A Personal Selection…
Tina @45 in 1984 – The Year of Tina’s Comeback, showing the world what she was made of and giving everything to John Lennon’s Help. Tina had performed numerous Beatles songs since the 1960s and had won the writers’ respect for what she brought to the songs. In turn Paul McCartney was one of the galaxy of – mainly British – musical royalty who helped re-launch Tina’s career in 1984. Knowing that adds a certain poignancy to Tina’s bold delivery of this iconic song.
Great artists loved and admired Tina’s work. Robert Cray is one of a galaxy of stars to have written for, backed for, performed with and collaborated with Tina. Not many voices can meet the gravity, grit and soul of Sam Cooke’s classic “A Change is Gonna Come,” but Tina absolutely inhabits this song. It’s lovely to see two artists on stage, giving each other the pace to shine, and revelling in each other’s contribution. Here’s Tina@48, performing in my old parish at the Camden Palace, showing a London audience how it’s done!
Let’s Stay Together – unplugged @58 in 1997 – Heaven 17 / The General Electric Company must be thanked for their part in Tina’s relaunch with their spacey reworking of Al Green’s classic song. New audiences were electrified by Tina’s presence in the performance and in concert live audiences couldn’t stop themselves joining in. Here’s why…
Two People– Tina @48 in 1987 – another hit by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle. I love the message of the song and its tone really evokes something of the spirit of that time. Released in 1986 it was another opportunity to show Tina’s range and tonal mastery.
The song that U2’s Bono and The Edge wrote for Tina – James Bond theme, Goldeneye. Tina was excited to become part of the Bond canon and come close once again to the world of movies. Of the song Tina said, “You can’t top Shirley Bassey, I have to say that. But I was happy that we got close to that sound.” This is Tina @57 in 1996. (The direction and performance in the video probably owe a nod to Billie Holiday’s 1947 video performance in The Blues are Brewin’)
Tina, taking it up a notch @57 The song, Whatever you Want, written by Arthur Baker, Fred Zarr and Taylor Dane, gave Tina a more complex composition. And in direction and production Trevor Horn took Tina’s vocal performance to new levels. The visuals and choreography of the video made it a fresh experience for Tina and her fans and are quite compelling to watch. Live, it’s a powerful performance that pulls us into the desperation and intensity of the song. This entrance onto the stage for the beginning of her “Wildest Dreams” tour is understated for Tina. The song brings all the drama needed. A great moment from 1996.
Something Beautiful Remains – Tina @57 in 1996 – A song with a gentler, more positive and reflective tone than much of Tina’s canon. Tina felt it was a warm, Sunday afternoon song, and a lyric without the heavy heartbreak. It was the song Tina used as an encore in her “Wildest Dreams” tour. A very appropriate “goodbye” song!
Guesting on Herbie Hancock’s Joni Mitchell Album “Rivers” – Tina @68 in 2007 showing yet another side to her vocal genius with Edith and the Kingpin. This is a song I love to play to people, blind and ask, “Who’s the vocalist with Herbie Hancock here?” The hearers’ respect for Tina is often elevated a touch when I reveal the answer! Kudos to Tina for a very deft jazz delivery.
Honky Tonk Woman – Tina @31 In the 70’s TV lighting rooted performers to the spot. All their style and energy had to be expressed without moving off the X. It gives performances from that time an amazing intensity. Here’s Tina on the top of her TV game in 1970.
I Can’t Stand the Rain – Tina @45 in 1984. Quite different from the subtle, moody and mellow original by Ann Peebles, this was a song which ran as a movie short in movie theatres in 1984. It was an inspired piece of marketing, allowing non-Tina audiences to get a taste, up-close and personal of Tina in action. Just as a TV series did for Kenny Rogers, Cliff Richard and Olivia Newton John and, just as a movie short did for Queen and Michael Jackson, putting “I Can’t Stand the Rain” into movie theatres was a bold move which helped to establish Tina as a world-class megastar.
Tina @53 – performing The Best in 1992 – a song written by the Pet Shop Boys, and originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler in 1988. Tina made a hit of it and then – as the voice of Australian Rugby league – shared the limelight with Aussie rocker Jimmy Barnes. Tina was always one with the grace and skill to know how to dovetail with another artist on stage. Not all performers can do that. Hence the calibre of Tina’s duetters – an exclusive club which includes the likes of Cher, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Bryan Adams, Beyonce and Eros Ramazotti. The partnership with Jimmy Barnes offers us two powerful voices lavished on what has undeniably become Tina’s anthem.
What’s Love Got to do with it? – Tina @45 Back in the Limelight in ’84. Tina’s manager Roger Davies was on the money when his instincts told him this song was a hit and outcompeted Cliff Richard for the song – one of Terry Britten’s best IMHO. Tina was insistent that she couldn’t sing the song and just didn’t want it. The song didn’t have enough grit. But Roger insisted that she meet with with Terry Britten and let him workshop the song with her.
When Terry showed Tina his musicality on the guitar he instantly won her respect. When Terry then showed Tina what her vocals would bring to the song…it was music magic. And the rest is history! The song charted #1 all around the world. It was The Song that changed everything for Tina’s career. And the rest is history! Thank you Terry! Thank you Roger! Bravo Tutti!
Tina @54 in 1993 – I Don’t Wanna Fight – The Theme Song of the movie of Tina’s life
Be Tender with Me Baby – Albert Hammond and Holly Knight provided this soulful song for Tina’s 1989 album Foreign Affair. Here she is @51 performing the song as an encore at Woburn Abbey UK
Tina @58 in 1997 – performing with an idol of hers – Eros Ramazatti! Cose della vida was a song of Eros’ that Tina loved. Her band didn’t go for it but Tina was eager to collaborate. So she met Eros and his team – and a deal was done. The song charted at #3 in Spain, #4 in Germany and Italy, and #6 in Europe. The song represents the respect and affection in which a younger generation of musicians hold Tina – an aspect of her appeal that was vital to the longevity and success of her solo career. It is also a reminder that the centre of gravity for Tina’s solo career was the continual strength of her appeal in Europe, where her star always shone brighter than anywhere else. Given that, it is not surprising that it is in Europe that Tina has made her life and her home with German husband Erwin Bach.
Tina charted at #3 in the USA at the age of 60 with the song “When the Heartache is Over.” It was Tina’s penultimate single before retiring in 2000 (notwithstanding her re-cap tour in 2009) and is her most remixed song ever! The song came from the album, “24/7” This was Tina’s final studio album – an album which sold 60,000 copies in its first week and went platinum across Europe. Talk about finishing on top!
Wildest Dreams – Tina in 2004. This is an intimate, small-stage TV performance, an abridged version of the song. But it shows how you can do sultry @65
Look me in the heart – Tina @50 in 1989. Try singing this song and you’ll notice the vocal range and complexity it calls for. Tina’s voice meets every interval and modulation with precision, energy and ease. The song was written by a partnership which had delivered hits for Madonna, Cindy Lauper, the Bangles and Whitney Houston. The song charted at #8 in the USA and was part of the assured mix of her album Foreign Affair.
Addicted to Love – Tina @51 in 1990. Who would dare take this song on after Robert Palmer’s iconic, one might say perfect performance had made a hit of it? Tina did and showed there’s more than one way to music nirvana!
Love Thing – Tina @52 in 1991 – Tina’s act always played with sexuality. The pop music of the ’50’s, the era that launched Tina’s career was laced with sexual metaphors. Today musical artists in pop are often inclined (or pressured) to go much further in the lyrics and show a lot more skin in the video. With this song and its playful video Tina shows that there are other ways to do “steamy” and “seductive.” In Tina’s own terms, she’s “Just having fun!”
Tina @ 51 performing Tony Joe White’s Steamy Windows – Live in Barcelona, with Lejeune Richardson and Annie Behringer, the two dancers who accompanied Tina through the heady days of her comeback. Tony Joe White wrote several songs carried by Tina. This song, close to her blues roots was one of Tina’s favourites.
Tina @57 in 1996 finishing a concert with an encore – On Silent Wings
A favourite moment – Tina @60 on her farewell tour invites a fan – a DJ called Donovan, whom she had spotted dancing in the front rows at several concerts – to come onto the stage to perform her signature song with her. I can’t think of many artists who would do that. Kudos to both!
As Tina says in her intro to this one, “This is the Blues!” Blues was Tina’s roots and though Tina preferred more upbeat themes for her solo career, a Blues sensibility was always palpable in the texture of her vocal style. Tony Joe White’s “Undercover Agent for the Blues” was the B-side to “The Best.” I have to say it’s a personal favourite of mine.
Every one of us is a team effort! Tina gladly acknowledges the amazing Ann Margret for showing her how to maintain a career in performance between albums and hit songs. Ann Margret’s Vegas shows were the stuff of legend. Ann was a great friend to Tina in her wilderness years, post Ike – such as by having Tina guest on her show, and by introducing Tina to the fashion designer Bob Mackie, who then helped to redefine Tina’s look for a new generation. When you see other artists perform alongside Tina you see just how hard they had to work to keep up. Performing with Tina @36, Ann Margret really shows her mettle! Vale Both!!
This happened just down the road from my house at the Camden Palace in 1987. Tina’s performances were always known for their phenomenal energy. Here @48 Tina shows how to do Land of 1000 Dances. Enjoy!
Tina on her retirement tour in 2000 – the only female artist ever to pack out Wembley Studio – acing her self-written “Nutbush City Limits.” This performance shows Tina’s commitment to give everything in a show. At age 61, here she is, herself and her audience still on a high, at the end of a three hour concert!
One of the great challenges for any long-lived artist or band is how to carry songs for decades – songs their audiences will absolutely demand – and continue to deliver them at the same tempo and with the same level of commitment as ever. But for Tina her performances were always for “the people” (Tina’s nomenclature for her faithful audiences.) Tina’s roughed up version of John Fogerty’s Proud Mary entered her set-list in 1970 when she was the star of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. From that time on, and all throughout her solo career, Tina never did a concert without the song. Here is Tina on her final, final tour, performing at 70 years old, giving everything she still could to a song she had carried for 39 years – and enjoying it!
My generation encountered Tina Turner as a fully formed and authoritative performer, bursting onto the pop scene “from out of nowhere” in the early 1980s. I had only a dim awareness of the 25 years of prior career, the years of physical abuse that she had endured, and hard yakka that had honed her performance skills.
For me, as for many, Tina’s inspiration lies in her longevity, her perpetual energy and her ability to continually adapt – sufficiently to extend her musical career from a first performance in 1957 at the age of 18 to a final farewell tour in 2009 at the age of 70. That is why I have logged Tina’s age against each performance in this list. It is a big part of her inspirational appeal.
I have included these songs in my personal playlist as a testimony to the talent, commitment, showmanship and hard work which brought Tina the accolades of being the biggest selling female artist of all time, delivering the largest grossing musical tour of all time, selling more concert tickets than any other artist – male or female – and becoming the only female artist ever to pack out Britain’s Wembley Stadium – which she did at the age of 60. Tina has well and truly earned her retirement and rest!
In July of 2019 Tina turned 80. In this season of her life Tina’s honesty, acceptance and openness in processing ill-health, frailty and bereavement bring a fresh challenge and inspiration to those of us who admire Tina’s vitality and longevity.
Tina’s story, as much as anybody’s – is really a story of teamwork – the collaboration of a brilliant manager in Roger Davies, among many other musical comrades – including David Bowie, Heaven 17, U2, Pet Shop Boys, Bryan Adams, Mark Knopfler, Paul McCartney, Sting, Mick Jagger and Lionel Richie. Tina’s story of survival and growth gives others of us courage to play the long game, to continue developing and adapting. And it spurs me to believe that even I might prove a later bloomer! For the music and the inspiration, Thank You Tina and Brava!