The “sister” of Tina Turner has told how during the Queen of Rock’s hellish marriage she begged the battered superstar to leave her violent husband.
As one of the founding Ikettes, Ike and Tina’s backing singers, Robbie Montgomery spent a decade as close to the star as you can get. Even now they refer to each other as sisters.
During the 60s and early 70s, they did the Chitlin’ Circuit – for African-American performers – living weeks on end in buses or segregated hotels.
Now, as Tina’s new book, My Love Story, is set for release next week, the memories of her brutal past have flooded back to “Miss” Robbie, 78.
For years she was horrified by the tyrannical grip Ike had over Tina, and Miss Robbie fought back tears as she recalled the vicious abuse.
In her upcoming memoir, Tina reveals she was taken to a Mexican brothel on her wedding night.
She suffered a catalogue of abuse at the hands of cocaine addict Ike, who died of an overdose in 2007. This included being punched, spat on and humiliated by him having affairs, even moving mistresses into their home.
“Oh my God, as leader Ike was very stern. A brutal autocrat,” Miss Robbie said. “I was an employee, so he didn’t treat Tina the way he treated me.
“He went too far, way too far. He was brutal, unrelenting, merciless.
“Ike ran their marriage like a business. Tina and I were like sisters and she confided in me.
“We were both from St Louis and the band was our whole world. I think I reminded Tina of a cousin who grew up with her. We left home at the same time and we learned how to sing and perform together.
“We shared food, rode buses for miles and miles, and were in the dressing rooms together, in houses together. She and I were even pregnant at the same time, I with my first and she was having her second. So for years we had kids around, too.
“Thank God I did not witness Ike abusing her but I and the other Ikettes (Jessie Smith and Venetta Fields) saw Tina the next day.
“It was heartbreaking. She suffered. She’d describe what happened to her, how she got her bruises, and we’d cry.
“I would tell her to leave him, I was always telling her to leave him but she couldn’t. His hold was too strong.
“In fact, I had to leave her with Ike when I realised myself I had to leave. It was like leaving your child with someone you knew was going to do them wrong but there was no choice.
“It was a terrible wrench leaving her, my best friend and my sister. I was devastated.”
Tina finally left Ike in 1976, aged 37, with just cents in her pocket. At the divorce hearing all she insisted on keeping was her name, Tina Turner.
Miss Robbie said: “I always stayed in contact with her. I was so emotional when she left Ike. It was a point she needed to get to herself and that’s what she told me after.”
In her memoir, Tina reveals she tried to kill herself seven years into the marriage.
The What’s Love Got To Do With It singer says the final straw was when Ike brought home three women to sleep with and called them all – including Tina – “Anne” to save having to remember their names.
Tina recalled: “One night, just before a gig, I simply couldn’t take any more and swallowed sleeping pills.
“I calculated that I’d get through the opening number, which meant Ike would get paid. I was so well trained even my suicide had to be convenient for him.
“The pills, however, kicked in just as I started to put on my make-up, and I ended up being rushed to hospital. As the doctors pumped my stomach, I was fading fast… The following day, there was Ike. ‘You should die, motherf*****,’ he said.”
After the split, Tina paid her rent by cleaning houses and eventually broke into cabaret, then played Las Vegas.
But in 1984, with her own manager and a new record label, Tina released solo album Private Dancer, which sold 10 million copies and made her an international star in her own right.
She moved to Switzerland in 1995 but never forgot Miss Robbie and has said: “In those dark days she was like a sister. When Robbie left I missed her so much. We were very close.”
Miss Robbie went on to sing with Stevie Wonder, BB King and British rockers Joe Cocker, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones.
She last saw Tina six years ago but keeps in contact. She has just released her first EP and tonight performs her first concert in 30 years in St Louis – and is praying her “sister” turns up.
“If Tina is in that audience, oh my goodness, I’d collapse on the spot. I pray she does show up. I’m going to sing River Deep Mountain High in honour of her. If she’s not there in person she’ll be there in spirit.”
- My Love Story by Tina Turner is out on Thursday. The Domestic Violence Helpline is free on 0808 2000 247.
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