By now it’s safe to assume folks have heard of Tina Turner’s passing yesterday (April 24) at age 83 at her home near Zurich, Switzerland. While neither a notification on Turner’s Facebook page nor a statement by her publicist provided the cause, she had been in poor health in recent years. Based on concerts in Germany and the U.S. in 1985 and 1993, respectively, the Queen of Rock & Roll was among the most energetic performers I’ve seen to date, together with Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and U2.
This post is all about celebrating Tina Turner’s music, which will stay with us. In case you are looking for a traditional obituary, you have plenty of other choices, such as The New York Times, CNN or Rolling Stone. My focus will be on six tunes from Turner’s 40-year-plus performing career, followed by a Spotify playlist of these and some additional songs.
River Deep – Mountain High (1966)
River Deep – Mountain High is one of my favorite tunes Tina Turner recorded with her then-husband Ike Turner as Ike & Tina Turner. Written by producer Phil Spector, together with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, River Deep – Mountain High was first released as a single in May 1966 as the title track of a studio album by Ike & Tina Turner. That album first appeared in the UK in September 1966 and three years later was also issued in the U.S.
Private Dancer (1984)
Private Dancer is the title track of Turner’s fifth solo and comeback album released in May 1984. The tune, penned by then-Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler, was one of multiple hit singles from what became Turner’s best-selling album with more than 12 million copies sold worldwide. It catapulted her to international stardom as a solo artist – eight years after she had fled from her abusive husband with just 36 cents and a Mobil card.
Proud Mary (1971)
Ike & Tina Turner’s version of Proud Mary is one of the best remakes I can think of. The song was written by John Fogerty who first recorded it with his band Creedence Clearwater Revival for their second studio album Bayou Country, released in January 1969. The tune also appeared as a single at the same time and became one of CCR’s biggest hits, climbing to no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ike and Tina Turner’s version, which was included on their 1970 studio album Workin’ Together, did nearly as well, peaking at no. 4 on the U.S. pop chart. Unlike CCR, it also won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group in 1972.
What You Get Is What You See (1986)
When it comes to Tina Turner’s solo career, I tend to favor her rock over her more pop-oriented songs. One tune in this context is What You Get Is What You See, off her sixth solo studio album Break Every Rule, which came out in September 1986. Turner’s follow-on to Private Dancer was another major internal chart and commercial success. What You Get Is What You See, co-written by Terry Bitten and Graham Lyle and produced by Bitten, also became the album’s third single in February 1987.
Acid Queen (1975)
Turner recorded Acid Queen as the title track of her second solo album released in August 1975. The tune was written by Pete Townshend and first appeared as The Acid Queen on The Who’s rock opera album Tommy from May 1969. A different recording of the song was also included on the March 1975 soundtrack album to the 1975 film Tommy, in which Turner starred as the Acid Queen. Her second solo album was inspired by that performance.
Nutbush City Limits (live) (1988)
The last track I’d like to highlight is a killer live version of Nutbush City Limits that was included on Turner’s first live solo album Tina Live in Europe. Notably, part of that album was recorded at Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Germany on April 14, 1985 – one of the above-mentioned Tina Turner shows I attended! Written by Tina Turner, the semi-autobiographical tune about her rural hometown of Nutbush, Tenn. was the title track of a 1973 studio album by Ike & Tina Turner. It also became the duo’s most successful single and one of the last hits they released together.
Here’s the aforementioned Spotify playlist of the above and some additional tunes. The Queen of Rock & Roll sadly has left us, but her music will continue to reign!
Sources: Wikipedia; Tina Turner Facebook page; YouTube; Spotify