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February 14, 2009

The Queen of Rock set to show a little Swiss soul

Tina Turner will perform two shows in Zurich starting on Sunday.

Eight years ago Tina Turner may have said she was done taking the stage but the diva's recent comeback tour will bring her to Zurich on Sunday. Turner, who has a home in Küsnacht on Lake Zurich, kicked off the European leg of her 50th Anniversary Tour in Germany last month. Some VIP tickets for the Queen of Rock's two shows in Switzerland are on sale for thousands of francs.

"The 1966 track, River Deep – Mountain High, became a worldwide hit that made it onto the shelves of Swiss record shops."

The rise and fall

Ike Turner, who died in 2007, was a critically acclaimed musician whose 1951 track, Rocket 88, is considered by some to be the first true rock and roll song.

The Mississippi native knew one way for African Americans living in a segregated United States to be successful: through music, dance and sex appeal. His group, the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, made white musicians at the time look something like agile Frank Sinatras.

He married Tina, who was born Anna Mae Bullock, in Mexico in 1962. Phil Spector, a record producer who sometimes behaved like he'd just escaped from a mental hospital, managed to transfer the couple's musical talent onto vinyl and helped catapult the duo to international stardom.

The 1966 track, River Deep – Mountain High, became a worldwide hit that made it onto the shelves of Swiss record shops. The group's last significant hit came in 1973 with Nutbush City Limits, a semi-autobiographical song about a Tennessee town where Tina Turner grew up.

But as the Turners climbed the charts, their personal life began to sour as drugs and violence plagued the relationship. The story has been recounted in Tina Turner's autobiography as well as in the 1993 film, What's Love Got to Do with It.

The duo were divorced in 1978, when Tina Turner waived her claim to alimony as well as all rights to the music they had made together.

Turner's solo career, which today is considered quite sensational, was anything but that in the beginning. The music industry at first regarded her as an aging has-been and turned to younger performers instead. Turner fought back with help from her contemporaries, people like David Bowie, Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones.

Above all on stage, Turner had to give audiences the soulful, sexy Tina. What Ike Turner had discovered, Tina would never let go, but it wasn't until Private Dancer in 1985 that her second career really took root. By 2000, after a long and successful run, Turner launched what was believed to be her last tour, called 24/7.

Then last year came a surprising revelation. Turner announced, at 68 years old, that she would pour herself into her signature short skirts and skin-tight pants and strut across the stage in high heels once again.

"If you take care of yourself, 60 is nothing for women these days," she told Britain's Daily Mail last month. "In today's world you can be the kind of woman you want to be."

Brigitte Ruf is thrilled. The diehard Swiss fan in Winterthur told swissinfo she owns nearly all of Turner's records and CDs since 1958 and even an autographed pair of her shoes.

"I also thought at 60, as she said herself, that she was done," Ruf said, who admits to having some doubts. "She now takes a half-hour break during her shows. That's new."

Home game

But Ruf said tickets are too expensive for this tour, which celebrates the half-century that Turner has been on her own. Not that it matters as tickets have sold out for both shows in Zurich. A last-minute post on an expat website in Switzerland on Friday offered two VIP passes to the concert for SFr1,700 ($1,462).

"The entrance fees this time are too high for me," Ruf said. "I can't afford it."

Maybe it was the gala at the 2008 Grammy Awards that got the ball rolling. There Turner teamed up with pop singer Beyoncé Knowles, some 42 years her junior, for a rendition of Proud Mary that brought wild applause from audiences. Shortly afterward Turner announced her comeback tour.

And so it came to pass. And since she has lived in Switzerland for many years now, maybe she'll greet audiences in Zurich in a bit of local dialect.

Perhaps then fans will know that the Queen of Rock has a bit of Swiss soul in her that has nothing to do with tax breaks.

swissinfo, based on an article in German by Urs Maurer

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