Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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TINA TURNER: Eighth Wonder Of The World


With Tina Turner due to hitting our shores this month what better time to talk about a lady I once described as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’.

She’s been absent from the public eye for practically eight long years, claiming the TwentyFourSeven world tour was her last, bringing her forty year touring career to an end, so all her fans, including myself, flocked to see her one last time to say ‘farewell’. But now she’s back with another gruelling trek that kicked in last October at the Sprint Centre, Kansas City. What prompted her to return you ask? Well, believe it or not it was reputedly thanks to Sophia Loren. Tina told People Magazine in May 2008 that she was at the Armani show in Milan chatting to the iconic actress – “..I told her I was taking a break. She said for how long..I said seven years. ‘Break over’. People want to see you, get back to work!’”

Before going any further, let’s catch up on Tina’s recent past where she’s been far from idle. Starting with 2001 when Tennessee’s State Route 19 between Nutbush and Brownsville was re-named 'Tina Turner Highway', and two years later she duetted with Phil Collins on 'Great Spirits' for inclusion in 'Brother Bear', a Disney movie. More music. Following the release of “All The Best” during 2004, she enjoyed a top thirty hit with 'Open Arms'. A year on, she guested on high-profile US programmes like The Oprah Winfrey Show, and was presented with a lifetime achievement award by the Kennedy Centre Honours during a gala ceremony held at the John F Kennedy Centre For The Performing Arts, based in Washington DC. (“I felt like America honoured me and that was very warming”) Moving on to 2006, she sang 'Teach Me Again' on the soundtrack to “All The Invisible Children” before headlining a benefit gala for the Cauldwell Children's Charity at the Natural History Museum in London town – her first proper show for seven years. Further guest recordings included her contribution to Herbie Hancock’s tribute album to Joni Mitchell titled 'River: The Joni Letters' and later she was heard on Carlos Santana’s album 'Ultimate Santana' singing a 2002 track 'The Game Of Love.'

Sophia Loren may have lit the fuse, but I think it was Tina’s explosive version of 'Proud Mary' with Beyonce at the 50th annual Grammy Awards ceremony last year that sealed it. This was her first high profile public performance for nearly eight years, and while there she won a Grammy for being a featured artist on 'River: The Joni Letters'. But with excitement came criticism, when Tina’s triumphant return was marred over something rather trivial. Reputedly, when Beyonce innocently introduced Tina as “the queen”, Aretha Franklin publicly aired her objection the following day. “I am not sure whose toes I may have stepped on or whose” Tina told USA Today. “Aretha has always been like that…She’s the queen of soul and I’m the queen of rock ‘n roll …. there were so many kings and queens there that night her ego must be so big to think she was the only one.”

Anyway. It appears it was this performance that was the deciding factor in her return to the spotlight, as she explained, “When I got home to Zurich people would come up to me in the restaurant, in the ladies room, on the street..I started getting little slips of paper and napkins with notes from fans.” She kept them all, then - “I called my manager and said ‘It’s time!’”

Her show is brand new with fireworks, high tech lighting and loads of visual excitement, where she takes her audiences through her career, with help from dancers, singers and the funkiest of musicians under the direction of Ollie Marland. At her performance, one of two, before nearly 15,000 people in Montreal last December, a critic enthused - “she came out with every ounce of spunk, sass and class we have come to expect from her.” Apparently, she entered the area on a platform raised thirty foot above the stage, where she stood defiantly singing 'Steamy Windows' until the platform was lowered to stage level. And the hits followed – 'What’s Love Got To Do With It', 'Private Dancer', 'Let’s Stay Together' and 'Typical Male' among her repertoire – before she dipped into her Ike and Tina songbook with 'River Deep Mountain High', moving to her role of the Acid Queen (from 'Tommy') and Aunty Entity (from 'Mad Max - Beyond Thunderdome'). Closing songs included her contribution to the James Bond catalogue 'Goldeneye', followed by 'Simply The Best' and 'Proud Mary'. She wound it up and let it go! This performance was one of 36 North American gigs before she launched herself into Europe for another 43 dates, closing in April. Not bad for a 69-year old lady with a voice and legs to die for!

Under the heading 'The Tigress Bites Back' I chatted with Tina for a B&S interview in 1983. She was mid-way through a European trek and was due to hit London where her version of Al Green’s 'Let’s Stay Together' later shot to number six, hotly followed by the wonderful 'Private Dancer' album which went on to sell a remarkable 11+ million copies worldwide. “I admire Al Green and this was one of his first singles that I wanted to record. It’s awfully difficult to decide what to record now, but I wanted a real classic, say, like Rod Stewart’s ‘Hot Legs’. “ she told me. “I chose my own material and sometimes it’s difficult to find the right stuff. I’m not a writer so I do a lot of shopping around until I find what I want.” The single is part of an album, much of which, she explained was yet to be recorded. “I’ve no clue at present what songs will be on the album. When I return to the States I’ll sit down and work out some with my producer. I am a visual artist and to a certain extent I have to record songs I can do on stage. Also what I record has to be in line with my age. For instance, I wouldn’t sing teenage songs, or a song that doesn’t fit my character. I have to sing songs that I could put to good effect….a good visual performance.”

You don’t need me to remind you of the lady’s credentials, but briefly she was born Anna Mae Bullock on 26 November 1939 in Nutbush, Tennessee, and was one of two daughters born to Zelma and Floyd. She later moved from her home to St Louis where she met her husband to be, Ike Turner, who was in a group called The Kings Of Rhythm. In time Tina joined him, thus creating one of the most exciting musical performances of the era – the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Their stage act became an international success as fans fought to see the duo; in fact, when the Revue visited London I nearly fell off my seat with the spectacle of it all, particularly Ms Turner whose vocal and performance deliveries were mindblowing. The couple teamed up with Phil Spector to produce the evergreen “River Deep Mountain High”, followed closely by “Proud Mary”, although these two singles by no means sum up their extraordinary career. Behind the success there was cruelty, which was made public in years to come, but when Ike and Tina split up it was thought she planned a solo career, and that Ike wanted to do other things. Nothing more than that. See, I said it was a brief resume.

From her Al Green cover, Tina’s solo career catapulted with “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, “Better Be Good To Me” and “Private Dancer”, single and album. “Break Every Rule”, her second album, was released in 1986 and like the first, spawned more hits including my personal dislike “Typical Male” but fave of “What You See Is What You Get”. Her third, “Foreign Affair” followed in 1989; “Simply The Best”, 1991; “What’s Love Got To Do With It” – the soundtrack of her biopic, 1993; “Wildest Dreams”, 1996, and three years later “TwentyFourSeven”.As a general rule, Tina promoted these album releases with world tours, and in this 1986 chinwag she told me her views on trekking about the place. “I love touring and travelling, particularly in Europe, and seeing the difference in the lifestyles and traditions, particularly from the American way of life. If I’m at home for a month or so, I’m ready again to tour. It’s a lot of work, and very glamorous, but I never seem to get enough rest, that’s the trouble. This time (in 1983) we’re touring by bus. It’s more relaxing for me, and I can see a lot of the countryside as well. I’m really fed up with flying…like, you get on a plane and by the time you sit down it’s time to get off. Then you gotta get through customs, collect your’s all hassle. With a bus it’s much easier. I’m always working. I have a band and of course I like to keep them busy. This is my living and I’m really just not the type of person to sit back and do nothing. I get too restless too quickly.”

And now she’s due in London on 3 March for a series of dates at 02 Arena, before hitting Sheffield. Growing old isn’t an option for her, she said, believing fifty is the new thirty, and seventy is the new fifty – “We’re living in exciting times” she told Woman & Home magazine, while confessing her greatest beauty secret is being happy with herself. She doesn’t use any special creams or treatments either. “It’s a mistake to think you are what you put on yourself. I believe that a lot of how you look is to do with yourself and your life.” That happiness must now stem from her personal life that includes her long-time relationship with Erwin Bach, a German record producer whom she met in 1985, and being mum to two sons and adopted mum to Ike’s two children. She follows the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism which is her life rock and, for example, gave her the courage to flee her abusive marriage to Ike in 1976 and divorcing him two years later. When he died in 2007, she was quoted – “It meant nothing to me. He had been dead to me for twenty years.” She had moved on; licked her wounds, to grab life back with two hands And was enjoying the rewards.

So here we are today, waiting to celebrate another evening in her company, something we never believed would happen again. It seems right then to end this article with her quote from 1983 because, I think, it still sums her up how she feels today – “I’m having a wonderful time!” Welcome back!

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