The First Rocket Man

When Ike Turner died at his San Marcos home on the morning of December 12, his band was in the next room setting up to play. It was to be a surprise gig, but Ike wasn't expected to join in. He was too sick for that, says Kevin Cooper, his bassist of 12 years. The idea was to bring together the musicians from Ike's recent Grammy Award--winning album and perform for the ailing bandleader.

"We were gonna start playing," says Cooper, "and then have him come out, and maybe he'd start giving some orders like he usually did." Cooper laughs a little when he says this. A large part of the reunion, Cooper says, was Ann Thomas's idea. Thomas, a former Ikette, was married to Turner in 1981. Cooper says she had been staying with him at the house, helping to care for him.

"Ike had called her to come and be with him because he trusted her a lot." Thomas fed the band breakfast when they arrived after 10 a.m. "She told Billy [Ray] to get his drums and set up, and then she went into Ike's room. She sat Ike up on the bed and told him everybody was here. She came out for some reason. And then, when she went back in to get him, he had fallen back on the bed. That's when we heard the screaming."

Cooper called 911.

Ike turner at home, 2006

Ike turner at home, 2006

"A girl named Fiona, I believe her name is, who has been taking care of Ike on and off for the last several months, feeding him and giving him his medicine, she started giving him CPR, pushing on his chest." Cooper says the 911 operator instructed him to get Turner's body off the bed and onto the floor.

"[Fiona and Ann Thomas] did that, and they still tried to revive him, you know, pushing on his chest. The operator was walking me through how to give CPR. I was translating what she was saying to me to Fiona and Ann. And then the paramedics arrived. They began their whole procedure of trying to revive him, which seemed like it just took forever. It seemed like an hour."

Cooper says the paramedics finally stopped CPR and pronounced Ike Turner dead.

In the days before his death, Turner had been preparing to record another CD with his band.

"He had just invested over $50,000 in his recording studio, which is complete state-of-the-art, everything automated," says Cooper. "He had just revamped the whole thing to make a new record. He just never got up the energy." Cooper says that Turner suffered from chronic emphysema.

"No one talked to Ike that morning except Anne Thomas. Her story to me was that he wanted breakfast at about eight or a little after. He wanted oatmeal with some grapes. He ate, and then he laid back down."

Is there anything else Cooper remembers from that day?

"After breakfast, I was playing piano and Ernest Lane [a member of the band and Ike's childhood friend of some 70 years] sang this old church hymn that Ike had recorded years ago called 'There Is No Secret What God Can Do.' That hymn, that is the last song that Ike Turner heard."

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