Ike Turner wasn't interested in a past he never got past.
Turner, the self-styled "Father of Rock 'n' Roll" whose reputation as a music pioneer and fearsome live act was forever marked by Tina Turner's portrait of their harrowing marriage, died Wednesday at his San Diego-area home.
He was 76. No cause of death was announced.
"People have a lot of misconceptions about me because of what they read or see," Turner told Texas' Austin Chronicle in 2001, "but I love me today."
More than likely what people read was I, Tina, Tina Turner's 1987 autobiography, and what they saw was its Oscar-nominated 1993 film version, What's Love Got to Do With It, starring Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne as the music duo.
In the book, as in the movie, the couple's marriage is an artistic success, churning out hits such as "Proud Mary," and a domestic battleground, with Ike as the aggressor, and Tina as his target.
It has been widely reported that Tina broke free of Ike and their marriage in 1976. A statement, or, rather, non-statement from Tina on Wednesday, however, indicated the ties had been severed years before that.
"Tina is aware that Ike passed away earlier today," her publicist said. "She has not had any contact with him in 35 years. No further comment will be made."
The couple's divorce was finalized in 1978.
Tina went on to establish herself as a solo recording star—her film's title was taken from one of her signature 1980s hits. Ike went on tour, went to jail, and went on to explain himself.
"I knew they would make a villain out of me," Ike told Ebony in 1993 on the eve of the film release. "In the movie she's telling the same ol' lie."
And Ike would keep singing the same tune, with slight variations. In his 2001 autobiography, Taking Back My Name, Ike admitted to slapping Tina, and copped to "times when I punched her to the ground without thinking."
"But I never beat her," he wrote.
To the Austin Chronicle, he sounded less defiant, but no more contrite.
"I am no longer interested in the past stuff," Ike told the newspaper, "the world don't owe me anything."
Still, Ike won admirers, fans and even a Grammy at last February's award show for Best Traditional Blues Album for his collection, Risin' with the Blue. Not the retiring type, a happy Ike met the press backstage with a smile, and one of his four children by his side. For once, he wasn't grilled about the past.
Born Nov. 5, 1931, in Mississippi, Turner launched his music career in the 1940s as the guitar-playing bandleader of the Kings of Rhythm. His outfit's 1951 recording "Rocket 88" is considered by some music historians—and indeed by Turner himself—to be the first rock song committed to vinyl, hence his sobriquet.
In 1956, the band hired a young singer named Annie Mae Bullock. Six years later, the newly divorced Ike made her his wife and rechistened her Tina.
Together, the duo made a string of immortal jukebox hits—"River Deep-Mountain High," "I Want to Take You Higher" and their Grammy-winning 1971 Creedence cover, "Proud Mary."
After their split, Ike's career unraveled, a descent largely fueled by an appetite for cocaine, a drug he claimed to have blown $11 million on.
In the early 1990s, he spent 18 months in prison for possessing and transporting coke—and missed his and Tina's 1991 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Through it all, Turner never stopped playing, or defending himself and his legacy. He claimed to have kicked the booze and drugs and, in 2001, reemerged with the critically lauded, Grammy-nominated album, Here and Now. Five years later, Risin' with the Blues earned him his best reviews since his Tina-partnering heyday.
"Today my career is positive and I want to keep it positive," Ike told TimeOut London in 2006. "Until the day I die. Yeah."
Originally published Dec. 12, 2007 at 2:07 p.m. PT.)