Audrey Turner, a former background singer for Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, said she was able to get help for legendary musician Ike Turner’s undiagnosed bipolar condition following years of violent episodes. (Courtesy photo)
Audrey Madison Turner is familiar with the spotlight. A former background singer and choreographer for well-known acts like Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and Chaka Khan, Turner’s career seemed a natural path from child performer in the family music group Madison Avenue. What appeared at odds with that narrative, however, was Turner marrying legendary musician Ike Turner and walking head on into much of the violence and madness that had come to define his life.
In a recently released memoir, “Love Had Everything to Do with It,” Turner details a relationship suffocated by abrupt swings between loving devotion and intense acts of violence, which physicians later diagnosed as bipolar disorder in Ike Turner. While many question Turner’s choice to become the fourteenth wife of a man rumored for decades to be abusive, she said she decided to encourage the loved ones of people living with mental illness to seek proper diagnoses and treatment, which she said, is most important.
“I decided to write it because it was like a cleansing and it released all of the trauma. Also, I wanted the general public to have a better outlook and perspective on where Ike was mentally and emotionally, because so often, as a nation, we turn on people who have mental health issues and define them by their behaviors rather than their condition,” Turner told the AFRO. “It is easy to create monsters in people’s imaginations, but when you speak of this same person as generous, good-hearted, and kind, or as troubled, people realize that they are similar or have family members whose behavior is ‘that way.’”
Turner said that recognizing the signs of Ike’s bipolar condition, which were exacerbated by cocaine use, was relatively easy having grown up in a household where she said her mother had a similar medical condition. Calling the atmosphere in the company of both Ike and her mother “charged with anxiety,” Turner said that rages would erupt and end, suddenly.
“My mother would fly into a rage and hit me, and then come back a little while later, and hug me, and call me her pretty little girl… and I began seeing that in Ike. One minute we’re talking and the next he’s slapped me, and then just as quickly, he was apologizing and we are both making excuses for why he did it,” Turner said. “I saw the connection and convinced him to get a professional diagnosis.”
Ike, in a 1985 interview, said he was abused by a neighbor starting at the age of six. “I started balling when I was 6 years old. There was this woman, Miss Boozie, I’d feed her chickens every morning on my way to school. She’d give me a nickel a week if she could put me on top of her and show me how to move,” he told Spin.
In Turner’s new book, she says Ike attempted for years to control his behavior and began doing cocaine to alleviate some of the imbalance – a dangerous, but common practice among those suffering from bipolar disorder.
For several years after the diagnosis, Ike was reportedly placed on the prescription drug Seroquel and successfully completed a drug treatment program, balancing out his life enough to record one final Grammy-award winning album, “Rising with the Blues” in 2007. He died in December 2007, having relapsed.
“Ike suppressed a lot and between the chemical imbalances and the cocaine, paranoia set took over his life,” Turner said, who married Ike in 2006. “There are a lot of people looking for scandals and sensationalism in Ike Turner’s story, but abuse didn’t begin and end with him. I want women who find themselves in violent relationships to first, get themselves out of danger and then seek help for them. If you notice your kids being easily annoyed or talking to themselves a lot, have them assessed.”
Turner’s “Love Had Everything to Do with It” is available in bookstores nationwide and through Amazon.com.