December 21, 2007
Ike Turner Remembered in Musical Service
By SANDY COHEN
GARDENA, Calif. - Ike Turner's funeral was part memorial service, part rock concert. The nearly three-hour remembrance Friday at Greater Bethany Community Church City of Refuge in Gardena featured Turner's eight-piece band, the Kings of Rhythm, which performed rollicking renditions of some of the musician's greatest hits, including "Nutbush City Limits" and "Proud Mary." The songs brought the crowd of hundreds to its feet.
Among those eulogizing Turner, who died Dec. 13 at age 76, were music producer Phil Spector and rock 'n' roll pioneer Little Richard, who described his friend as "one of the greatest musicians I have ever met in my life."
Richard said that Turner's breakthrough rock 'n' roll hit, "Rocket 88,""shook my soul."
"I took that same introduction and made `Good Golly, Miss Molly,'" he said. "I took that same thing and made a huge hit."
Turner was responsible for a string of hits throughout his career, including 1959's "A Fool in Love" and 1970's "Take You Higher," but his musical legacy was forever tarnished by his image as the drug-addicted, brutally abusive former husband of Tina Turner, who did not attend Friday's funeral. When Ike Turner died, a spokeswoman for Tina said she hadn't had contact with him in 35 years and would not comment.
Ike Turner knew that his personal problems threatened to overshadow his musical accomplishments, said Rob Johnson, producer of Turner's Grammy-winning 2001 album "Here and Now."
"He understood, as a very sensitive artist, the challenge that would be involved in stepping up and moving forward and reinitiating the contribution of his genius, of his music, and giving that gift that God gave him back to society," he said. "How much courage that took for him. It could have been real simple to sit under a rock and let life go by, but he didn't accept that."
Many speakers alluded to Turner's personal woes, though none directly addressed his history of drug and domestic abuse.
"Stop holding this mess - whatever it is - against this man. Even Jesus forgives," said Richard, 75, who left the service early, aided by a walker and several assistants.
Spector, who produced Turner's song "River Deep, Mountain High," said, "There was only one Ike, and I learned more from Ike than any professors I know."
He went on to say that Turner was "demonized and vilified" by his ex-wife, Tina Turner. He called the 1993 film "What's Love Got To Do With It," based on her autobiography, a "piece of trash movie," inspiring applause from some mourners.
"Ike made Tina the jewel she was," said Spector, who stood trial for murder earlier this year for the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson. A judge declared a mistrial in September after jurors failed to reach a verdict.
Spector also accused Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg of "demonizing" Turner on their talk shows.
Of Turner's 17 months in jail for a drug conviction in 1989, Spector said, "He was sent to prison for no other reason than he was a black man in America."
Each speech was punctuated with performances by Turner's band, the crowd rising to its feet again and again to sing and dance along.
Concert promoter Charlie Dutton, Turner's friend and colleague for 40 years, called him "the most talented musical person to ever live on earth."
"He doesn't get his just dues for what he really did," Dutton said.
Other speakers included Ike Turner Jr., who brought his father's two Grammy Awards on stage.
"He made billions and billions and billions of people happy," he said. "He had the best life."
The service began with a photo montage from throughout Turner's life set to his song "Jesus Loves Me," which features the refrain "I'm a bad boy, but Jesus loves me anyway."
The service concluded with scores of mourners gathering near Turner's casket, which sat beneath a guitar-shaped wreath made of white flowers.
A 10-piece horn-and-drum ensemble played as mourners left the church.