Rock and Roll Pioneer Ike Turner Passes Away at 76

There was some sad news on the rock and roll front yesterday when the iconic Ike Turner passed away at 76. Although he was probably more well known unfortunately for the negative reputation he earned of being abusive and having serious drug problems, Ike Turner was also one of the original rock and roll pioneers in the early 50s playing both piano and guitar ( being one of the first to utilize the guitar's whammy bar as a key to his sound), and was also integral in developing the talent of Tina Turner and bringing her into the spotlight. To honor his passing, we should acknowledge and appreciate the contributions he made to rock and roll, and perhaps help to eliminate a negative reputation as his only lasting legacy.

During the late 40s and 50s, Ike Turner had some success with the Kings of Rhythm with an R&B hit "Rocket 88" (and others), but would also spend time playing as a backing band with the likes of Elmore James, Otis Rush, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and other blues greats. Between his own work and some of the backing work he helped to lay the groundwork for what would become rock and roll.

Later he would help to propel Tina Turner to super stardom (although a good portion of that propulsion surely came from Tina's tremendous talent as well), having a hand in another massive part of rock and roll history. I find that even if Ike Turner is acknowledged musically, it's generally for his work with Tina though, and not his own work at all, which is a shame.

In fact, it's quite unfortunate that the legacy of Ike Turner, what he has become a cultural icon because of, is so heavily tied to drugs and abuse. Although both Ike and Tina Turner have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ike's negative image seems to really make the casual listening public unwilling to acknowledge or explore his music before Tina especially when combined with the fact that he was almost immediately eclipsed by her in terms of musical success. His musical legacy seems to be almost completely forgotten for most people.

I don't think that Ike Turner should be remembered only because of his work with Tina and I certainly don't think it should be purely as his negative image might dictate. It is a shame that much if that image is based on actual events and facts, but I'd like to think that today, to honor Ike Turners death, we can take some time to remember him because of his own musical contributions to rock and roll and put aside his negative aspects. If I could find a copy, I'd even like to take a listen to "Rocket 88". If you get the chance, maybe check it out yourself.

I'd like to offer my condolences to the friends and family of Ike Turner during this difficult time.


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