West Tennessee community mourns loss of star Tina Turner

BROWNSVILLE, Tenn. — The world is shaken at the news of the passing of a popular music icon and West Tennessee native.

R&B and rock and roll singer and beloved West Tennessean, Tina Turner, passed away in her home in Switzerland Wednesday after years of battling illness.

We traveled to the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, which includes the Tina Turner museum, and spoke with visitors and staff about Turner’s legacy and some of her attributes that made her so special.

Born Anna Mae Bullock, Turner was born in Brownsville in Haywood County and spent her earliest years in Nutbush.

She started her career as a singer when she became the lead for Ike Turner’s band, Kings of Rhythm.

By the mid-70s, Turner had successfully launched a solo career.

Throughout her career, she collected 12 Grammy awards, starred in multiple movies, and received a plethora of awards and achievements.

Sonia Outlaw-Clark, the executive director of the center, says after hearing the news of her passing, she experienced intense sadness.

“My heart hurt for her, for her family, for the fans around the world that she meant so much to; who she’s going to continue to mean so much to, but you know, it was just that initial shock that just waves over you,” Outlaw-Clark said.

Outlaw-Clark says that the museum has experienced an influx of traffic from visitors wanting to pay tribute to Turner.

Tina Turner

“I think Tina was such an inspiration to people that you can’t help but levitate towards something that represents her,” said Outlaw-Clark.

Turner was an inspiration to many who say the hardships that she endured throughout her life while simultaneously working hard to become a world-renowned musical icon, made her easy to admire.

“Her character was such that she couldn’t help but inspire I think because she did have some hardships,” said Outlaw-Clark. “She did have some hard times but she had the ingenuity, and the willpower, and the perspective of what she wanted to be and what she wanted to achieve, and she didn’t let anything stand in her way.”

Outlaw-Clark had the chance to meet Tina Turner in New York in 2019 at the opening of her musical. She says when Turner walked into the room, there was an aura about her, because they were both Haywood County natives, she said Tina felt like a next door neighbor.

“I could feel that she was a genuine person,” said Outlaw-Clark. “The rest of the evening when I was around her she was just… people around here who knew her would say she’s just Anna Mae. I think that’s what I saw. I saw the person, not the icon, not the media personality, not the performer, but she just seemed to be herself and she was comfortable that way.”

Tina Turner

We also spoke with Dotty Graff, a Florida native and visitor to the museum, who says her initial reaction to the news of her passing was that she was floored and truly in disbelief.

“I think all of us recognize mortality, but for those of us that grew up with Tina in part of our souls because of what she stood for, I guess in my own mind I never thought anything would happen to her,” Graff said.

Graff said after hearing the news of Turner’s passing, she headed to the museum.

“As soon as I heard, I literally just got in my car, left work, and this is the only place that I could think of to get as close to her and the spirit that she left behind in Flagg Grove school that most people don’t even recognize until they step into that place,” said Graff.

Tina Turner is survived by her husband, German music executive Erwin Bach.

She was 83 years old.

Click here to read a news release from the City of Brownsville on Turner’s passing.

A Twilight Memorial honoring her legacy will also be held outside the Tina Turner Museum at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 28.

For more local news, click here.

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