Fans, critics, journalists and pop-culture philosophers have spent the last several days taking measure of the legacy Ike Turner left behind when he died at his San Marcos home on Dec. 12. Some facts are indisputable, though. Turner, born in Mississippi in 1931, had a music career that spanned more than 50 years. His 1951 song “Rocket 88” is considered by many to be the first rock 'n' roll record ever made. Turner is credited as being an architect of the genre, earning a 1991 induction (along with ex-wife Tina Turner) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
But his musical contributions have long been overshadowed by domestic-abuse allegations made by Tina, famously portrayed in the 1993 movie What's Love Got to Do With It? In a twist that mirrored the triumph and tragedy of his professional and personal lives, Turner was unable to attend his Hall of Fame induction because he was in prison for a drug-related crime. After his release, Turner settled in San Marcos and, in recent years, his career had been on an upswing—he won a Grammy in 2006 for his album Risin' with the Blues.
On the morning he died, friends and members of his band (Kings of Rhythm) hoped to surprise Turner with a visit. Drummer Bill Ray, who's played with Turner since 1991 and recorded at least six albums with him, wrote in a MySpace bulletin, “I went to Ike Turner's place this AM to help propagate a little ‘surprise' for him, as he had been feeling very down as of late.”
In an interview with CityBeat, Ray expanded on the events of the morning. Ray said most of the band arrived at Turner's home for breakfast, and at some point, Turner went to lie down. Ann Thomas—Turner's ex-wife and caretaker—went to check on him and discovered he didn't have a pulse. Ray—who made the 911 call—said he and other band members tried to resuscitate Turner while paramedics were en route, but it was too late.
“You can look at it as a tragedy that our friend died, but on another level, it was an honor that we were there when Ike made the crossover into wherever it is we go after this life,” Ray said. “When I met Ike, I told him I was going to be his last drummer.… I don't know how I knew, I just did. Sometimes the universe whispers to us, giving us clues about what is to come.”
As for the reputation and allegations that plagued the greater part of Turner's career, Ray was hesitant to comment. “People judge a man without knowing him, without ever having a connection to him,” Ray said. “Those who are most sanctimonious forget ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.' I knew Ike to be a good man, and I was honored and privileged to know him and work with him.”
An autopsy conducted on Turner was inconclusive, though toxicology results are still pending. Notes from the Smoking Patio
In the Nov. 27 “Locals Only” column, we reported about a holiday compilation featuring several local musicians being spearheaded by Peter Graves of Roxy Jones. Originally, the album was to be available by Dec. 15 on CDs distributed by the various musicians who appear on the disc. But, after the Bluefoot Bar & Lounge (where Graves bartends) has stepped in to pick up the tab for production costs, the free CDs will now be available at a release party at Bluefoot on Thursday, Dec. 20.