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Queen of Rock‘n’Roll was ‘my friend’

Ivan Swan, who worked for Tina Turner’s What’s Love? tour in 1993, counted the Queen of Rock‘n’Roll among friends (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

Word of the death last Wednesday of Tina Turner reached Ivan Swan earlier than the rest of us — and packed a deeply personal edge.

The Queen of Rock‘n’Roll, who died at 83, was “my friend”, the retired stage show engineer told The Royal Gazette.

He got the news in a phone call from acquaintances in the production business for Turner’s 1993 tour, where Mr Swan was employed and befriended the star.

Jan, his wife, said: “I didn’t know there had been a call, but he was looking really sad. I thought, the dog died two weeks ago, so it can’t be that. He told me and then it came on the news.

“We had not been in touch with her for years but we were in touch with people who had.”

Ms Swan added: “She would send gifts. If she liked you, she really embraced you and treasured you as a friend, and didn’t let go. This went on for years.”

Mr Swan, whose speech has been severely impaired by a stroke, said: “If she didn’t like you, she would tell you right out front.”

According to his wife, Mr Swan’s stroke hit at about the same time of Tina Turner’s 2013 stroke that forced her to learn how to walk again.

The singer, who started living in Switzerland shortly after the 1993 tour, suffered from a litany of health complaints in her later years.

Mr Swan, who worked at the US Base as well as operating equipment for shows at Bermuda hotels, carried the right qualifications as a production engineer.

He worked on the North American leg of the What’s Love? tour, aiding in special effects and equipment such as stage hydraulics.

“The production had to be good,” Mr Swan said. “You had to be on your toes.”

Those who met Tina Turner’s approval were known to her by name, and would join her for special meetings before each show.

Ms Swan said she was invited to come along but was too busy at home in Bermuda.

Her husband said he had “so many stories” from touring with the star but was stymied by his damaged speech.

Ms Swan said it had been a “fluke” for him to be there 30 years ago.

“Out of that, they became friends,” she added.

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Published May 31, 2023 at 7:55 am (Updated May 31, 2023 at 7:52 am)

Queen of Rock‘n’Roll was ‘my friend’

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