“I can’t live forever, how long ya think I’m gonna wait — for forgiveness?” growls Ike Turner in a cut from his 2006 Zoho solo effort Risin’ With the Blues.
Longer than you’re going to live, dude. The man died a couple weeks before Christmas — today we learned it was likely from a coke overdose — leaving decades of controversy in his wake. There’s no apologizing for the abuse a coked-up Ike heaped on Tina, whether he denied or owned up to it. And I hain’t doing it here.
Ike’s asking for forgiveness in this cut, but upon examining the lyrics, we’re not sure what he copping to doing in the first place. Having interviewed him in 2006, my guess is that old Ike felt that he probably crossed the line into spousal abuse more than once. But if he admitted he did Tina any particular wrong, it would have been tantamount to admitting that all the dramatized details of the 1993 Hollywood biopic What’s Love Got To Do With it — based on Tina’s book I, Tina — were true. He was pissed off about a bunch of things Tina wrote, and even more enraged about the creative liberties taken in the screenplay that in his view further heaped exaggeration on top of lies.
Worse yet — at least to Ike — when he signed papers in jail agreeing to let the moviemakers tell his story, he wasn’t consenting to that version of it and felt he’d been deceived.
By the time I dialed him up, Ike wasn’t admitting nothin’. Maybe he was just too set in his ways to rehabilitate his image. Maybe he honestly believed he never crossed over the line and the whole world was set against him. Either way, he died a pariah. Mojo the freelance writer couldn’t sell the Ike interview to anyone.
“We all screw up,” is the point of Ike’s song “Jesus Loves Me” (download), which, like a lot of blues cuts, invokes some pretty heavy Christian theology — most strongly Jesus’s words about hypocrisy, which run along the lines of “Dude, don’t point out the speck in your neighbor’s eye until you remove the plank from your own. And shut the [bleep] up until then.” In other words, Ike didn’t invent cocaine or, for that matter, marital strife, and even if the media paints him as a bad-ass loser, he’s straight with his God. And, probably, ready to pass into the great beyond to see what fate awaits.
Certainly, Ike already paid a heavy cost on earth for his sins: Back in 1951 he get shafted out of songwriting credit for Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats’ 1951 hit “Rocket 88,” which many critics call the first rock record, and also featured the deliberate use of guitar distortion for the first time on wax. Legendary Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler reminded the crowd in attendance at his funeral about that particular travesty. And of course, Turner was in jail when he and Tina were inducted into the Rock Hall in 1991.
As far as blues recordings go, this 2006 Zoho cut sounds fairly mediocre, loaded with synths that water down what would have been a more powerful retro feel if Ike had chosen instrumentation from the ’50s and ’60s. Back in the day, Ike played piano with boogie-woogie fire, and when that went passÃ© he picked up a guitar and became fluent in more modern rock and soul licks. The one thing he never did well is sing, and that was before he became a septuagenarian emphysema patient — which is why he sounds mean as hell here. That, and he actually could be mean as hell.
Most people think of Ike Turner and think of the media images with which they’ve been prompted. You just can’t deny the power of Tina’s standing up to her abuser and giving every woman inspiration to do what’s necessary if they find themselves in that situation. And certainly, with or without Ike’s perfect arrangements and backup bands, Tina would’ve been a star — there was no holding back the force of nature that was her voice.
Ike, however, was more than a domestic abuser. He was a rock icon. Like it or not, if there was no “Rocket 88,” Elvis mighta sounded more like Guy Lombardo. Led Zeppelin might have been more the like Fifth Dimension. Pat Boone….uh, forget I brought him up. Everybody’s groove thang owes more to Ike Turner than most are willing to admit. As Ike says, forgive and forget. And his Good Book echoes it, saying judge not and ye shall not be judged yourself. Punk.
The stuff Ike did, that’s now for him and his God to iron out. At least that’s what Little Richard said at his funeral. And who are we do disagree with him?