to other people, to show everyone there is more joy in their hearts, more they can do, more they can be, when they believe in themselves too.