King of Rhythm

Despite his personal demons, Ike Turner's contribution to St. Louis music lands him the Slammies' Lifetime Achievement Award

If that were all there were to it, Ike's legacy would still be secure, but throughout his career, he was a pioneer on so many levels. He was one of the first to stretch the electric guitar's capabilities, playing long, loud solos and using the then-new innovation of the whammy bar to his advantage. He was a shrewd judge of talent and was an early proponent of synthesizers and drum machines. And, of course, his songs and arrangements inspired countless future practitioners of rock, funk and soul. Long story short: He's a cornerstone of rock & roll, if something less -- OK, much less -- than an Eagle Scout.

These days, Ike is traveling the comeback trail. With his new wife, Jeannette (a former St. Louisan, 31 years his junior), he's making occasional appearances (though, alas, he won't be on hand to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's Slammies on Dec. 8 -- a strange story in itself) and recently released a new album, My Blues Country. A recent article in Vibe magazine painted Turner as living quietly in Southern California, somewhat bitter over his treatment in What's Love and subsequent vilification by the public but humbled by his prison stay (he served 18 months for cocaine possession and transportation, starting in 1990, and was inducted in absentia to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame the next year). The question of whether Turner has once and for all overcome his demons and the ill will it has brought him is an open one. But in taking measure of the man, it's unfair to think of him merely as a thug -- there is undeniable greatness there, too.

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