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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Simply The Best - Tina Turner

I hope that you’re ready because we’re going to begin this entry with a bit of a pop quiz.

Don’t worry.  I won’t be grading you or anything.  It’s all in fun, and besides, you know that I will be revealing the answer a little later in this blog.  You already have a bit of a clue in that this is Day 17 of “Black History Month” in “A Pop Culture Addict’s Guide To Life”, so obviously you know that the featured artist will be a person of colour.

So, I’ll give you a series of clues that will hopefully narrow down the identity of this person.  You might be able to guess the person before I reveal the answer.  Good luck!

CLUE #1 – The person in question is of the female variety.

CLUE #2 – You may recognize her instantly by her stage name, but her given birth name was that of Anna Mae Bullock.

CLUE #3 – She was born November 26, 1939, making her seventy-three years of age.

CLUE #4 – She has been in the music industry since 1958 and has not stopped since.

CLUE #5 – She has won a grand total of eight Grammy Awards throughout her career.

CLUE #6 – Angela Bassett once portrayed her in an autobiographical film based on this singer’s life.

CLUE #7 – She performed a duet with Canadian rocker Bryan Adams in 1986.

CLUE #8 – If you could choose a body part that best represented this singer, it would definitely be her legs.

CLUE #9 – Believe it or not, she has a surprising connection to Mel Gibson.

Well?  Have you figured it out yet?  Yes?  No?  Maybe so?

All right...I’ll offer you one final clue.  And, this clue will be in video format.  So, watch it, and you’ll get your answer!

I think it’s only fitting that the song that I have chosen to play at this moment is called “The Best”, as many fans would agree that as far as musical contributions, Tina Turner has been deemed one of the best-selling African-American female performers of all time.  And, this whole entry is all about the woman who sang about a “Private Dancer” and “Proud Mary”.

You know, Tina Turner is just one of those artists who have been through a lot during her career.  Just to put things into perspective, when Tina Turner began her career in the music industry with the release “Box Top” (under her previous stage name as ‘Little Anna’), the Grammy Awards held their inaugural ceremony.  That was fifty-five years ago!

In those fifty-five years (and counting), Tina Turner has worn many hats and had many highs and lows.  And, in this special feature on Tina Turner, we’re going to use her music to talk about some of the events that helped shape the life and times of Tina Turner.  We’ll talk about the peaks that cemented Tina’s star status, as well as the lows that helped make Tina a stronger person overall.


You could argue that Tina Turner would not be the person she became had she not crossed paths with Ike Turner.  Not only did he give Tina her famous stage name, but he and Tina eloped in 1962.  And, throughout their near sixteen year partnership, the couple were responsible for some of the biggest R&B hits on American radio.  While the duo were never able to achieve the feat of having a #1 hit, they enjoyed the success of having several smash hits, such as the cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival single, “Proud Mary” (seen above), “River Deep – Mountain High”,  and “Nutbush City Limits”. 

Their contributions to the music industry helped both Ike and Tina Turner get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.  But neither one were present for the induction ceremony.  Phil Spector instead accepted the honour on their behalf.  The reason being was that Ike was sitting in jail, and that Tina did not want any association with Ike Turner (despite keeping the stage name that he bestowed upon her all those years ago).  The reason why is linked to my next point.


One fact remained clear throughout the sixteen years that Ike and Tina Turner performed together.  They made beautiful music together.  But if you took away the stage, musical instruments, and recording studios, their marriage was anything but beautiful.  Ike used to beat up Tina, hard...and often.  Although the duo started off getting fame and attention as a double act, Tina’s star began to gleam a little bit brighter.  She started performing as a solo act in some performances, and received a solo Grammy Award nomination...without any mention of Ike.  As a result, Ike began using heavy drugs like cocaine...which fueled the heavy-duty drug-induced rages that often saw Tina get caught in the crossfire.  Ike reportedly physically attacked Tina with such force that Tina once swallowed an entire bottle of Valium before a concert in Los Angeles in the late 1960s.  She physically recovered from this, but emotionally was a different story.  As the hits continued to chart, Tina became more of a punching bag for Ike, as his drug use escalated.

The beginning of the end of Ike and Tina came right around the same time as the American bicentennial, in July 1976.  Ike had signed a record contract with Cream Records for $150,000 per year, which would have lasted until 1981.  But when the couple arrived in Dallas on July 2, 1976 to begin another tour, the couple got into another nasty argument in the limousine to their hotel, and continued to fight in their hotel room.  The fight once again grew violent as Ike slapped Tina around...but this time was different.  Tina fought and kicked Ike just as hard as he did her.  She was tired of fighting.  She just wanted it to be over.

And in the early morning hours of July 3, 1976, Tina made her escape.  She freed herself from her hotel room and darted across a busy freeway to make her way to a Ramada inn with only pocket change to her name.  Three and a half weeks later, Tina Turner filed for divorce from Ike Turner on July 27, 1976, the divorce finalized in 1978.  Initially, both parties were at war over their assets and finances, but Tina made the decision not to fight Ike on their assets after a while, stating that her freedom was more important than anything else.  All she wanted was to continue to use the stage name that Ike had bestowed upon her years ago...something that could be granted, given that Ike had never registered a copyright for the name.

When the divorce was finalized, Tina cut off all ties with Ike Turner.  And, when he died in December 2007 from a drug overdose, Tina never attended his funeral, or even commented directly about his death.  But then again, if anyone went through the abuse that Tina went through, you can understand her decision not to let bygones be bygones.

The Ike and Tina Turner story was later made into a biopic entitled “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”, which was released in 1993.  It starred Angela Bassett as Tina Turner, and Laurence Fishburne as Ike Turner.  Though the picture isn’t exactly an accurate depiction of what really happened, it still is worth watching, and it is this picture that inspired Tina to do a cover of Lulu’s “I Don’t Wanna Fight”, which you can hear up above.


With Tina Turner free from Ike, she knew that if she wanted to have a career in the world of music, she would have to go it alone.  But by the time her divorce with Ike was finalized, she was almost forty years old.  Some may have thought that she may have been past her expiration date when it came to finding success as a solo artist.  But then again, some people failed to understand just how much passion and determination Tina Turner had.

Though it took a few years of playing small gigs and appearing on various talk and variety shows (as well as a conversion to Buddhism right around the time she had split up with Ike), Tina was determined to make a success as a solo artist.  And, in 1983, Tina would end up releasing her first hit in eight years...and it quickly became the single that began a period of renaissance for Tina Turner.

When she released a cover version of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at the tail end of 1983, it became a Top 30 hit in the United States, peaking at #26.  Because of the sudden success of the single, Capitol Records (which released the single) signed Tina to a three-album deal in early 1984, when Tina was 44 years of age.  In just two months, Tina recorded enough material to release the full-length album “Private Dancer”, and many people regarded this album to be Tina’s full-fledged comeback to the music industry.

That comeback was helped by this single...which became Tina Turner’s very first (and as of 2013, her only American #1 hit single).

ARTIST:  Tina Turner
SONG:  What’s Love Got To Do With It?
ALBUM:  Private Dancer
DATE RELEASED:  June 4, 1984

(A couple of things to note about this song before I continue.  This song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2012, and at the time, Tina Turner was the oldest solo female to have a number one hit, being two months shy of 45 when it peaked on the top of the Billboard Charts in September 1984.  That record has since been smashed by Cher, who was 53 when “Believe” topped the charts in early 1999.)

But, don’t think for a moment that this song was just a fluke.  The other releases from the album (which included the title track “Private Dancer”, and “Better Be Good To Me”) also did phenomenally well on the charts.  The album also helped Tina win four Grammy Awards in 1985, and cemented her spot on the USA for Africa single “We Are The World”.


Okay, so this might be a bit of a stretch, given that Tina has only appeared in a couple of film projects...but in the projects that she did act in, her performances were well received.  She earned critical acclaim for her role in the 1975 rock musical, “Tommy”, in which Tina portrayed “The Acid Queen”.

A decade later, she starred alongside Mel Gibson in the third installment of the “Mad Max” film trilogy, “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”.  She assumed the role of Auntie Entity, the ruler of Bartertown, and her performance in the film helped earn her the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Film Actress.

Tina Turner also contributed two songs to the film’s soundtrack.  One can be heard above in the form of “We Don’t Need Another Hero”, which peaked at #2 on the Billboard Charts.  The second single, “One of the Living”, earned Tina yet another Grammy Award in 1986 for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

And, Tina also joins Shirley Bassey, Sheena Easton, Madonna, and Adele in the “Women Who Have Sang the Themes for James Bond Films Club”, as she provided the vocals for the 1995 Bond film, “GoldenEye”.


It’s no secret that some of Tina’s most memorable performances were with other performers.  Who could forget Tina’s performance with Bryan Adams on the 1986 single “It’s Only Love”?  Tina also sang alongside Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger on 1985’s Live Aid benefit concert, and two years later, sang alongside Eric Clapton during a 1987 concert performance at Wembley Arena.  And, who could forget the 2008 Grammy performance, where Tina performed alongside Beyonce Knowles?  I couldn’t find the video clip, but can post an audio clip below!


It’s true.  Here’s the commercial below!

Man, oh man, what a set of gams, huh?  I keep forgetting that when this commercial was filmed, she was almost in her sixties!  But, to Tina’s credit, she looked incredible.  Oh, and the song in the background?  That’s the song “Missing You”, a song originally recorded by John Waite in the early 1980s.  Tina re-recorded the single, and it became a minor hit in 1996. 

TRIVIA:  It was also the very first video to be “popped” on “Pop-Up Video”!

So, that’s a look back on the highs and lows of Tina Turner.  A woman who has had the following life achievements in her 73 years on this planet;

-          8 Grammy Awards

-          1991 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

-          3 American Music Awards

-          8 Billboard Music Awards

-          2 MTV Video Music Awards

-          2 World Music Awards

-          Awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1986

-          Awarded with the Kennedy Center Honor Award in 2005

Is it any wonder why Tina Turner’s simply one of “the best”?

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